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.
-- By Timothy Neal