…many followed him, and he healed them all (Matthew 12:15b, English Standard Version).
Jesus healed them all. Should we be expecting that kind of healing to be happening today?
Apparently not. Aside from a few exceptions, Jesus is not healing that way today.
Why is that? Easy if incorrect answers start with we did not pray long enough, hard enough, or with enough “faith.” Or illness is a punishment for sin sent by God. Or illness is evil but sent by God to teach a greater good to the victim or to the victim’s family or friends.
A harder yet truer answer comes from inquiring about God’s relationship to us. In the Old Testament, there are long periods when God is silent: the times of the Judges, the exile in Babylon, the four centuries before the birth of Jesus. We are in such a period now. This point was developed at length by Jacques Ellul in his book, Hope in Time of Abandonment (1972).
Why would God be silent now? For his own inscrutable purposes. How might we respond creatively to this silence of God? As Israel did: by waiting him out. That’s one bright shining aspect of a living hope. That kind of hope is our joyful confidence, our lively expectation, that God will speak to us again—not only to scattered individuals, as he does even now, but to whole groups of Christians and, through them, to his Church.
In the face of God’s silence, is there any point in praying for healing? Yes. Every prayer, including every prayer for healing, is an act of hope; that is, an act of our refusal to accept God’s silence and of our confidence that he will answer our prayer. We rightly pray for healing when we pray briefly and boldly, expect a quick and complete response from Jesus, and remain unshaken even if nothing happens.
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