Monday, September 3

The absurd Jesus: faith healer?

Jesus.. An existential hero? A moral teacher? A healer? A sacrifice to cleanse the world of its iniquity? Forerunner to the movement of non-violent resistance? The first socialist? A prophesied Messiah? A myth?

He is a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he is all that is left of my Christianity. I can no longer identify with Paul, Christian dogma has left a bitter aftertaste, and it is hard to find the traditional ‘Christian activities’ appealing. To me, his life philosophy is something to strive towards; his commandments and warnings pierce the many layers of human psychology and reveal to each person with an ear to hear what is moral, what is right, and above all what is fulfilling. To me, he is Lord.

I have always understood my Jesus to be concerned with a person’s soul. He is not interested in a person’s wealth, social status, or accomplishments. Indeed, he taught his followers to reject all earthly attachments that are temporary and prone to corruption. He spoke of how hypocrisy, especially the religious kind, makes fools of us all. Any perception of superiority among your fellow man is nothing but a sign of inferiority and hypocrisy. Be humble, and be meek, for it is the meek that shall inherit the earth. Most importantly, be forgiving, for it is our willingness to forgive that determines whether God forgives our many sins.

There has never been a more pure message, and there has been only one who could claim that they lived this life of altruism and love to the end. It makes me angry that the Church today portrays Christianity as a feast for the senses, as financial karma (“give to the Church, and God shall give to you”), and a way to cure physical ills. Faith healing is important to many people, but it provokes a barrage of questions that can’t be left unanswered. Why does God heal some people and not others? Why did God only give the gift of healing to a few chosen people? How come these healers have become rich off their supposedly God-given gift? If God can heal people so easily, and does so, why do so many people still die of disease?

And yet, healing was a large part of Jesus ministry. People came from far and wide to be able to touch his garment, to plead for healing, to heal where the Doctor’s cannot. I have always gleaned over this part of his ministry, and skipped ahead to actions and teachings that is relevant to my life in the 21st century. I couldn’t help but think, why? Why were accounts of his healing power treated as so important to early church that a large portion of the gospels were devoted to it?

The bible mentions how his healing made people realise he is of God (John 9:32-33), and also how the sight of these miracles provoked people to glorify God (Matthew 15:30-31). Both great reasons and I am sure there are many others, but what has struck me is how well his healing work fits in with what could only be described as an absurd life. Indeed, everything about Jesus can be seen as an absurdity: The promised Messiah, ‘king of the jews’, lived as a poor homeless person. He’d feed himself and his followers with corn plucked from stalks located in somebody’s fields, he frequently dined with sinners and prostitutes, and he was sentenced to the most humiliating style of death by religious leaders that lived their lives according to Old Testament law.

Jesus demonstrated how the kingdom of God was completely unlike what the Jews had in mind. They all expected their Messiah to come with an army of angels, to free Israel from the Roman conquerors, and establish a kingdom that no enemy could vanquish. Instead, he had no place to lay his head, he spent his time healing the needy, and reached out to the outcasts of society in love and gentle rebuke (e.g. tax collectors, adulterers, lepers). Instead of discoursing with the high priests, or resisting Roman authority on God’s chosen people, the people saw him teaching to very common nobody’s. What’s more, wherever he went the blind men saw, the lame girls walked, and the demon possessed were speaking very coherent Hebrew. How absurd and confusing it must have been!

2000 years ago, disease was a much greater worry than it is today. Medicine was primitive, life expectancy very low, and everyone was afraid of contracting the diseases of others (Lepers were expelled, often outside city walls, even though leprosy is not very contagious). Moreover, unlike today people often turned to God for healing as they could either not afford doctors or did not trust them. Where Jesus went, people wanted to be healed of something, and being moved by compassion he helped as many as possible. Now that the west has become diseased with a crisis of meaning, can this absurd Jesus offer similar recourse? I hope so.

3 Comments:

Blogger Captivated said...

Timothy,
I found your blog intriguing to read. I would like to know if you would be willing to discuss some of your thoughts with me. Please, visit my blogs and leave me a comment and let me know.
Mel

1:14 PM  
Blogger the_burning_bush said...

"Now that the west has become diseased with a crisis of meaning, can this absurd Jesus offer similar recourse?" Tim

How well you put it, Tim.

This is the question everyone must answer. Can Jesus offer me this healing ...?

A long time ago, I went looking on the internet for a poster of Jesus to put on my office wall. It seemed like every picture I found of him had halos, lightning coming out of his eyes, holding up the world on his back ... you get the picture. Maybe I was really looking at pictures of Superman. I don't know. Every picture presented a Messiah that everyone could tell right away, 'Oh yeah, that's him.'

No wonder the reformers forbid images of him.

To actually go down the streets and see the man with the sick, with the dying, with the sinners and say, 'Yes, this man is the Son of God' ... that is something flesh and blood cannot reveal.

I like your style, Tim. You seem to be really wrestling with Christ's identity, as we all do. I am a little sad that you have come to such hard terms with Paul and the visible church.

9:32 PM  
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1:45 PM  

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