Friday, January 27, 2012

Healing People 5

... continued from here.
Another important aspect of Jesus' miracles is their purpose.  Sure, Jesus' miracles reflected the power of God and God's approval of his mission. They showed his authority and power. But Jesus arguably did not primarily perform miracles to show off. Jesus performed miracles to help people.

In fact, Mark implies that many of Jesus' miracles happened after people brought those in need to Jesus.  In other words, Jesus healed many in response to others who came to him with needs.  A man with leprosy comes to Jesus (Mark 1:40). Some men dig open a roof to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus (Mark 2:4).

In one familiar story, Jesus is in a crowd and a woman manages to touch him and is healed of a bleeding problem (Mark 5:27-29).  This story highlights another important element in Jesus' healing ministry. Healing usually was closely connected to the faith of the person healed.  In this instance, Jesus doesn't even know who has just been healed.  He just knows that someone has touched him (Mark 5:30).

Similarly, Jesus is not able to do many miracles in his home village of Nazareth because the people there do not have faith (Mark 6:5). This incident again highlights the fact that Jesus played by the human rules and healed in the way someone might heal today through the Spirit's power. In such instances, Jesus was more the catalyst for healing, the mediator in a transaction between the faith of the individual healed and the power of God to heal.

It seems hard today for Christians to find a balance on topics like healing. We as humans seem prone to extremes on every side. So there are some Christians and traditions that tend to deny the miraculous altogether. Even if Jesus did them, that was something just for their day. Others go to the other extreme and say that if you had enough faith, you would always be healed.

It is both dangerous and wrongheaded to think that you will always be healed if you have enough faith. God does not always heal. God did not remove Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10), perhaps eye problems of some sort. Paul leaves Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20). The idea that healing is only a matter of faith has almost certainly kept individuals from seeking medical attention that might have otherwise saved their lives.  It in effect tells God how he can heal and how he cannot.

It seems to me that we should stay somewhere in the middle.  Miracles happen, however you want to define them. Perhaps God sometimes heals us through medicine.  Perhaps God sometimes intervenes directly in our physical situations. We can be thankful either way, and we can be hopeful either way. Faith does make a difference. It is not closed minded to believe that miracles can happen, quite the opposite.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I've known people who wouldn't take medicine because they thought that such would be undermining "what God allowed" and not "trusting God". One died, who was a mother of 10, another lost a limb,and was only in her teens, etc.

Is there any difference with "trusting God" and birth control, or other such "self responsibilities"? Yes, the Catholic Church insists that such thinking is "immoral"? And many charismatics think so, too.

Whether such thinking is a hierarchal mandate, or a subjective irrationality, both seem not to affirm "using one's own head" or reason about such matters.

Our nation allows for liberty of conscience regarding religious claims and a consent of the governed regarding governmental claims.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The question becomes where are the lines to be for the public and private sectors in our country. And what is the obligation of one person to take on responsibilities for/about/toward another person. When does the public sphere enable, and when does the private sphere ignoble.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

or where does the public spehere ignoble and the private sphere enable...

Both are true to some extent!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Who we are and what we do, whether in the public or private sphere has to do with one's political philosophy and how one understands liberty and justice...

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for reminding us of the case of Trophimus.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again for this post.