Metaphors of Jesus: The Physician

By Bruce James

Jesus claimed to be a physician Himself when He was in the house of Matthew eating a meal. Matthew being a tax collector, evidently had invited some of his fellow outcasts to eat with them. The Pharisees and scribes were shocked that Jesus would eat a meal with such people. But Jesus told them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick . . . I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:913; Mk. 2:14-17; Lk. 5:27-32). Jesus’ claim here is that He is a physician to cure the ills of mankind.

This was a common picture to the Jew. Jeremiah asked: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jer. 8:22). The world needed someone who could heal the sickness of the soul. And, in reality, the physician in Jesus’ day had at least two things going against him: (1) to all Jews, dead bodies were unclean and to touch one was to become unclean yourself. Therefore, Jewish doctors knew very little of anatomy. There is a story that is told of how these doctors would boil the body of a criminal until the flesh came away from the bones, so the bones could be examined and counted. But to go into detail would be too gross to say the least; (2) the Jews also believed that all suffering was due to sin, and to the personal sin of the sufferer. Therefore, when a physician tried to heal someone it was said that he was interfering with the action and decree of God. This was a definite hindrance to the doctor in Jesus’ day, and it is for these two reasons that physicians then were more like witch doctors than anything else.

Let us ask what the picture of Jesus as a physician reveals’ about Himself. Well, what are the characteristics of a doctor?

1. The word physician comes from the Greek word phusikos which is connected with phusis which means nature., A physician is a man whose study is nature, the essence and basis of life. He sees man not as a prince or pauper, a laborer or stockbroker, but as a human being in need of healing. He sees men as they are-and so does Jesus Christ.

2. The physician is trained to diagnose ailments. He sees those things which you and I cannot see. Unless he finds the cause of the trouble then he cannot find the cure. Jesus can diagnose the sickness of sin, and can reveal, exactly where that sickness attacks each individual life.

3. The physician, knowing what is wrong, then wants to help-to heal. You or I might regard the illness as repulsive or ugly and, therefore, shun the sufferer, but not the doctor. Jesus never turns from the sinner but is always willing to apply the healing balm to whosoever will.

4. The physician is a man who will risk his own life to save the one who is ill. Think of all the infectious diseases that man has had to deal with in the past and how many doctors died trying to find a cure! Jesus did not hesitate to die to find a cure for men.

Most certainly, Jesus proved that he has the ability to miraculously heal any physical ailment infecting mankind. This He did while He was here on earth. And He can heal the spiritual ailments too. But we must obey the Divine Physician’s instructions–yes, take the prescription for the cure. We must believe and obey the gospel if we are to ever be saved (Heb. 5:8, 9). There is no other balm in Gilead, nor any other physician there.

Truth Magazine XXII: 24, pp. 394-395
June 15, 1978