|“The Healing of the Paralytic”
The oldest known depiction of Jesus
from the Syrian city of Dura Europos
Scripture Passage: Matthew 12: 22-23
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”
We know of the plethora of stories that depict Jesus as a healer. In fact, more healing stories are told about Jesus than any other figure in the Jewish tradition. We like that image, even if we don’t fully understand it. Most of us have to admit that we’re a little cynical, if not downright distrusting, of stories of miraculous healings. There’s got to be an explanation, right? There’s got to be some way to make this make sense and fit into our understandings of how the world works.
And yet, healing is not “fixing”. The Scriptures that depict healings don’t really say that things were put back the way they were before or the way society assumes they should be. I think maybe we just read that into them. In the passage above, the word “cured” is used. The Greek from which that was translated is therapeuo (rather than therapeia), which can mean cure, heal, or serve. Well, that’s interesting. Maybe Jesus didn’t “cure” him at all the way we think of “curing”. Maybe Jesus “served” him, paid attention to him, engaged him, treated him respectfully for possibly the first time in the person’s life. And maybe it was that simple act of caring, of treating someone like a person rather than an illness or even as “less” than a person that brought healing and wholeness and let him see and hear for the first time in his life what life really held.
To be honest, I don’t think we overestimate Jesus’ ability to heal; I think we water it down, trying to make it understandable and manageable. I think we try to limit it to literal “fixing” when it’s something much, much more profound, much, much more needed in our world. God never promised that the world would be fixed. Suffering abounds. But God did promise that we would never be alone as we journeyed through it and that, ultimately, all of Creation would be redeemed, would be made new. It is the story of our faith. It’s ultimate depiction, the ultimate “healing” story is the story of The Cross, the story of God taking the most horrific, the most despicable, the most inhumane that humanity offers, and offering instead healing and life, offering not a “cure” to death, but a recreation of it. Jesus’ death was not “fixed”; it was redeemed, made something different, remade into something new–life.
Back to our little word study, the word therapeuo is found again in The Book of Acts (Acts 17: 24-25) but this time the NRSV translates it as “serve”: “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.”
So, on this thirty-second day of Lenten observance, use your imagination. Imagine what “healing”, what newness, God in Christ offers you.
Grace and Peace,