Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Sharing Jesus With Others
We can't keep Jesus to ourselves. As much as we love him, as much as we need him, we can't horde Jesus. He belongs always to those who need him most, and, if we don't share him with others, we never had him in the first place.
In the two-year daily Eucharistic lectionary, the gospel lesson appointed for today is Luke 4:38-44. That passage begins with Jesus and his disciples going to Simon Peter's house, where he cured Simon's mother-in-law. She had been suffering from a high fever, and they led Jesus to her. He stood over her and, in a way that suggests a connection between spiritual ailment and physical illness that we are reluctant to see, rebukes the fever, and it left her right away. She was so perfectly, completely restored to health that she was able to get up and immediately serve her guests. Perhaps Luke's description of her healing reveals some patriarchal expectations on the part of the gospel writer and the culture in which they all lived, but he's not trying to tell us that Jesus healed her so that he could get a nice cup of tea and a blueberry scone. Luke wants us to see that her healing was so full that Simon's mother-in-law immediately felt good enough to get out of bed and host a dinner party in the way that most of us wouldn't. The kind of healing a typical healer provides takes days of therapy and recovery. Jesus, on the other hand, had the power to restore her to health right away.
That was the kind of healer that he was, and everybody knew about it. They brought the sick and the demon-possessed to Simon's door, where he stood and healed them as quickly as they could bring them to him. He restored the sick to health. He cast out the demons, who, upon recognizing Jesus, tried to proclaim him as the Son of God and as the Messiah, but Jesus wouldn't have it. He wasn't ready for that full truth to come out, so he made the demons remain silent. Jesus worked through the end of the day and into the night, providing restoration and healing and wholeness to whoever came to him.
At daybreak, he was exhausted, and he snuck away to a deserted place. Even the Son of God needed time to rest and recover. But the crowds weren't through with him. At daybreak, they started looking for him, and soon they found him. They wanted to be sure that he wasn't planning on scooting out of town. Like the Hotel California, you might try to check out but you can never leave. They had more sick people for him to touch, more demons to cast out, more brokenness for him to heal. Even if the residents of that town couldn't recognize who it was that was in their midst, they knew what his continued presence among them meant. This was the one who could be their own healer, the one who could stay with them and ensure that no one ever got sick. The full and complete healing that was represented by Simon's mother-in-law's immediate ability to care for her guests was something that everyone could have...as long as Jesus stayed with them. They wanted to prevent him from leaving, but Jesus said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." And he left them.
It's hard to let go of Jesus. We still have sickness for him to cure. We still have weakness for him to empower. We still have brokenness for him to restore. And he tell us he has to move on to other towns, to other place, to other people, to other needs. We don't want him to go. We want him to stay in our community. We want him to live here for ever. We want access to the immediate healing he can provide. Sure, it's nice to know that the savior has visited us and promised us everlasting life, but we're not ready to give up on the victory of this moment. We want the power of that immediate access. We want Jesus to be on our side. But he wasn't sent to earth for that. He was sent to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to other cities, to other places, to other people, to other circumstances. We have to let him go.
As a resident of a neighborhood with nice houses and good schools, I can confidently say that Jesus has already come to my town. Why? Because I have health insurance for myself and for my family. If my daughter came down with strep throat or an ear infection, I know exactly what I would do. I would call her pediatrician's office, take her in that afternoon, swing by the pharmacy to pick up whatever prescription she needs, and then bring her back home, where she and her mother would stay until she's better. My wife doesn't have a job that she might lose while she stays home. We don't lose any income we would otherwise need to pay the bills. And I know that the portion of whatever bill the doctor's office and pharmacy will send us that I am responsible for is something I can pay...because I have insurance. I have access to healing.
Jesus has already come to my town. I may not be able to recover from a high fever quickly enough to spring up out of bed and entertain guests in my home, but I have immediate access to health care. There are others in my community, however, who haven't been given access to this kind of healing. They work a string of part-time jobs with no benefits in order to support their families. They can't afford insurance on the exchange, or, if they have it, they can't afford the high deductibles. When their daughters gets sick with strep throat or an ear infection, they say prayers that God would give them healing because they can't afford to miss another day of work, because they don't want to go to the emergency room, because they already have an outstanding balance with the hospital. These are the poor who still haven't been made rich. These are the weak who still haven't been made strong. These are the people in our own cities and towns and villages who have not received the good news of the kingdom of God.
Jesus is trying to get to them. Jesus was sent to earth in order to bring that good news to them, but we're standing in the way. We're preventing him from reaching those who need him most. Sure, we've told them about Jesus. We've shared the good news of our own salvation with them. They know who Jesus is. They know what power he has. But we have refused to share that power with them because we'd rather keep it for ourselves. We don't want universal access to health care because then it would cost us too much. We don't want a single-payer system because we like keeping the best for ourselves. We don't want to have to wait in line when it's our turn for a hip replacement. But the problem with trying to keep that power for ourselves is that the healing that Jesus came to earth to bring disappears as soon as we try to own it. Jesus must always be given away.
Jesus has the power to give healing to those who need it. Jesus came so that those who have no access to the riches of this world, riches like health insurance, could get the healing they need. Those of us who already have it are standing in the way, and, instead of celebrating the power that Jesus has given us, we are chasing him right out of our lives. We know where Jesus is. We know whose side he is on. Don't we want to stand with Jesus?