The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

Healing

Ethiopian icon: Jesus heals the blind man

An Ethiopian icon: Jesus healing the blind man
All humanity is in need of healing by the power of God‘s love in Christ Jesus

Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher, but also a healer. All four canonical gospels relate stories of miraculous healings by Jesus of the blind, the lame – even the dead. In Jesus’ day, physical illness was regarded as God’s curse, as punishment for misdeeds. Sick people were regarded as sinners. The more serious their illness, it was thought, the more serious their sin. Nothing was more powerful as a symbol of Jesus’ divine mission than healings wrought through him by the power of God.

Healing the sick, moreover, was how Jesus’ fame spread; indeed, crowds of people clamoring for healing forced him into the countryside where he might also get on with the primary task of proclaiming the gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1.15)

Jesus repudiated the common view that sinners were cursed beyond redemption. He declared that those he healed were not sick because of sin but so God’s love might be revealed. (John 9.1-8) His message was that, physically ill or not, all humanity is in need of healing by the power of God, which is love – the power by which all things are called into being and by which all existence is sustained. Jesus called his generation to turn to God in faith so that every kind of brokenness might be healed, whether one was lame or “poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5.3)

A word about miracles: They are something to be seen not explained, according to the term itself. We believe Jesus healed by the power of God in response to faith. We believe his apostles healed in the same way, according to Christian scripture. Healing is integral to the story of Christianity. How God heals is irrelevant to our belief that God heals by the power of love in response to faith, our willingness to let God love us. Historically, it has always been mischievous for Christians to explain miraculous healing, because it means trying to explain the mind of God, which is incomprehensible. Ironically, we become irrational in our attempts to rationalize the miraculous, because we eventually turn to trying to explain why God doesn’t heal in ways consistent with our idea of wholeness. In essence, such “reasoning” turns us away from Jesus, whose path was always marked in prayer by “thy will be done.” We are called to rejoice in our healing, not to explain it; moreover, we discover in faith that all who turn to God are healed in one way or another.

Healing is being made whole. Our need for healing assumes that something is broken and not just our bodies but most likely our souls. When we think of healing in Christian scripture, we’re more apt to think of the man born blind than, say, the healing of Peter, whose cowardice and bravado were healed by the power of God in response to his faith in Jesus. He who was most shamed by his denial of Jesus emerged from the Pentecost experience as chief among the apostles. As in the life of Peter, healing wrought by faith is linked with transformation, with dramatic change in one’s perspective and sense of self in relation to God. Such transformation is also called conversion, in which our fundamental beliefs are rearranged to account for what we experience as “newness of life” (Romans 6.4), wholeness that comes by the power of God’s love in response to faith.

The church expresses this ministry of Christ in and through the community of faith in the sacrament of anointing and the laying on of hands. It is an ancient ministry rooted in the first generation of Christians. “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5.14-16) Anointing is a ministry of the presence of God in Christ in the very suffering of the world by virtue of the Incarnation. God does not care about us from a distance but, in Christ, is with us at the very core of our being – in the pain, not just at the bedside. This is true of all manner of suffering not just physical illness. The sacrament of healing is always an appropriate response in faith to any kind of brokenness and may be administered any time and any place. It’s not at all limited to liturgical settings.

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One Response to “Healing”

  1. Warren Wilson said

    I too have experienced the healing power of God and yes it is truly transforming! Ut does bring about newness of life and newness in life! Amen!

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