God Heals Persons and Communities
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When Jesus heals us, we are empowered to serve others. While at first glance it might seem that Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law was self-serving, on further reflection we see the same result in nearly all of his signs and miracles. The object of Jesus’ compassion now has new responsibilities. In the very next chapter a paralytic lowered through the ceiling is raised, only to become the center of a religious controversy (Mark 2:3-12), as was the man who lay by the pool of Beth-zatha for thirty-eight years (John 5:2-15). When Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35-41) the disciples have to row the rest of the way! Any meaningful encounter with Jesus will result in our being changed, which in turn alters the way we see our relationship to the needs of others and the world.
Hard economic times, natural disasters, and divisive, party strife can make us feel helpless and hopeless, as if we have been abandoned by God. Even the church—local congregations as well as denominations—may feel fear and panic in the face of declining numbers and revenues, loss of loyalty from members, indifference or hostility from the surrounding culture, and internal sniping among factions. The exiled people of Israel in Babylon experienced all of this and more, so our condition is neither unique nor beyond the reach of our God. Isaiah 40:21-31 in the NRSV begins “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Eugene Peterson, in The Message, translates this idea as “Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening?” There is some irony indeed that God’s church, entrusted with God’s salvation history and the gospel, still panics, still doubts and worries, still feels like it is up to us to save the church. We indeed are “clay jars” (2 Cor. 4:7)—carrying the message but not understanding, preaching salvation but not believing that God cares or will act to save. We live Isaiah 40 every day.