Mark 7:31-37, NRSV
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
Mark 8:22-26, NRSV
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
Mark 9:14-29, NRSV
When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’
Preached Sunday, November 12, 2017 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman
I’ve always been wary of the healing scriptures—the stories of Jesus healing people. Simply put, they’re complicated. For years, they’ve been used to bully people into thinking they don’t have enough faith—that if only they were faithful enough they’d be healed, be made well, be fixed. One problem with that mentality is that often the things people think need fixing aren’t things that need fixing because they are the way we were created to be.
And maybe these stories seem harmless enough, but when you’re the guy holding the hand of a dying saint who looks into your eyes and says, “I thought I had faith, but I guess it wasn’t enough to heal me” you begin to realize the implications of these stories are far more complicated than they seem. We don’t have time to delve into the layers of complexities these stories offer, but there are few brief points I want you to consider this week.
The first is simple: Healing stories aren’t about us, they’re about God. They’re not about any ailment we’re facing; they’re not about whatever it is we hoped to be healed from . They’re about what God can do, about how God steps into our lives and works—at least that God does, God does step into our lives and works in them, through them, with them. Healing stories aren’t about us, they’re not about you. They’re about God.
Which brings us to the second point to consider: we don’t know how it works. Saying, “If I just have enough faith, then I’ll be healed,” doesn’t do any good because we just don’t know how it works. Yes, have faith—faith in God, faith in each other, but scripture clearly tells us that some things are beyond our understanding and this is one of them. We don’t know how it works, but we know that it does. That is, we know that when we make room for God, when we make time for God in the busy-ness and desperation of our lives, our lives become better than they would otherwise be.
Here’s the third thing to wonder about: healing doesn’t always look like you think it will. Sometimes it’s messy. Rarely is it tidy. Sometimes its spit in eyes and fingers in ears. It’s hardly ever something we do alone. I’m not talking about cuts or scratches or bruises. I’m talking about the hard, heavy-lifting type of healing—mind, spirit, and body—it’s not something we do alone. It’s incarnational and embodied. That is, it’s something we experience with each other not in individual silos.
Fourth: Healing is something you work at—even Jesus, when he was healing the blind man, had to try twice. If you think healing is something that’s going to happen in the blink of an eye, you’ve got another thing coming. “But that’s how the stories tell it.” Yep—and those are stories. That doesn’t mean we don’t find healing in God, it just means we have to be open to it taking a little more time because as much as we’d like our doctors to be, they ain’t Jesus. Neither am I. And neither are you.
Finally: healing is trying. It’s taxing. It’s hard. It nearly killed the poor kid who’d been possessed since he was a child. Seriously. They thought he’d died until Jesus lifted him up. The blind man thought he saw walking trees, and the man who was deaf had Jesus’ spit covered fingers stuck into his ears. I guess it’s not a wet-willy if Jesus does it.
Here’s the truth: I don’t know how it happens—how people are healed. I don’t know how it works or comes to pass. But I do know that if we live into the messiness of it, if we make room for God in the midst of our uncertainty and hardship—that our lives are better for it. And somehow, that’s healing, too.