The proverb concerning the sick quoted by the Lord at Capernaum (Mr 2:17) has come down to us in several forms in apocryphal and rabbinical writings (Babha’ Qamma’ 26:13; Sanhedhrin 176), but is nowhere so terse as in the form in which He expresses it. The Lord performed His healing of the sick by His word or touch, and one of the most emphatic charges which He gave to His disciples when sending them out was to heal the sick. One of the methods used by them, the anointing with oil, is mentioned in Mr 6:13 and enjoined by James (5:15). In later times the anointing which was at first used as a remedial agent became a ceremonial in preparation for death, one of the seven sacraments of the Roman church (Aquinas, Summa Theologia suppl. ad Piii. 29).
The duty of visiting the sick is referred to in Eze 34:4,16, and by the Lord in the description of the Judgment scene (Mt 25:36,43). It is inculcated in several of the rabbinical tracts. "He that visits the sick lengthens his life, he who refrains shortens it," says Rabbi Ischanan in Nedharim 29. In Shulchan `Arukh, Yoreh De`ah there is a chapter devoted to this duty, which is regarded as incumbent on the Jew, even though the sick person be a Gentile (Gittin 61a). The church’s duty to the sick, so long neglected, has, within the last century, been recognized in the mission field, and has proved, in heathen lands, to be the most important of all pioneer agressive methods.
While we find that the apostles freely exercised their gifts of healing, it is noteworthy that we read of the sickness of two of Paul’s companions, Epaphroditus (Php 2:26) and Trophimus (2Ti 4:20), for whose recovery he seems to have used no other means than prayer.
See also DISEASE.