The Great Physician and His Patients
George Everard, 1874
"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Matthew 9:10-12
No sooner did Matthew, the Publican, forsake all and follow Christ, than he assembled together old friends and companions, and invited Christ to come and sit down in the midst of them. Nor was Christ unwilling — it was exactly the work in which He delighted. Where, above all places, should a physician be found, but among the sick? And where should He be found who came to heal men's souls, but where such were met who most needed His help?
Of course, the Pharisees misunderstand and object: "Why does your Master sit down with Publicans and sinners?" "Because they most need my help and salvation, and because for such I came into the world," was the spirit of our Lord's reply. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
I know nothing that has oftener been a thought of help to me, than this office of Christ to be the Physician of His people. It may likewise prove a message of consolation to some who read these pages — it may be a "step across" some stream of fear or unbelief; and may give you a fresh view of the rich fullness of grace and blessing in Christ.
It is impossible to over-estimate the fearful character of that malady of sin and depravity which Christ comes to heal. It prevails everywhere. It is found in all kingdoms — in all races — in all cities, towns, and villages; it has its victims in every home; it has touched every heart; it brings with it unrest and disquietude; it destroys peace in the heart and peace in the home.
Sin is, moreover, highly infectious — its atmosphere is injurious to those around.
Sin is incurable by all human art or power. The ministers of Christ can reprove sin, and show its awful consequences — but they cannot, by their own efforts, turn one sinner from his way. Parents and teachers can warn the young — but too often all warnings are in vain. The sinner may resolve, and resolve again, to forsake old habits — but the habit of evil proves stronger than his resolution.
But that which cannot be effected by man's power, can be done by the Savior's grace. He is the great Healer. "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?" Yes, since Christ has been revealed, let none doubt that in Him will be found all that meets the sinner's need.
Christ is a Physician, ever near at hand. In very many cases distance prevents help being obtained in time to save life.
In country villages there are often sudden cases of sickness or accident, and no medical help can be obtained nearer than five, or even eight or ten miles; and so several hours elapse, and it is too late.
On the field of battle, too, how many a soldier has lost his life on this account! The wound might be bound up, and the hemorrhage stayed, if only the surgeon were at hand — but in his absence, death ensues.
But Christ is close at hand to hear the feeblest cry of distress, and to support the wounded and perishing one. Yes, wherever you may be — here at home, or far away on the deep ocean — sorely pained by the fiery darts of the Tempter, or suffering from some willful transgression — yet but lift your eye in humble faith, and you will see Christ by your side, in all tender compassion and love, ready to bind up the broken heart, to forgive the grievous fall, or to restore to you the peace and comfort for which you long. "The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him faithfully. The Lord is near to those who are of a broken spirit, and saves such as are of a contrite heart."
Christ is willing to undertake every case without fee. When Christ was on earth, we remember how the woman who had spent her all on many physicians, and had suffered many things and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse — at length came to seek His aid — and she obtained it at once. She had to bring nothing to this Physician; but she touched Him, and at once she was healed of her plague.
And still Jesus heals freely! He asks nothing from us as the price of His ready help. Shall I bring a solitary coin? Shall I bring a few good works, a few good prayers or feelings — and then expect Christ will reward me by granting forgiveness and grace? Not so. Come as you are! Nay, if you are too helpless, too paralyzed by sin's power to move a step, as you are too poor to offer anything — still, a look, a longing, a sigh, a breathing after Him — will not be lost.
See the man lying on the road to Jericho. The thieves had robbed him of all he possessed; they had sorely wounded him, leaving him half dead — he lay helpless in his blood. But the good Samaritan passed by — he saw him; he had compassion; he undertook his case. What could the man do, but thankfully receive the kindness that the Samaritan did for him? He had no money, no strength, no power to move. But the good Samaritan did all. He gave the healing remedies, and applied them; he carried him along on his own animal; he watched over him during his recovery; he provided for his future necessities.
Even thus is it with the sinner and Christ. We can do nothing — but our Physician can do everything. He finds us robbed of everything by the great Highwayman, and unable to save ourselves. But He does all freely. He takes us as He finds us, and does all that is needful. He heals, nourishes, and cherishes. He is Physician, Nurse, Provider, Bearer, all in one. He expects nothing from us, but that which He first bestows. He leaves not, neither forsakes, such as commit themselves to His care.
In Christ is the most perfect skill to discern the peculiar features of each case. In visiting a Convalescent Hospital, in the north of England, I was much struck with the frequent complaint, "Oh, sir, the doctor here does not understand my illness!" And so many of the patients returned home without any real benefit, because they were strangers to those who had the charge of them, and who therefore could not fully enter into their case. But Christ knows what is in man. He looks right deep into the heart, and in a moment can tell the full extent of the malady. You may feel there is something peculiar in your sin or temptation — something entirely different from that of others — and this very much discourages you. But Christ knows the peculiarity, and He knows how to meet it.
Or it may be that there is a complication of evil. Sometimes, in a case of disease, a complication of various disorders occurs, and tries exceedingly the skill of the Physician. The medicine or remedy given to meet one disorder — may aggravate and increase another. With yourself there may be evil of various kinds. There may be the remembrance of former guilt; a frequent aversion to prayer; a coldness and indifference of heart, that you cannot cast off; and perhaps you are ready to despair.
But Christ sees the working of all this sin and corruption and hardness of heart, and He can counteract it all by His all-sufficient grace. Before you have spoken a word, when you kneel down and cast yourself upon His mercy — He is prepared to forgive and save. Christ knows beforehand all that you are, and cannot fail to support His tempted or afflicted child.
In Christ there is also a Divine power not only to discern, but completely to effect a cure in every case of spiritual disease. How often do men find that the very ablest physicians in the kingdom have no means of doing anything effectually for them. Perhaps you have gone up to London, and have had great expense, and made great efforts to consult some eminent man. But when you have told him everything, and he has carefully examined all the symptoms of your disease, you see a look that tells its own tale; and you find out that all is in vain, and that it is beyond all human art to save your life.
But this thought manifests by contrast, the power of Christ. When He was upon earth, none were sent away unhealed. The blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb, the palsied and the lepers, those possessed with devils and those laid low with fever — all alike were healed immediately by the touch of Jesus. "The whole multitude sought to touch Him; for virtue went out of Him, and healed them all."
It was a lesson for all time. Thus completely and surely does Jesus restore all who come to Him. He can . . .
open the eyes long closed in the night of ignorance,
strengthen those who have yet had no power to walk in God's ways,
unstop the ear long deaf to the sweet voice of the Gospel,
teach the prayerless lips to plead with God,
remove the paralysis of a careless indifference,
cleanse souls from the leprosy of debasing lusts,
cast out the evil spirits of envy, and hatred, and unbelief,
save men from the fever of covetousness, and every evil temper.
His power, when on earth, reached to the very worst cases of disease. The man full of leprosy, and the woman whom other physicians had tried in vain to benefit — both came, and others just as hopeless, and were alike healed. Yes, and I see Jesus day by day saving such as man might reckon beyond the reach of His saving arm.
I have known a man who once, far and wide, was regarded as one of the vilest — a drunkard, a fighter, and much beside. He comes into a school-room on one occasion, and a message was spoken from the Word of God: "When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." Such was the word that was spoken — and this man obeyed it. He turned from sin to the merciful Savior: he became a new creature; old things passed away, and all things became new. He lived fifteen years a monument of the power and grace of Christ; and now lies in our Wolverhampton Cemetery: and on his tombstone, by his own request, are inscribed the words which led to his conversion.
Nor does any length of time prevent the possibility of Christ saving the sinner. We read of the woman healed after twelve years of suffering; another woman bowed down by her infirmity for eighteen years; the man at the pool bad been lying there eight-and-thirty years; and the man whose eyes were opened by Christ had been blind from his birth.
Thus no lapse of years can hinder the soul, who seeks a Savior, finding help from Him. True it is, that if you now turn from Him, and refuse His grace — it becomes each year, each day, more unlikely you will ever care to seek Him; for the windows of the soul become darkened more and more by willful unbelief. But if now you have the desire to flee straight to Him, He will never reject you, because for many a day you have turned your back upon Him.
Three short but precious words I noticed on the memorial stone of Hetty Bowman, whose writings have been so useful to many; and I learned that they were the last words that ever fell from her lips. "Mighty to save!" Such is the simple message from her grave, and one that may still every fear and comfort every doubting soul.
Perhaps there are none so disposed to give up all for lost, as those who have been drawn back to the world, after having known much of the Savior's love. Perhaps you are feeling this. You see that Christ is able to save those who have been hitherto most careless, or most ungodly; but the aggravation of your sin, is that you turned away from Christ, and have gone back to the mire of sin. You have done much harm to others by this — you have grievously dishonored Christ. But all this is no obstacle to His saving grace. It is the greatest reason for humility — but no reason whatever for despair. Christ has raised up many who have fallen back into heinous sin, and kept them afterward by His grace. Only trust Him, and walk humbly before Him. He will heal your backslidings; He will love you freely and keep you safely to the end.
Christ shows His tender love as our Physician most of all, in that He heals His patients with His own precious blood!
I have read of a General, in olden time, who tore off his clothes on the field of battle to bind up the wounds of his soldiers. But Christ does more:
He gives Himself to be our medicine!
He gives His own life-blood to heal our diseases!
Other remedies indeed He employs, as preparatory to this, or as bringing it home to the conscience, or as perfecting His work in those who are saved.
He sends the rod to awaken and to humble;
He sends His Word to teach and enlighten;
He appoints means of grace to sanctify His own redeemed people.
But chief of all is the blood of the cross applied to the conscience by the Spirit of God, and by faith accepted, as the ground of all hope and confidence.
Oh, sinner, what a Physician is yours! What love is this — that He gives His own blood to cleanse and heal your soul!
But the medicine must be taken — or it cannot save. It will not do to look at it, to place it on the table, to speak of its valuable properties. It must be taken by the patient — or he will not recover.
A wealthy man had a little girl laid low with scarlet fever. She was his only daughter, and he would gladly have parted with all his wealth, rather than have lost her. She might have recovered, but it was absolutely necessary that she should take the medicine. But she would not do it — no efforts could succeed in inducing her to do so. So, poor girl, she died, and left a fearful blank in the home where she had been such a bright light.
Ah, sinner, take the medicine, or you will surely die! Believe in the efficacy of Christ's blood, and trust in this alone for your salvation before God. No power on earth or Heaven can save the soul that rejects or makes light of the blood of Christ! God has declared this to be His chosen means of salvation, and none other will He accept instead. Whether you will hear or not — yet in God's name I do solemnly assure you that there is no other name but that of Jesus, by which you can be saved. And in no other way does He save, but by the blood that ransoms the sinner from destruction.
A closing word to those who have known Christ as their Healer. Be sure you commend this good Physician to others. It is always a pleasant duty for a man who himself has found much benefit from the medical help afforded to him — to tell others who are suffering as once he did, of the one who can perfect a cure.
And though we find it difficult at times — yet is it a blessed thing, in a kind and loving spirit, to tell others of Jesus and His grace. We can tell from our experience how much He has done for us. We can tell, because we have proved it, that His blood has power to cleanse the conscience, and assure us of peace with God. Let us not hide within our hearts His salvation, but be telling of it from day to day; and it shall be our great and endless gain to meet with those in our Father's house, who through us have learned to know Christ as their Physician, their Savior, their All.
When wounded sore, the stricken soul
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner's wound!
When penitence has wept in vain
Over some foul, dark spot,
One one stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.
Tis Jesus' blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that's touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.