Was it a one-time only miracle, or is it a reminder of how we are to live?
as told by Deborah
Jesus and his apostles came down from the mountain where He went to pray, and into the midst of a horde of humanity; there were fishermen and farmers, merchants and traders, soldiers and sailors, the educated and the illiterate, disciples and doubters and the desperate, the youthful and the long in the tooth, mothers and maidens and women of ill repute. People from all over Judea — from Jerusalem City to the harbor villages and everywhere in between — came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were tormented with vile spirits were made well.
And the whole crowd — all of them — surged around Him, reaching out, trying to touch Him; for power came out from Him and healed all of them.
There’s a problem with this passage: because we know what’s coming next and we’re in such a rush to get to “the important part” (Luke’s version of the Beatitudes), we skip over this, the prelude. In our hurry we miss an equally — perhaps more — important event that happened to the mob of people who had come to see Jesus that day:
“power came out from Him and healed all of them.”
Everybody who was there was healed. Imagine that. The rich and the poor, the devout and the demon-possessed, the best dressed and the worst behaved, the meekest and the meanest, Jewish city dwellers and Roman centurions..… everyone.
All those who were there were healed. Jesus did not give special attention to either the good or the bad, the nice or the nasty, the righteous or the wrong-’uns; there was no Express lane for those with ten demons or less: everyone who was there was healed. Everyone.
But let’s think about that. How could everybody be healed? There were other people in the crowd: there were curiosity seekers and believers and folks who had just come to listen. How could it be that all of them were healed — when a lot of them weren’t even sick?
Perhaps some who were there were healed in spite of themselves: those who suffered in silence, unwilling or unable to admit the pain they endured; those who “toughed it out,” because they could not imagine — perhaps had never known — any other way. Still others may have believed that their suffering was a form of punishment for things they had said or done or thought.
It can happen. We may come to a point of surrendering all hope of happiness, all sense of worth or dignity. We may carry crushing burdens of sorrows and grief, be weighed down by guilt and fears that we refuse to acknowledge, heartaches we will not admit, yearnings we ignore. Souls can be sick and weary, and no one ever knows. It can happen, and it has happened to many of us — and many, who were very much like us, were there in the crowd that day.
And then the Lord Christ intervened. And every one who was there was healed.
We are told that the healings were not brought about by what He said, but by the presence of the Lord. As far as we know, He didn’t even touch most of the people, and yet they were made well. There was was a “power,” a divine energy flowing forth from Jesus that blessed all who were there.
Was it some sort of holy magic, a curative power contained in Christ alone that will never be present in our world again? Or was it something else: a miracle of sorts, perhaps, but one that is utterly mundane and repeatable?
Perhaps it was in the way the Lord Christ saw those who were there. When He called his disciples, Jesus always spoke to them directly, individually. It was never, “Hey, you guys over there,” but a specific, “You, Simon, follow Me.” When confronted by a mob of people pushing and shoving and shouting, demanding attention, crying out for help and healing, grabbing at the hem of His robe, many of us would have turned and run right back up the mountain, or used the disciples as an advance guard to protect us and keep the crowds at bay. But Jesus fearlessly entered into their lives, striding directly into the messy business of being human.
And, too, we would probably have viewed this chaotic scene as the Gospel writer did: as a “crowd of disciples” and a massive throng of “others.” But I don’t think that’s how Jesus viewed the world; to Him it wasn’t a “crowd:” there weren’t types or categories or sheer numbers of people, but individual human beings.
That’s an essential aspect of how Jesus blessed and healed, as evidenced by the Gospels: by recognizing each person’s unique qualities and character, seeing them for who they are, and where they are, and what they need. Jesus would not have seen a “throng,” but would have looked upon each one who was there as a specific, particular, blessed, child of God.
And surely that what we all want: to be recognized as ourselves — not categorized into limiting designations as part of a herd or tribe or type, but to be truly seen for who we are.
We are more than the sum of our parts, more than our appearance, our ancestry, our accent; more than our aches, our injuries, our illnesses. We are more than what we have done or where we have been. Those things are part of us, but they are not all that we are.
But it can be hard to see beyond the obvious, outward signs, even when we look at ourselves. We can get caught up in narrow patterns of thinking — seeing, as through a tunnel, darkly; taking note of only a single aspect. We can come to believe that this one thing is the whole thing: a person then becomes “saintly,” “wicked,” “wonderful,” “unreliable,” “a life-saver,” “a cheat.” Likewise we may conflate individuals with their illness, their age, their disease or (dis)abilities (“a leper,” “a drunk,” “an old coot,” “an addict,” “cancer,” “chronic fatigue,” “blind,” “PTSD,” “paraplegic”) — thus ignoring and obscuring their humanity.
No one is just one thing; we are as complex as 5,000-piece Lego kits without instruction diagrams. Every human being is a mix of diverse (and sometimes conflicting) wants and needs, loves and hates, impulses and ideas, emotions and experiences, hopes and fears, dreams and desires. Each one of us is infinitely different from all others; we are truly “amazingly and wondrously made” (Psalm 139).
To focus on a single aspect is to miss The Big Picture, big time. And to categorize (and either lionize or demonize, or discount or dismiss) another person or group of people with a single epithet is an insult to the Maker.
And so, for us, we who say we follow the Lord Christ, how shall we live, what shall we do?
This brings us back to Jesus, there in the middle of the crowd of people who were healed by being in His presence. Was that event a one-off? Is Jesus the once and future king who has left the building — taking His glory and His gracious healing with Him? Or, as we claim, are Christians “the body of Christ at work in the world”? Have we not been empowered, through our baptism and the energy of the Holy Spirit, to do “all He has done, and more” (John 14:12)? If so, then what are we waiting for?
Big miracles are marvelous, awe-inspiring — and exceedingly rare; it is the small, subtle, “everyday miracles” that keep the Light of Christ shining. Acts of kindness, gentle smiles, and simple acknowledgements can lift spirits and soothe weary souls.
Such things take only a few moments, and are easily accomplished. Yet so often we neglect them in our rush to get where we think we are going. We have no time for small talk, we’re busy with our work, caught up in our worries, thinking about other things, looking at our phones; it’s quicker and easier to order our coffee without making eye contact, avoid those we do not know, and only speak when we are spoken to.
As one of my directees said,
“I can’t tell you what the guard in our building looks like — and I walk past him every day.”
Is it any wonder that loneliness and isolation are rampant in our world?
And everyone who was in His presence was healed.
To be in the presence of Christ is to be seen, not merely looked at: to be recognized in our individuality, not classified as members of a crowd or class or type, or treated as mere objects. It is to be lifted up in a genuine encounter of compassion and understanding; to be acknowledged and honored as one Child of God by another.
To develop Christlike vision requires us to be fully present to each another. It means giving our undivided attention to the other person. Imagine that. Really. Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to give someone your undivided attention; seeing that person — and only that person — without distractions, presumptions, or prejudices.
Imagine the holy power that could be unleashed if we all openly, honestly, compassionately encountered one another. What an amazing healing gift that would be — for everyone who was there!
May Christ’s gracious light, and healing vision be with you,
Practice the gift of Christ-vision: genuinely seeing those you encounter as individuals, recognizing their uniqueness, blessing them with your compassion and undivided attention.