Day 26      Mark 5 ... Jesus and Illness

At one point some of the controversy about Jesus even affected John the Baptist, the prophet who more than anyone had raised the people's hopes about a Messiah. It was he who had baptized Jesus and pronounced him the Son of God. But two years later, as he languished on death row, John the Baptist himself began to wonder. He sent Jesus a direct question: "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?

This was Jesus' reply: "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Luke 7). Clearly, Jesus saw his miracles of healing as important proofs of who he was.

The healings did something else as well: They overturned common notions about how God views sick people. At that time, the Pharisees taught a very strict principle (along the lines of Job's friends' beliefs) that "All suffering comes from sin." They judged a deranged or demon-possessed person as permanently cursed by God. They saw God's hand of punishment in natural disasters, birth defects, and such long-term conditions as blindness and paralysis. Leprosy victims were unclean, excluded even from worship.

But Jesus contradicted such teaching. This chapter shows him curing a demon-possessed man, touching and healing an "unclean " woman, and resurrecting a child. On other occasions, he directly refuted the doctrine about sin and suffering. He denied that a man's blindness came from his own or his parents' sin, and he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those who deserve them (see John 9 and Luke 13).

Jesus did not heal everyone on earth, or even in Palestine. But his treatment of the sick and needy shows they are especially loved, not cursed, by God. The healings also provide a "sign" of what will happen in the future, when all diseases, and even death, will be destroyed.

Point to Ponder: Do Christians around you still harbor the notion that a suffering person "got what he deserved"?