We are a society in trauma, in desperate need of the healing Jesus offers.
We read in John 5:6: “When Jesus saw [the man] lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well? ‘”
John’s parenthetical note in verse 5 that the man had been in that condition for 38 years underscores that suffering a debilitating condition over a long period of time can make healing seem out of reach.
As Katherine Wolf writes, “This may be the ultimate struggle of our humanity. Knowing we have this glorious welling up of possibility in us, of golden dreams, but finding it all, more often than not, just out of our reach.”
Jesus’ question to the invalid man is therefore an invitation to imagine healing and wholeness. And it’s a question for today’s wounded, disabled, and grieving generation, an invitation to be made well.
Who Needs Healing?
We all need healing, thanks to the increasing frequency of violence and mass shootings, political divisions, and racial tension in our society. The pandemic was to be a masterclass on our common humanity and how to protect the most vulnerable among us, but it has been politicized and has served instead to exacerbate the brokenness.We all need healing. – Whaid Rose Click To Tweet
Even as I write, our national conversation is about double mass shootings in Asian American communities, and shocking police brutality resulting in the death of an African American young man.
Add similar incidents such as Newtown, Uvalde, Charlottesville, and many in between, and the long-term psychological effect is a nation in trauma.
If that sounds too stark, consider the veterans who are taking their lives at an alarming rate due to the trauma of war. Consider also the mental health crisis which has grown to epidemic proportion, not to mention the stats on physical and sexual violence and much more.
Where Does Healing Begin?
As Katherine Wolf rightly observes, “We are wounded. We are disabled. We are grieving. We are in pain. We are lost. And the juxtaposition between what could be but is not yet, and may never be, is almost too much to bear.”[ref]Becker, Amy Julia. To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope, Foreward, page 9.[/ref]
So, what do we do? Where does healing begin? How does healing even happen, and what would it look like?
Amy Julia Becker helps us with these questions in her book, To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope. Growing up in an affluent social setting in America’s South, Becker came face-to-face with the plight of marginalized people when she gave birth to a Down Syndrome child.
When People Are Marginalized
Becker began to recognize the similarities in the ways her daughter and marginalized people are treated. She started connecting the dots between social isolation and social inclusion and their accompanying harm. She says, “I lived in a bubble of homogeneity that isolated me from the beauty, goodness, and diversity of humanity. I failed to understand the value of the people outside my own social world.”[ref]Becker, Amy Julia. To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope, by, Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 2022.[/ref]
Becker suggests that healing begins by removing the barriers—distraction, fear, shame, anxiety, and status, and she holds up Jesus’ healing ministry as the model for overcoming these barriers.
She illustrates by weaving her book’s storyline around the double narrative in Mark 5:21-34. This is an example of a writing technique for which Mark is known, in which one narrative is inserted in between two parts of a larger one.
In this instance the larger story surrounds Jairus, the rich synagogue ruler whose daughter is gravely ill. As Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ house, he encounters the woman with the issue of blood, a separate story inserted to make an important point.
Healing Is for Everyone
What’s the point? Healing is for everyone, as the difference between Jairus and the bleeding woman shows. Jairus has status and influence, the woman does not; Jairus is referred to by name; the woman is known only by what’s wrong with her; Jairus openly invites Jesus’ intervention; the woman secretly touches Jesus, hoping no one would notice.
The need for healing transcends socio-economic boundaries, and the healing Jesus gives goes deeper than the physical. This affirms the meaning of “sozo,” the word used in the Greek text, or “healed,” which means to save, preserve, to make well.
For the invalid man, this kind of healing includes a new sense of meaning and purpose in life.
For Jairus and his family, it includes a wonder and amazement that money cannot buy.
For the bleeding woman, healing includes a new dignity and restoration to communal life. Jesus took delight in the woman, calling her “Daughter” (akin to Jairus’ affection for his little girl), and gave her the gifts of shalom and freedom from suffering (verse 34).
An Invitation to All God’s People
Therefore, the question, “Will you be made well?” is an invitation to all God’s people, not just the sick. It is both an invitation to healing and wholeness, and a call to care and compassion.
Becker cites Dr. Martin Luther King’s assertion in his sermon on the Good Samaritan that by acting across the boundary lines of his ethnic and religious categories, the Samaritan is participating in his own healing, and the mutual healing of their respective communities. As King says, “In the final analysis, I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road, because he is a part of me and I am a part of him. His agony diminishes me, and his salvation enlarges me.”[ref]p. 162[/ref]
So as the all too familiar ritual of brokenness and grief continues in marginalized communities across our land, Christians have the privilege of creating circles of healing that encompass everyone. In so doing we might discover that the real existential question isn’t Hamlet’s “To be or not to be?” but Jesus’ “Do you want to be made well?”Christians have the privilege of creating circles of healing that encompass everyone. – Whaid Rose Click To Tweet
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