Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on January 20, 2018
I haven’t gotten my flu shot yet. It just slipped by me this year. The news reports about the severity of this season’s flu woke me up and got me motivated to get my vaccination!
With healing and sickness in the news I am reminded of a passage in the Bible, before vaccinations, about how healing occurred.
In the book of Mark a woman has a daughter who is demon possessed, and Jesus cures her; and in another moment Jesus opens a deaf man’s ears so he can hear again.
With our modern ears and knowledge of medicine, miracles like these challenge us because we have to trust that healing and new life happens in ways that just don’t add up from our point of view. Surgery, I get that! Chemo-therapy, I get that. Demon possessed cures and human touch curing deafness, that’s a stretch for us to wrap our brains around!
Can the healing touch of God in this world, in my life, make me whole? Can I be made whole in this world, just as the woman’s daughter and deaf man were made whole in that world?
The passage in Mark takes us to the gentile region of Tyre, and the gentile territory of Decapolis. Jesus just wants to be left alone and yet we hear some pretty strong language from Jesus as he travels through gentile land. Wherever he goes, people constantly seek him out. Sometimes Jesus gets irked by all of it. Even in gentile territory he can’t get any peace and quiet.
A woman comes to Jesus, bows at his feet, and begs him to cast the demon out of her daughter. If you have ever had a sick child or been worried sick, then you must know a little of what it must have been like to be this woman. Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first, (the children of Israel), for it is not fair to take the children’s food (Israel), and throw it to the dogs, (gentiles like you)”. She replies, “even the dogs under the table, (gentiles like me), eat the crumbs. Jesus doesn’t sound very nice here, but this isn’t the point!
Said another way, the message of God’s love, compassion and devotion that is meant for the children of Israel, is falling upon gentile ears too, they are being fed and nourished as well. In Jesus’ message of love, even the crumbs are enough to sustain this gentile woman and many like her.
A major theme in Mark’s gospel is “Outsiders get in, and insiders are left out.” People on the margins, the frail, the hungry, are welcomed into Jesus’ arms.
Something radical happens after the exchange between Jesus and the gentile woman! Something seismic. Jesus, once again, expands the boundaries of Judaism to include gentiles. The arms of Jewish teaching are extended to include the others, the outsiders, heaven forbid, even the gentiles. This isn’t sweet, polite or kind, this rocks thousands of years of Jewish tradition, teaching and understanding. He includes the rejected, the forgotten and despised into the body of holiness. If you live on the margins of life, your life has value and you are a beloved child of God, and you are welcomed here. This is big stuff!
We certainly see these themes of “who is in” and “who is out” being discussed, tweeted, and debated in our country today. We are discussing border walls, DACA, deportations and all of this is mixed in with racial tension and violence as we witnessed in Charlottesville VA a few months ago. The heart of these discussions is about “who is in” and “who is out?” Who is lowly and other and must stay out; and who is worthy and can stay in?
Jesus is breaking down the traditional taboos that keep people apart versus bringing us together. Imagine that for a moment?
No matter who we are, the loving hand of God is extended to all people. No matter of race, gender, nationality, legal status, gay or straight, people with addictions, loneliness, rich, upper middle class, middle class, or poor. The hand of God is extended to those who grieve over divorce, over a broken relationship, or for those who know the sorrow of burying someone you love.
Healing miracles in the Bible are not some form of special magic or a promise that God will protect believers from illness. The healing miracles are profound truths that shine light into our lives that all forms of healing come from God. That said, I have prayed for outcomes that did not come to pass. I have prayed for doors to open that remained closed. These disappointments do not change my belief that healing comes from God whether I can see it or not.
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.
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