Jesus the Healer, Emmanuel
The present Covid-19 global pandemic reveals to all of us our vulnerability and the mitigation efforts call us to an awareness of community around us and all over the world. At this time we naturally turn to prayer and ask for help and healing from our God.
Our situation calls to mind the healing ministry of Jesus as recorded in all the Gospels. Not only did Jesus teach the message of God’s love and compassion, He showed this love – He cured sickness and disease. His healing actions revealed the power of God working through Him.
We moderns might enter into a discussion on how the healings possibly could be explained on medical or scientific bases as other than “miracles” – signs of God’s power. Nonetheless, as New Testament scholar Father Donald Senior observes the number of Jesus’’ healing stories recorded in the Gospels and in other contemporary non-Christian literature, show us that “Jesus’ own contemporaries considered him to be a man of extraordinary force and power, a power that could liberate and heal, a power that could come only from God.”
Jesus cured because people were sick. In his own time, sickness was common and would have been known to Jesus; being truly human He might have experienced some sickness. Still, in all but one of the healing stories, Jesus did not seek out the sick ones but those desiring a cure came to Jesus, usually demonstrating faith in Him.
In Jesus’ time people prayed the psalms of lament in situations of sickness and distress. In these psalms the persons did not hesitate to describe their situation and demand that God listen to them, “Look upon me, Answer me, Lord, my God” (13:4). After all we do not complain to someone who does not love us. Expressions of complaint in the psalms include: Suffering and symptoms; “Have pity on me Lord, for I am weak; heal me Lord for my bones are shuddering. My soul too is shuddering greatly, and you, Lord, how long? (6:3-4); “My loins burn with fever; there is no wholesomeness in my flesh. I am numb and utterly crushed; I wail with anguish of heart (38:8-9); Distress: “Do not hide your face from your servant; hasten to answer me, for I am in distress. Come and redeem my life” (69:17-18); The absence of God’s presence: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (22:1) spoken by Jesus himself on the cross. All but one lament (Ps. 88) ends with a statement of hope or thanksgiving, e.g., “But I trust in your mercy. Grant my heart joy in your salvation” (13:6).
In our own situation, believing in the divinity of Jesus, we can use the example of the biblical laments to pray directly to Jesus Christ, expressing distress, fears, confusion and pain, whether that of those afflicted with the virus, or that of our own or that of those around us, around our country, around the world. We too can express our trust in Jesus and give thanks for the recovery of some persons and for seeing God’s/Jesus’ love and compassion in the persons of so many stepping up to help.
When this pandemic evokes thoughts of the absence of God/Jesus we can recall diffi cult moments in our life wherein despite all we had a sense of God’s presence and dwell in that memory. We can be assured by the title given to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, “Emmanuel” – God with us – and by the promise of Jesus at the close of this Gospel, “I am with you to the end of the ages.”