Lesson 10: Healing

Healing of the Man Born BlindJohn 9 uses the healing of a blind man to support Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the Light of the World.” Its treatment makes clear we are talking about more than restoring sight to eyes, so we can sense and sort out the physical world around us. Healing, also, involves social, mental, and spiritual repair.

If the human and divine share the same spirit, as John has maintains, then the human spirit has been broken and salvation is best seen as healing. The “I Am” sayings, then, are not claims of exclusiveness or demands for some kind of special belief, but rather offers of grace and presentations of gifts. As John says many times, God does not come to judge, but to save.

Pope Francis echoes this when he says, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”

That is clearly what Jesus does, and the blind man for the most part does nothing. He is not sure what happened to him or exactly who did it. After all, he never saw Jesus who appears out of nowhere to offer a free gift and then disappears. When Jesus does return to enlighten the man about what is going on, the man simply responds with worship.

It is not Jesus who makes demands on the man; it is his neighbors, parents, and religious authorities. They punish him for associating with Jesus if only in a passive manner.

Notice that John reports what was happening to Christians in his time. His contemporaries are the ones who have been thrown out of the synagogues, not Jesus’ companions. He and his friends had to respond to questions about whether they really are changed people, why they do not observe the Sabbath, and how they can justify not obeying the religious leaders of their time.

Things have not changed a great deal. We still have to deal with the same challenges. Neighbors are always asking if our baptisms really make us any different than the rest of the world. Many parents warn us getting too religious is not good for us. Institutional authorities still maintain they set the legitimate standards for determining who sins and who doesn’t. Many people label those who follow Jesus with courage and integrity as radical, “do-gooder”, liberal, and enemy.

I am writing during the Christmas season when we light candles and sing of “The Light of the World.” In many ways, John presents a Christmas story most congenial in our modern world. We do not know what to do with talk of a Virgin Birth, a miracle that breaks scientific law, emphasizing how different Jesus is from us. When John speaks of the divine and the human sharing the same Spirit, we catch more easily the theme of God coming as a true human who truly lives so fully in God’s Spirit that he deserves worship. We worship, because to live in that Spirit is to reach out and heal all around you. We worship, because he comes to strengthen, enrich, and enlighten our Spirit.

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  1. Derek Halverson says:

    I think it is challenging to outspokenly “follow Jesus with courage and integrity.” In part because it can be a confusing matter on what that means. Much of what one could come out and say is either hurtful, threatening, offensive, or at the least divisive to others. And as a ELCA layperson it’s hard to achieve that total certainty on theology that instills confidence on any but the most basic of concepts. The idea of healing first is highly appealing, and I suppose that to be something of the approach I take. However that ends in rather a few almost but not submitted comments on this study and probably less said in real life as well.

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