OUR Lord’s ministry was threefold: teaching, preaching and healing. Matthew lists different classes of the sick—those taken with diverse diseases and torments, the demon-possessed, lunatics, those who had palsy, and then adds: “and He healed them.” No case was too difficult.
We read that the people were astonished at His doctrine, “for His word was with power.” We have that same message, which is to be given in demonstration of the Spirit and of power—but, alas, few are astonished today. It is not that they have become accustomed to it. No, the trouble is it is not preached with power, “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Pet. 1:12). The bench-warmers in the pews would sit up and take notice, and hungry souls would be fed and sinners convicted if we recovered that note of authority! But we speak as the scribes; there is the dreary monotone of the academic, the deaf reputation of dry platitudes. There is not even Jeremiah’s bone-fire of silence (Jer. 20:9).
Even demons recognized our Lord’s authority. These demoniacs whom He set free were not merely crazy people. Demon-possession is real, for here it is the demon who cries out with a loud voice (Mark 1:26), and there is a distinction made between the possessor and the possessed. The liberating word of God is still able to defeat the devil, but today we stand at the foot of the mountain like the disciples in failure before a devil-possessed world. Our note of authority is gone, and we are not defeating the devil! Our Lord said the power came by prayer and fasting. Of course, we are told that this verse is an “interpolation,” but certainly the truth of it is undeniable. Our note of authority over evil is lacking because prayer is lacking.
Our Lord proves His power over disease by the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother. Then follows (Matt. 8:15, 17; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40-41) a sunset scene of healing which stands out in the three Synoptics. Worthy of any painter’s best efforts this lovely picture must have been!—the sick and weary multitudes pressing upon Him at the close of day and heading home well and strong again. We have grown accustomed to reading such records, but think what a sensation it would be if that should happen today!
Mark and Luke add another incident, one that shows the other side of this ministry of power. In the morning, Jesus rose a great while before day and departed into a solitary place and there prayed. He knew that if He was to give forth power He must receive power from the Father. If He needed so to pray, how can we expect to minister in power without the early retreat to the solitary place? There is the secret of power: “If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth” (2 Sam. 18:25). There must be solitude if there is to be a testimony of power; Elijah, must hide himself before he can show himself to Ahab.
Peter finds our Lord in prayer and says, “All men seek for thee.” We would have returned to the popularity and the plaudits; indeed, we would likely never have left them! But our Lord knew what was in man, and that He must move on to where He was sent. How easy it is for us to forget orders in the flush of success. Like Abraham’s servant, may we permit no man to hinder us when God has prospered our way.