Moreover, the Bible also attributes sickness to a variety of causes. Among early Christian believers, a failure to discern the Lord’s body in the communion celebrations brought mortal sickness. An apostle may hand someone over to Satan so that his body might somehow be broken. Or the Lord God Himself might put someone in Satan’s hands – smitten, hurt and stripped of family and health, not because of sinfulness, but because of his righteousness. Daniel the prophet lay paralysed because of an encounter with an angel. Ezekiel the prophet sat overwhelmed in soul and body because he experienced the glory of the Lord. The Gadarene demoniac exhibited suicidal tendencies, cutting himself with stones, because of his possession by evil spirits. A man who had been an invalid for nearly forty years was instantly healed at Jesus’ word and told to stop sinning, lest something worse happen to him. Congenital abnormalities leading to ‘giants’ may be the result of a wrong relationship between the human and angelic worlds. King Saul was sick in min because an evil spirit touched him, at the Lord’s direction. A famous king of Israel contracted leprosy because he grew proud of his own importance.
According to the Bible, sickness, disease and tragedy caused by many agents. The Western emphasis subordinates the question ‘why’ to that of ‘how’, where the Bible all along majors on the question ‘why’, and not on the physical or psychological details of ‘how’.
In contrast to the folk-Islamic view, the emphasis of Scripture is also strongly ethical. Whoever or whatever is responsible for disease does not act independently or without prospect of judgement.
This discussion of sickness has serious repercussions for medical missions, where those missions work among ordinary Muslims. Are Christ’s representatives communicating that they are truly in touch with the Lord of creation, as they claim with their lips, or do their medical practices unwittingly announce that they are only ‘quacks’?
Similarly, what roles do prayer, the laying on of hands, and public thanksgiving play in treatment? Because a company director’s daughter healed in such a way, many believed in Jesus Christ.
Of course, ordinary Muslims are happy to make use of antibiotics and cough mixtures, surgery and hospital care. Consequently, an inability to include in medical missionary work an addressing of the problem – as ordinary Muslims see it – will lead to a credibility gap between the medical practices of the missionaries and the words they speak about the healing power of Jesus.
Sometimes, Muslims seem better conveyors of Christ’s power to restore than Christians! In front of a lifeless man, a government official, Muslim doctors prayed like this – ‘Lord Jesus, we are all as good as dead men. But we ask you to raise this man from the dead. If you do that, we will give you the rest of our lives.’ Jesus raised the dead man and today, the six doctors – baptized believers!
When Jesus Christ – presented as the powerful Lord over human sickness – an opposite pitfall is that Jesus is seen simply as a worker of stronger magic, as a greater saint. His remarkable birth, His role at judgment time, His special relation to Muhammad, His power over disease, death and nature, His angelic and spirit-like qualities, His ability to mediate with God, His superior relationship to Satan – all speak of a special person.
Without a full presentation of the truth of who Jesus Christ is, in moments of power encounter, Muslims will probably see Jesus as being like other saints or healers. His intention, however was consistently to draw the devotee into an encounter with Himself as Son of man, as Lord; out of a view of life that allowed no direct relationship with the Creator.
Thus, in the case of the woman with an issue of blood, Jesus accepted the superstitious approach the woman made to Him. She was looking for a force stronger than the evil in her body. As he healed the woman, Jesus transformed her cosmology, as well as changing her bodily symptoms —
“When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 “Daughter,”he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” – Luke 8:47-48
The woman faced a Lord before whom she had to bow. The woman’s closed cosmology broken open, and now she can truly go in peace, in wholeness.
Not everyone so willingly accepts the breaking open of their traditional worldview. Leaving go of the habits of a lifetime is neither automatic nor easy.
Many motivations among ordinary Muslims are acceptable as starting-points in their seeking of Jesus’ help in their lives. He calls them to a new focus in living, where their relationship with Himself becomes paramount.