Luke 4:38-44 – Every One of Them

“Healing” by Ivan Filichev, 2014

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.

As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.

At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So, he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea. (New Revised Standard Version)

One of the most fundamental truths about the person of Jesus is that he heals all kinds of people. 

Even people who know very little about the historical Jesus know that he was a guy who brought healing to people while he was here on this earth.  For many Christians, the fact that Christ healed people is almost a “ho-hum” moment because we are so familiar with the Gospel stories about him doing the supernatural. 

Observation: Christ Healed Every One of Them

Yet, as with most Scripture stories we encounter, we really need to slow down a bit and let the story sink in. Then, we are likely to make simple but profound observations of the text. One of those observations is this: When people brought the sick and infirmed to Jesus, he healed every one of them. Christ laid his hands on each and every one of them and cured them.

Every one of them, Jesus healed. There is apparently no disease, no infirmity, no sickness, no malady, and no situation too much for Jesus to heal. Without exception, no matter the problem, every individual who came to Jesus was healed by Jesus. 

Observation: Every One of Them Were Healed Through Others

Here’s another simple but profound observation of the story: All those who had any who were sick brought them to Jesus. In other words, those needy folks didn’t come to Jesus on their own. It was their family, friends, and neighbors of the sick persons who brought them to Jesus for healing.

It is good to care for the sick. It is also good to encourage them to look to Jesus for their help and healing. Yet, it is also very good when we bring them to Jesus ourselves. 

Perhaps one of the main reasons we are not seeing more healing and new life in the Western church is because we are not bringing the needy to Jesus. Maybe it is our lack of faith and action, and not the sick person’s, that prevents healing from being realized. 

Methinks that a profound dearth and lack of prayer for others might be at the core of all the physical, mental, and spiritual sickness that abounds in this world. So, let us bring people to Jesus so that he will heal and cure every one of them.

A mosaic of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, from a Byzantine Church, c.1100 C.E.

Observation: Christ Cares about Every One of Them

Jesus accepts, heals, and cures those at the margins of society. The sick, infirmed, and demon-possessed were the most marginalized people in the ancient world. They were at the mercy of a caring relative, that is, if they had one. If not, the only way of making it was to beg and rely on public charity. Yet, that was difficult because, in many cases, depending upon the illness, they were considered impure. No one would get near them. They couldn’t participate in the community.

But Jesus welcomed them. He took the time and attention to place his hands on each one of them. Their divine healing was much more than physical; being cured meant they no longer needed to be at the margins, unaccepted and unwanted. Jesus was giving them full inclusion to society.

The good news of Jesus Christ consists of meeting the holistic needs of people for health and community. Our Lord desires to integrate excluded people into society. If that takes the miraculous healing of sickness to do it, then Jesus will make it happen.

Observation: Christ Looks to Heal and Care for Every One of Them, Besides Just Us

It can be a real temptation to believe that our little group has the corner on Jesus. We don’t. Jesus was given for the life of the world – not just a few people who look, think, and act like you and me. In today’s story, the people didn’t want Jesus to go. That’s understandable. Yet, Christ left them because there were others in need of healing of both body and soul.

Christ’s mission is so much broader than we sometimes see or expect. Evangelical Christians camp on saving the soul. Progressive Christians hang their hat on social justice and the real physical needs of people. In reality, the gospel involves both body and soul. To only focus on one aspect is to truncate the gospel as only okay news, not good news.

I would argue there is far too much proclaiming of okay news today. Christianity needs a full-orbed gospel that addresses the holistic needs of people, just like Jesus did. It needs a robust Trinitarian theology with the love of God the Father, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit delivering souls from spiritual death and saving bodies from worldly injustice.

Anything less is simply picking and choosing what we want and trying to keep Jesus to ourselves. Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s preach the gospel, a kingdom message in which the power of God comes upon people – transforming them from the inside-out and bringing them from the outside-in.

Healing God, we bring to you all those who are discouraged, depressed, diseased, disordered, and damaged in some way by the sin of this world. Cure them by your mighty power so that they will be included into our communities, as well as your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 – The Body

But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world.

My dear friends, you should wait until everyone gets there before you start eating. If you really are hungry, you can eat at home. Then you won’t condemn yourselves when you meet together.

After I arrive, I will instruct you about the other matters. (Contemporary English Version)

The body. The body and blood of Christ. The Body of Christ. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth he employs the full literal and metaphorical understanding of the word “body.”

“Body” is an important word for Paul. He consistently and insistently uses it to convey a message of solidarity, unity, community, and responsibility.

Christ identifies with his people closely. This relationship is so intimate that it is like a head connected to a body. Jesus is committed to the Church.

God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23, CEB)

Believers in Jesus are connected to one another closely. They are vitally linked, like the parts of a body all unified together, acting in concert.

God handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13, MSG)

The Church, believers in God and followers of Christ, are the community of the redeemed. They serve and share together as if they were one body, not many bodies.

Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts…. As it is, there are many parts but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 20, GNT)

And so, Christians have a responsibility to one another, They must work together as one Body of Christ, paying attention to each other and caring for all the members. There are not to be divisions of special interest groups or a separation of class, ethnicity, race, or gender.

Unfortunately, when the Corinthian Church gathered around the Lord’s Table, their eating and drinking didn’t eliminate barriers but instead maintained and created obstacles between each other.

Paul would have none of that kind of thinking or behavior. He cited it as a reason why many of the individual physical bodies of persons were sick, weak, and even dead. We are holistic people, so whenever there is a spiritual illness in the Body of Christ, it effects the physical bodies of members with sickness.

So, what to do about this malady of both body and soul? Wait for each other. Be patient with one another. Show deep concern for the Body because we are all truly one in Jesus Christ.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:10, 16, NIV)

And all of this is rooted in grounded in the body and blood of Jesus. Whenever believers come to the Table, their eating and drinking is meant to be an outward display of the inward reality of our collective redemption.

Christ gave his literal body so that we might be redeemed from old empty ways of living selfishly and independently from other people. He gathered believers together as the Body. The Church is to reflect Christ’s concern for humanity. The Spirit is given, so that together as one people of God, we will be the continuing presence of Jesus to a fragmented world in need of kindness, justice, and deliverance.

As the Lord’s Body, we are to understand our special purpose on this earth – to bless the world by demonstrating a different and better way to live. Proclaiming this good news in both word and deed is what we are about.

If we look, speak, and act no different than everyone else, we will all be lumped together at the end of the age when Christ returns. And it won’t go so well for us.

Yet, I am confident of better things with you and me.

Our coming together at the Lord’s Table needs to be a genuine celebration of redemption. Examining ourselves does not mean unnecessary navel gazing. Because whenever we go trying to find sin inside us, we will never be disappointed. Instead, the examination is to be communal – ensuring there is room at the Table for everyone, and that each person is connected and participating.

In short, we are to love one another, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us.

Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings. (Galatians 6:2, GW)

May it be so, to the glory of God.

Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians, according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin, and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:42b-49 – Attention to the Body is Spiritual

It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won’t ever decay. It’s degraded when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in glory. It’s weak when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in power. It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body.

If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body. So, it is also written, the first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life. But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one—the spiritual body comes afterward. The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. We will look like the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust. (Common English Bible)

Laying around on clouds. Strumming harps. Perhaps chanting. Maybe an angel choir. Ethereal. Yes, quite disembodied. That’s the stereotypical idea when it comes to the afterlife for many people. Although many believers in Jesus realize heaven won’t be quite like that, they still might think of it as non-corporeal.

The stereotypical view really comes from Plato, not Scripture. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato (423-347, B.C.E.) believed the soul to be immortal and the body mortal. Hence, after death, an ethereal existence with no physical attributes. Plato saw death itself as an emancipation from the body.

A New Testament understanding of the body is that it’s perishable and will die. However, the body will be resurrected and become permanently imperishable. Just as Christ died and rose again, so shall we. Since Jesus was raised to new life with an actual spiritual body, complete with the scars of crucifixion, so humanity is raised to new life – not without a body but with a renewed one – and will be fit to exist with God forever.

“All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body.” (Colossians 2:9, CEB)

This all might seem like theological trivia or quibbling over philosophical musings. But when we mosey through the Bible, the body is important, lifted-up as equal to the spirit or soul. The material and the immaterial are not to be ranked in order of importance; they are to be held together as equal partners of personhood.

The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NIV)

Body and soul belong together like a hand in a glove; like biscuits and gravy; or like copy and paste; Calvin and Hobbes; cupcakes and frosting; the moon and the stars; gin and tonic; bacon and anything; and, well, like Adam and Eve. Care of both the material and immaterial dimensions of personhood are vital and necessary.

Our bodies are the vehicles in which we do the will of God in the world. And the same shall be true after this life is over. The next life requires some full lungs to sing to the Lord; tongues to praise God; hands to lift high in worship; and feet to dance with the Trinity – not metaphorically but with actual plain speech and real live action.

We were made from dust, and to dust we shall return. But that isn’t the end of the story. Resurrection has the final say. Mortality will give way to immortality. The perishable will become imperishable. Temporal existence will cease and a permanent life, eternal life, shall endure without degeneration or entropy, with no disease, disorder, or death.

We, therefore, have hope – a confident expectation that it will not always be this way – a planet filled with pain, heartache, and grief. The tent of our present existence will be left behind for a grand mansion with God at the center – all things revolving around divine grace and love with the light of glory dispelling the night forever.

Our faith is embodied; and will be for all time. Embodied spirituality discerns all human dimensions—body, soul, heart, mind, emotions, and consciousness—as equal partners in bringing oneself into fuller personal alignment and engagement with the world.

Spiritual transformation is incomplete unless it encompasses the body. We need to be aware of and connected to our physical selves. Else, we lack wholeness and integrity. The body is not a platonic prison of the soul but a spiritual temple of the Holy Spirit. It is our home and the place where we meet with God.

A complete human being with a full-orbed spirituality is firmly grounded in the body, fully open to the spirit, and in community with others experiencing transformation from the inside-out.

One way of honoring our bodies is to incorporate them into our prayers. Here are some physical postures we can take when praying:

  • Sit with hands open, palms up, ready to receive grace and love from God.
  • Stand with hands open and raised overhead, and face toward ceiling/sky.
  • Kneel with head bowed (I personally use a kneeler. My knees aren’t what they used to be).
  • Kneel with hands/head in one of the positions described above.
  • Walk a prayer labyrinth.
  • Lie on your back (on your bed, the floor, the grass).
  • Lie face down with hands outstretched (prostrate).
  • Genuflect (bow) and make the sign of the cross.
  • Cupped hands facing up to receive blessing from God.
  • Deep breath in (saying “more of you”) and a full exhale out (saying “less of me”).

Our worship on this earth is training us for worship in the new heavens and the new earth. Paying attention to our bodies is good spiritual sense, not to mention being thoroughly biblical.

Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, we await your divine presence in our lives – not as we expect or imagine – but just as it is. We allow and invite all the ministry of your Spirit into our lives. We accept whatever you give to us or withhold from us as a gift. And we will attend to our bodies and care for them as faithful stewards of this flesh and blood existence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 – An Embodied Spirituality

divine dance

One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life.

Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.

Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.

Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.

If you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbors; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit. (MSG) 

Consider for a moment some of the things you have done today… For me, I arose early, had a workout, ate breakfast, showered, went to work, etc. Yeah, typical stuff we are familiar with. These things I just mentioned all had to do with the body. What is more, all of them are good and holy. Sometimes we may get a misguided notion that purity and holiness only has to do with activities that take place in a church building; or special works like serving at a homeless shelter; or, that the meeting of physical needs is merely a means to reach the soul. Yet, in today’s verses from Thessalonians, as well as the whole of Scripture, there is neither a secular/sacred dichotomy nor a dualism of body and soul.

We in the western world have inherited a long tradition of Platonic thinking. It underlies a lot about how we think of the body. Plato (c.427-327 B.C.E.) embraced a dual nature of people – an existence of body and soul in which the spirit is trapped within physical flesh. Plato considered the soul to be the true nature of a person and tended to denigrate the body as an earthen vessel which will eventually be discarded. Our physical existence was nothing more than a necessary evil for Plato.

Greek Dualism

The problem with Plato’s anthropology is that it fails to discern the holistic nature of body and soul and the need for integrity with these human dimensions. Historically, Plato’s view has tended to come out sideways through lack of care for the body and seeing bodily actions as insignificant.

Thus, sexual immorality is common in dualism because our physical selves are less significant, temporary, and disposable. In all fairness to Plato, he did not encourage misuse of the body or sexual immorality, yet, his philosophy opened-up generations of people neglecting their own bodies and inflicting harm on other bodies. In many ways, Greek dualism is the shadow philosophy behind much sexual abuse today.

When we exalt the soul as supreme over the body, we are living out platonic thought, not biblical teaching. All of life is sacramental – the body is sacred, and, so, ought to be treated as holy – with great care and careful attention to breath, movement, exercise, eating, sleeping, playing, and, yes, even sex. The body is to be celebrated as our means of glorifying God on this earth. And, at the end of the age when Christ returns, we will be reunited with our bodies to live forever as embodied creatures. What we do with our bodies now matters to God.

Inattention and/or disregard for the body God has given us will inevitably lead to a lack of boundaries in which others are open to violate us and we are unaware of violating others. We end up running roughshod over each other, spiritually and physically. An embodied and grounded spirituality helps us clarify what holiness and sanctification looks like in relationships and everyday life.

boundaries

God has not called us to impurity but to holiness in all of life, in every physical activity we do. We have not been designed by our Creator to live in any old way we want; we have been set apart and called by God to walk along the road of purity and peace.  The way in which we use our minds, wills, emotions, and bodies – aligned and in agreement with the whole person – are of much interest and great concern to God Almighty.

God cares about food and whether I eat to his glory and give thanks; or, whether I have no interest in those that are hungry but just stuff as many groceries as I can in my distended stomach.  God cares about whether I take time for rest and Sabbath and whether I isolate myself in mindless TV watching for hours.  God cares about the content of my conversations with my family and friends – whether I am using my vocal cords for encouraging and building-up others, or whether they are forming slanderous, gossipy, and unhelpful words.

Everything in all creation belongs to God – including me, you, and everything we do.  God cares about all of life’s activities and leisure time.  Whether tying our shoes or teaching a Sunday School class, it is all to be done with a sense of holiness and connection to the God that makes it all possible. Christian spirituality is embodied spirituality. So, let us engage in all kinds of good works for the benefit of the body, whether little or large, with the time and talents God has graciously given us.

Lord God, I belong to you – set apart and sanctified so that I may always walk in holiness and please you in everything I do.  Help my life today to reflect the purity you have given me through your Son, the Lord Jesus.  May he be glorified through me now and always.  Amen.