What does it really take to be healed?
A group of students in my campus ministry wanted to attend a church’s rather elaborate production of the story of Jesus’ life.
This huge production used stages on opposite ends of a building with a catwalk between them. The audience sat on opposite sides of the catwalk and watched as the cast traced the life of Jesus from birth to death to resurrection.
During one of the scenes when Jesus was in his public ministry with the disciples, the person playing Jesus was walking across the catwalk from one side of the room to the other.
At that point, someone in the audience ran to the catwalk, pulled herself up and grabbed the back of the actor’s robe. The actors kept going with the production and the woman returned.
At the moment, I remembered thinking that was “odd behavior” or that it was even staged as part of the show. Seriously, touching the costume of an actor? Or, is there more to this than I thought?
The Gospels give many accounts of Jesus healing those with various needs. Many of the times, Jesus touches that person or performs some other direct action that leads to healing.
But what about the “indirect” healings? There is an account in Luke 8 of a woman touching the robe of Jesus because she thought she would be healed. In that case, Jesus felt power flowing out and wanted to know who had touched his robe. The woman responded and Jesus said it was “her faith” that made her well.
The Revised Common Lectionary for July 22 includes a passage from Mark 6 that gives us a glimpse into Jesus ministry and healing. The people hear that Jesus can heal and they are seeking him out. Jesus even tries to get a break with his disciples but the people find him. And, it’s more than Jesus directly healing people. Something else in going on here.
In Mark 6:53-56, the situation is described this way: “When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” (Mark 6:53-56, NIV)
This passage might be summed up in this way:
- Jesus was recognizable to those in need. (As a contrast, on the night Jesus is arrested, those who wanted to kill him had to use Judas to point out Jesus to them.)
- People in need were willing to go to wherever Jesus and his disciples landed.
- Those in need wanted to touch the edge of Jesus’ robe and they were healed.
All of those things are really at the heart of the Gospel (Good News of Jesus).
But what does it mean to be healed? Healing can take on several meanings include being physically cured of an ailment. However, in the context of this passage, healing means a little more. It means that people who touched the edge of Jesus were “made whole.”
“Made whole” can include physical healing, mental healing and spiritual healing through connection to Jesus. Being “made whole” in this passage from Mark required those who were in need of healing to believe that Jesus could heal and they had to be willing to take the action of touching Jesus. Remember in the passage from Luke 6 that Jesus said the woman who was healed by touching his robe was made whole because of her faith.
So, what does that mean for us? We find ourselves in many situations where we need to be made whole. It can come in the form of ilness — physical, mental and/or spiritual. We can be made less than whole from our sin, broken relationships, mistakes, fears and doubts.
What is required for us is to be willing enough to reach out and touch the edge of Jesus’ robe. In that act, we must believe that Jesus is the one who can make us whole. How many of us today are “less than whole” because, for whatever reason, we won’t or can’t simply reach out and seek that wholeness with Jesus?
Maybe there was more to that day at the Jesus play when the woman ran out from the crowd. Maybe it wasn’t about the touching the costume of a person pretending to be Jesus. What if it was simply the outward and public expression of what this person held in her heart?
Do you need to “be whole” today? The first step is believing enough to reach out and touch the robe of Jesus. In fact, it’s a lot closer to us that we probably think.