Great Physician


When I was a boy growing up in middle Tennessee, my home congregation loved to sing the hymn, "The Great Physician," by William Hunter and J. H. Stockton. Please listen to these stirring words. "The great physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus; he speaks the drooping heart to cheer, O hear the voice of Jesus. His name dispels my grief and fear, no other name but Jesus; O how my soul delights to hear the charming name of Jesus. And when to that bright world above, we rise to meet out Jesus; we'll sing around the throne of love, his name, the name of Jesus." The chorus reads: "Sweetest note in seraph song, sweetest name on mortal tongue, sweetest carol ever sung, Jesus, blessed Jesus."


The Old Testament seldom uses the word "physician." But there is one use of the word I shall mention. The Israelite people were sliding into apostasy at the time God commissioned Jeremiah to preach to the nation. The great seventh century B.C. prophet warned: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt; I am black; astonishment has taken hold on me." Jeremiah asked, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered" (Jer. 8:20-22)? It should be obvious from this reading that the prophet was not speaking of literal balm or an actual medical doctor. He knew the only solution to Israel's moral and spiritual condition had to come from God almighty. If the Jews did not return to him and seek forgiveness, their situation was hopeless. They did not repent and were eventually carried into Babylonian exile.


The New Testament uses the Greek iatros seven times. The word is always translated "physician" in the King James Version and in most other versions. The word is used in reference to our Lord, but he is not actually called a "physician." On one occasion, Jesus passed by a man named Matthew, a publican. He says to Matthew, "Follow me." While Jesus was eating, some of the publicans and sinners sat down with him and his disciples. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would stoop to eat with such people. They asked Christ's disciples, "Why is your Master eating with publicans and sinners?" Jesus heard the question and responded: "They who are whole do not need a physician, but they who are sick. But go and learn what this means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mt. 9:9-13).


On another occasion, our Lord entered his hometown synagogue and taught the people. Those who heard Christ teach were amazed "at the gracious words that proceeded from his mouth." They asked, "Is not this Joseph's son?" Jesus said to them, "You will surely say unto me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your country.'" Jesus told them: "Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land: but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman who was widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Leper" (Lk. 4:22-27).


Paul referred to Luke as "the beloved physician" (Col. 4:14). Luke tells of a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. She "had spent all her living upon physicians," but they were not able to heal her. She came upon behind Jesus, "touched the hem of his garment, and was healed immediately" (Lk. 8:43-44). Did you know that some writers think Luke may not have been a physician because he seemed to be critical of doctors? But that is about as silly as some of the other observations of liberal theologians. Mark records the same incident. He said she had spent all her money and had grown worse. Some writers accuse Luke of not saying—she grew worse—in order to protect the medical fraternity. Do you ever get the impression that some writers think they have to say something even when they have nothing worth saying?


Even though the New Testament does not call Jesus Christ "the great physician," are we justified in referring to him in that manner? When we consider the many physical healings our Lord performed, it is in order to call him "the great physician." Before I examine some of our Lord's supernatural healings, I need to examine one Greek word that sheds light on our topic. That word is therapeuo. It is always translated in the King James Version either "heal" or "cured," except in Acts 17:25. The word in that verse is rendered "worshipped," but probably should be translated "served." Incidentally, the English words "therapeutic" is derived from this Greek word. Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines the English word to mean: "Of or relating to the treatment of diseases or disorders by remedial agents or methods" (p. 2272).


I shall appeal in our lesson to the healings recorded only in the book of Matthew. Matthew describes our Lord's ministry in Galilee: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" (Mt. 4:23). I must ask you to contrast our Lord's healing ministry with those of modern faith healers. How many so-called "faith healers" would even attempt to heal "all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people?"


Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary defines Tay-Sachs disease as "a fatal hereditary disorder of lipid metabolism characterized by the accumulation of sphin-golipids, especially in nervous tissue due to an enzyme deficiency" (p. 704). The dictionary says that Tay-Sachs is fatal at a very early age for children. How many faith healers will even attempt to heal children with Tay-Sachs disease? Do you believe it would have been more difficult for Christ to heal a child with Tay-Sachs disease than for him to heal a child with a cold? God manifest in the flesh could heal any sickness or disease. There were no degrees of difficulty for Christ, "the great Physician." But faith healers religiously avoid dealing with tragedies like Tay-Sachs disease or Huntington's chorea or dozens of other sicknesses and diseases.


I have a friend who is a quadriplegic. I have never asked him how much he would like to be able to walk and to use his arms in helping himself and others. If the faith healers would like to demonstrate their power to heal, why not restore strength to my friend's limbs? I know a man who lost both hands in an industrial accident. I also know how difficult it was for him to adjust to his loss. But there were no faith healers who volunteered to reattach his hands or create new hands. Could our Lord Jesus Christ have healed the man? If our Lord could reattach a man's severed ear (Lk. 22:51), could he not also reattach a man's severed hands or create new hands?


It pains me to have to say it, but not one of the faith healers would attempt to heal a person who had been blind from birth, or a person dying with lung cancer, or a person with spina bifida. That shows beyond question that the faith healers—all of them—are frauds. Does that mean they have never healed anyone? No, even voodoo practitioners and Indian medicine men heal some people, but the healings are not miraculous. They are psychosomatic healings.


Have you ever noticed how some of the charismatics affirm, "There is a person in my audience who is being healed of a backache or of cancer or of arthritis?" I have some questions for television evangelists like Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, and a host of others. What is the name of the man or woman being healed? Surely if the evangelist knows someone is being healed, he knows the person's name. How can we locate the person who has been healed so we can confirm the healing? What was the nature of the illness or disease or injury? I do not know one—not even one—television preacher who is qualified to diagnose diseases. Have medical specialists certified the illness or is the evangelist just guessing? After the person has been healed, should not doctors perform medical tests to prove the genuineness of healing? Is the testimony of the television evangelist sufficient to establish the healing? If the television evangelists have miraculous powers, why do they not visit hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and hospices and heal the people who are there? If they have supernatural power, are they not being selfish by not sharing that power with everyone who needs help? If they can miraculously heal diseases, can they also multiply loaves and fish? You know and I know they cannot do any of these things. But they can raise enormous sums of money by pretending they can.


Dr. William Nolen, a surgeon from Litchfield, Minnesota, has written a number of books on medical subjects. His books include The Making of a Surgeon, The Surgeon's Book of Hope, Surgeon under the Knife, and A Surgeon's World. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these books. In 1974 Dr. Nolen wrote an excellent book with the title, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle (New York: Random House). Dr. Nolen visited Norbu Chen and the so-called "psychic healers" in the Philippine Islands. He also visited a healing service conducted by Kathryn Kuhlman, the famous charismatic healer.


Before I discuss what Dr. Nolen wrote about Kathryn Kuhlman's healing service, I must tell you what Benny Hinn said about her. In his book, Good Morning, Holy Spirit (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), Benny Hinn reports on a Kuhlman healing service he visited in Pittsburgh. Hinn says: "People who were deaf suddenly could hear. A woman got up from her wheelchair. There were testimonies of healings of tumors, arthritis, headaches and more" (p. 8). He says Kuhlman spoke at a Full Gospel Business Men's Convention in New York City. After her speech, she left the meeting by going through the kitchen to the elevator to avoid the crowd. "The cooks had no idea a meeting was going on and had never heard of Miss Kuhlman. In their white hats and aprons, the cooks didn't even know she was walking by, and the next thing you know they were flat on the floor" (p. 55). Is it not strange that neither Christ nor any of his apostles ever had that effect on people? I never like to accuse anyone of stretching the truth, but there is no doubt Benny Hinn has done so.


In his book, The Anointing (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Benny Hinn says concerning Kuhlman's crusades: "People would collapse, hundreds would be healed of serious afflictions, and salvation would flow” (p.107).  Does it bother you that popular writers like Benny Hinn never furnish documentation of their healings or of the healings of other charismatics? Benny Hinn owes it to his listeners and to the readers of his books to give names, places, doctor's diagnoses and similar information about the so-called miracles of healing. But there is a very serious problem for Benny Hinn. He knows the miracles are not genuine. He cannot furnish documentation because no miracles have occurred in Kathryn Kuhlman's services or in Benny Hinn's services or in the services of any other Pentecostal or neo-Pentecostal.


Now back to Dr. Nolen's book, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle.   Dr. Nolen attended one of Kathryn Kuhlman's healing services in Minneapolis. The Kathryn Kuhlman organization gave Dr. Nolen permission to examine some of the people who came for healing and to follow up on some of the people who were supposedly healed. After examining several of the people who were supposedly healed, Dr. Nolen commented: "None of the patients who had returned to Minneapolis to reaffirm the cures they had claimed at the miracle service had, in fact, been miraculously cured of anything, by either Kathryn Kuhlman or the Holy Spirit" (p. 90). Dr. Nolen is too generous in the following comments: "I don't believe Miss Kuhlman is a liar; I don't believe she is a charlatan; I don't believe she is, consciously, dishonest." Dr. Nolen thinks her problem is ignorance (p. 101).


In ancient times blindness was not preventable and not curable. When I had cataract surgery several months ago, I asked the doctor what happened before surgery to remove cataracts was developed. He answered very simply, "They went blind." Blindness was a very common condition during the time our Lord lived on this earth. On one occasion, two blind men followed Jesus crying out, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on us." When he had entered a house, the blind men came to him. Christ asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said they believed he could. He "touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, See that no man know it. But they, when they had departed, spread abroad his fame in all the country" (Mt. 9:27-31).


These spectacular healings generate some questions I ask you to consider. Do you honestly believe any modern faith healer would even take notice of a blind person? They know and we know they cannot restore sight to the blind. But is it any more difficult for a genuine miracle worker to restore sight to the blind than it is to heal a scratch on someone's finger? Would the screeners at healing services allow blind men to enter the arena where the meeting is being conducted? What does that tell you about men like Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, and other charismatics?


Herod the king imprisoned John the Baptist. While John was in prison, he heard about the mighty works Jesus was performing. He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus Christ if he were the one who was to come or whether they should look for another. John wanted to know if Jesus were the long-awaited Messiah. Do you remember what our Lord told John's disciples? He said, in effect, you go back to John and tell him: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Mt. 11:2-5). Was that enough evidence to convince John that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God? John told his disciples: "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).


There are other miracles of healing in the gospel according to Matthew and in the other gospel records, but I shall spend the remainder of our time examining another kind of healing—the healing of the soul. The Greek word sozo (usually translated "save") is also rendered "heal" and "made whole." I have shown from Matthew's gospel that Jesus Christ healed a substantial number of people, but probably not as many in his entire personal ministry as some charismatics claim to heal at one service. Our Lord healed people because of his compassion on them. But his major purpose in coming to earth was not to heal the sick. Luke quotes our Lord as saying, "For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10).


The Lord himself set forth his primary goal for coming to this earth. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might saved" (John 3:14-17).


Our Lord wants all men to be saved, but not everyone is willing to humble himself and obey the gospel. Christ knew that would happen. He said in his Sermon on the Mount: "Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 7:21). What does doing the will of God involve? Does that mean we must believe in Jesus Christ as God's only Son—the way, the truth and the life? We know it is absolutely essential that we believe. Jesus told some Jews: "Except you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). But if Jesus meant we must do the will of God, faith alone is not adequate. Jesus demanded that all men everywhere repent. He began his personal ministry by declaring: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt. 4:17).


We must confess our faith before men so that Christ will confess us to the Father (Mt. 10:32-33). Upon our confession of faith, we must be baptized to have our alien sins forgiven. Christ commanded his apostles to go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned" (Mk. 16:15-16).

When one has responded to our Lord by believing and being baptized, what else must he do? How could anyone read Matthew 25 and conclude that one has nothing more to do after his initial obedience to the gospel? What did Christ mean when he said to his disciples: "You shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Mt. 10:22)? If Christians do not make adequate preparation, will we not be turned away like the ten foolish virgins (Mt. 25:10-12)?


Winford Claiborne

The International Gospel Hour

P.O. Box 118

Fayetteville, TN 37334