Rather than depicting a single episode of Christ's preaching, Rembrandt has chosen to illustrate virtually all of Matthew XIX. From left to right are: the Pharisees with whom Christ debated the questions of marriage and divorce; the rich young man He advised to sell his possessions to benefit the poor (the camel at right alluding to His observation that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven); the little children He asked to be brought to Him; and the paralytic woman He healed. In the centre Christ visually and logically holds the whole composition together.
Since its creation Christ healing the Sick has been admired as Rembrandt's most ambitious, complex and highly-worked composition as a printmaker. In it he used every tool at his command, and in a variety of styles, from the freely drawn Pharisees, to the detailed and precise rendering of textures on the figures at the right. However, certain elements seem incomplete, such as the rather mechanical shading at the upper left, and the figure with his back to the viewer at the left, who appears unfinished save for his hands and hat. This, and the differing styles, has given rise to the idea that it was worked on over a number of years.
There are several conflicting anecdotes as to how the informal title came about. The two most plausible are that Rembrandt swapped an impression for a group of prints by Marcantonio Raimondi of this value (Rembrandt was an omnivorous print collector), or that he paid this sum to buy back a particularly fine, early impression. The copper plate was one of those to have survived Rembrandt's death, and ultimately it found its way to England, where a Captain William Baillie re-worked and printed several editions from it.