Not Cured, But Healed
After Jesus publicly began his ministry, he visited his hometown, where the reception was not great. In fact, Jesus was so off his game that he could do no powerful deeds, except, he did cure a few people who were sick.
Did you catch that? No deed of power except he cured a few people. Sounds like curing people barely qualifies as a deed of power, it’s so commonplace for Jesus. Indeed, Jesus has done a lot of healing in the Gospel of Mark to this point. He healed Simon’s mother-in-law, a woman with uncontrollable hemorrhaging, a man’s withered hand, a paralytic, a leper, two demon possessed men. He even brought a 12-year old girl back to life.
And as we learn in our lesson today, Jesus even empowered his own disciples to cure the sick. So, healing is a major part of what Jesus does.
But here’s the elephant in the room: Why doesn’t Jesus heal me or my loved one? Do all these miracles he did long ago have anything to do with me today? I hope we’ve all had times where we experienced healing. But chances are, there are also times where you wondered if God was even listening to your prayers! Let’s take up this question in more detail.
First of all, it’s really important to understand the significance of all the healing miracles that take place in Mark and the New Testament. Curing an ailment or disease for Jesus is never the main point of any of these stories. When Jesus heals a leper or raises to life a girl who has just died, those events are signs that point to something bigger. In this case, they point to who Jesus is – the Son of God, and what Jesus does – he saves broken and lost people. In Jesus, God is restoring us to a right relationship with God and each other.
Second, curing a disease is more than just a sign; it is a part of the salvation that God proclaims to us: salvation includes our body, mind and emotions. But the healings in the New Testament are not primarily about ailments being cured – again, the big picture: healing miracles are about restoring and reconciling relationships. Look at the people Jesus healed. Yes, they were healed of awful physical diseases. But in each story, that’s only one facet of their healing – and not the most important.
The leper, for instance, was “unclean” and therefore abandoned by his community. So, when Jesus healed him, a key part of that healing was having a local priest declare him “clean” again so he could be officially welcomed back into his community. Relationships are restored!
Including the most important relationship of all: with God. Have you noticed that Jesus usually says to the person healed that “your faith has made you well.” That means the person has trusted in Jesus; a saving relationship has been formed between that person and God – a God who loves you and gives you life! And before the paralyzed man was healed of his paralysis, he was forgiven – the most important healing a human being needs.
“Fine,” we might say, “but as a bonus, couldn’t God throw in a cure for my bad back, or my anxiety? Couldn’t God cure my dad’s cancer?” Yeah, there’s no doubt. Often, we feel like the Psalmist who cried out, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me? Why do you wait so long?”
Now, what often happens with any of us who are suffering from a physical, emotional or psychological brokenness, is that we usually are focused on one thing, the thing we want healing for. And we pray for healing, we even beg God. But it may or may not happen according to your timeline. God’s timeline might be different than yours. And as we wait, God waits with us to help us carry that load.
Meanwhile, God is still at work healing you! There are many areas of one’s life where healing and reconciliation are needed that go way beyond the one specific cure you’re looking for. So, healing and restoration can happen in different ways, even as you wait for that one thing. God promises healing. God will deliver. God is delivering. Have faith.
Here is a great example: Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. The man didn’t seem like he wanted to be there, but his wife insisted. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said,
“Remember me? You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Had cancer? Campolo expected good news. But then she said, “He died.”
Compolo felt terrible. “So much for my prayer,” he muttered to himself. But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.”
“But after you prayed for him, a peace came over him and a joy came into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung. We’ve laughed. We’ve read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.”
And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed.”
What would it mean for you – as you wait for healing of whatever physical, emotional or psychological pain you have – to trust that God’s promise for healing is true for you right now? Maybe we are called to look for signs of healing and to be open to the unexpected. Don’t just look in one place. And if we just can’t see it, to know that our God is the kind of God who suffers with us. And that’s because of love.
Since Valentine’s Day is approaching, it is certainly appropriate to bring love into this conversation. The biggest healing force in the universe is love and God is love. Restored or reconciled relationships are about love. A saving relationship is about love. Even when one’s heart has been broken and the grief is too much to bear, it is love alone that can save us. The following is a wonderful poem by Jan Richardson about this very topic. It’s called Blessing for the Brokenhearted.
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau
Let us agree for now
that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger
or that it is better to have this pain
than to have done without this love.
Let us promise we will not tell ourselves
time will heal the wound,
when every day our waking opens it anew.
Perhaps for now it can be enough
to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating,
as if it were made for precisely this—
as if it knows the only cure for love
is more of it,
as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy for breaking
is to love still,
as if it trusts
that its own persistent pulse
is the rhythm of a blessing we cannot begin to fathom but will save us nonetheless.
Powerful poem. Maybe what it’s saying is that only love can truly heal. Good news, my friends, because God is love.
The Bible says, “perfect love drives out all fear.” Indeed, it does, and fear is the root of so much disease in human life – spiritual or otherwise. Let us ponder in our own lives how God’s love can heal us in so many ways, from our relationships with others and God, to our own sense of self. And let us not dwell on what isn’t healing or happening and be open to what good work God is doing in our lives.
Johann Schutz wrote a prayer in 1673, and I close with this: “Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation, the God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation; with healing balm my soul he fills, and every faithless murmur stills: to God all praise and glory.” Amen.