Anointing the sick

Sermon – anointing the sick

Text : James 5.13-16


Video : Faith to not be healed – The amazing story of Chanel White.

1) The significance of oil in the Bible

In the Bible, oil is used in many ways. It is used as a southing ointment to relieve skin burns or as a base for topical medication. The good samaritan did use oil to treat the wounds of the sick man before leaving him into the care of the owner of an inn (Lk 10.34). It is also used as a base in purfumery. We know that Moses was instructed by God to prepare a special perfumed oil to be used to anoint and consecrate the sanctuary, the utensils and the priests with it (Ex 30.22-25). It is of course used in baking and cooking. Oil is also the combustible for lamps, it is thus the source of enligtment. Spiritually, oil represents the Holy Spirit as the source of devine enlightment. That is why there was a lamp stand in the Holy Place of God’s Temple. The ten virgins in Jesus’s parable were, for five of them, missing in oil. Their lamp, sign of them being enligted by the Holy Spririt was soon out and they were left in spiritual darkness (Mt 25.8).

2) Different types of anointments and what they mean

– As a mark of distinction and welcoming : Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. ( Luke 7:46 ) and Psal 23:5 

As common toiletry : Anointing the body or head with oil was a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations. (Ruth 3:3)

As a medical act – the good samaritan.

– It was a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth.

a. Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, ( Elisha : 1 Kings 19:16 )

b. Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, ( Exodus 40:15 ;  Numbers 3:3 ) but afterwards anointing seems to have been specially reserved for the high priest, ( Exodus 29:29 ;  Leviticus 16:32 )

c. Kings. Anointing was the principal and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish Kings. ( 1 Samuel 9:16 ;  10:1 ;  1 Kings 1:34 ;         1 Kings 1:39 ) David was anointed  (Psalm 89:20).

Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil, in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus the Temple and its utensils were anointed (Ex 30.26-30)

– In the Old Testament a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, ( Psalms 2:2;  Daniel 9:2526 ) and the nature of his anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Spirit. ( Isaiah 61:1 ) see Luke 4:18 (The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me…) In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah, or Christ or Anointed ( John 1:41 ;  Acts 9:22 ;  Acts 17:2Acts 17:3 ;  Acts 18:4  Acts 18:28 ) Christ was anointed as prophet, high priest and king.

– Spiritual anointing with the Holy Spirit is also conferred upon Christians, by God. ( 2 Corinthians 1:21,22 “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. ) Anointing “expresses the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit upon Christians who are priests and kings unto God (1P 2.9).

So, one meaning for the word anointed is “chosen one.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News and free those who have been held captive by sin After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God’s Kingdom (1 John 2:20). It is only God who can anoint a person for a specific purpose. If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what God is doing.

So anointing, wether it is in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm, is many times an action into which God is present. That can be clearly seen when Samuel the prophet went to annoint David as king : 1S 16.1,13 “Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”

3) The disciples sent to mission (Mk 6:7,12) and the anointment

There is yet one special case of anointment that we have not mentioned, and it is that for healing the sick through prayer and the pouring of oil.

READ : Mk 6.7,12,13

“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits… So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.”

The prayer that accompanies the anointing is animated by a trusting faith (James 1:5-8). Here we see the Christian charism of healing at work (see 1Co 12:9).

If you sufferer for some reason, according to James 5:13a, it is recommended that you pray for yourself (with the intercession of the church if you wish so). But in the act of anointing, one sees a condition which the believer cannot manage alone even in fervent prayer.

However, it is the believer who initiates the request for prayer with anointing. His request is already seen as an act of faith; A faith in the God of deliverance when our own prayers do not seem to have brought the desired relief.

Thus we come to understand that James 5:14-15 testifies to the very living existence of a tradition that came from Jesus (Mark 6:7,12) and the apostles (Mk 16:18). These have seen in the commandment to heal the sick by the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil, an orientation of activity not to be lost.

This is probably why, at the Council of Trent, the Church of Rome proclaimed this anointing of the sick as an act of extreme unction. They understood this act as the anointing that comes at the extreme moment when there is no other hope.

This act of anointing, along with prayer has a clear liturgical aspect – it is more than merely a therapeutic act. For it is the elders who are called (not friends or family, etc.); The elders are the guardians of the local church, they have charge of ensuring the spiritual wellness of God’s people; The fact that the idea of sin and forgiveness is mentioned also points to a liturgical act; So the act of the anointing in itself is one in which God is invoked as a participant – as we see in the various biblical examples of Anointing and for that reason anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.

Yet there is no magic in such an act. God, also, is not in any obligation to obey man’s prayers and desires – even if we are talking about helping out a soul who suffers. After all, how many times did Paul pray to the Lord to be healed from his sickness and God answered that his condition would not change because it was participating to the glory of God being withnessed through the preaching of the gospel by an enfeabled man.

God remains sovereign in everything and we have to aknowledge that. Yet, we are also called to ask in order to get (Mt 7:7), and insist in asking for what we believe is good (Lk 11:5-13 – the Holy Spirit is finally given).

4) What James recommends and what it means

The book of James is not a book of doctrines but it has to do with other books such as that of Proverbs. James writes about moral issues and gives counsels on moral aspects of our christian behaviour.

Therefore the counsel given to the one suffering and not seeing any possible issue to his or her condition is to not isolate himself or herself but to ask for help. Ask for God’s help through the involvement of those who, in the congregation, are recognized as bearing the load of spiritual help.

The counsel is to seek God through confession and with the special help of the elders of the church, serving as intercessors.

Ideally, such elders should have the gift of healing.

Let us look again at the text : James 5:13-16

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up [resurrect]. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”


God is not happy to see us suffer or be so sick that our life is at stake. God wants to make us free from all these things.

In the end, it is peace that God wants to grant us ; peace in our heart. Understanding that no matter what, God is with us. And this is how king David was probably feeling when he wrote this fabulous psalm 23 :

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, [even if my life seems dark and devoid of light ; even if I see no end to my misery]  I will fear no evil; For You are with me; [by faith, I believe that you are with me Lord] Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.   You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; [you chose me and receive me in your presence as an honored guest] My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
[I will be saved]”

Peace in our heart and faith that God will raise us when He comes to put a definitive end to all suffering is what we are called to have. Being healed, yes, but peace and faith in the God who saves is what is most precious.