Alternative Medicine – Sermon on Healing based on John 5

When considering Jesus’ healing, it’s often easy to dismiss it as a merely somehow allegorical, something that we’re supposed to interpret to reveal a deeper meaning. But the fact of the matter is that Jesus performs healings, physical healings, in all four gospels. This isn’t just something that happens in the synoptics—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the gospels that share a lot of similarities, even down to the very words they use to tell the same stories. No. The gospel of John also contains accounts of Jesus healings. In fact, the healing ministry of Jesus is central to his work of spreading the good news. It’s one of the things that got him into trouble with the religious leaders of his day.

So instead of writing them off as somehow “just stories” to illustrate something about him and who God is, we do well to take them as accounts of actual, bona fide healings. And when we do that, we realize that it opens for us to not only to a deeper way of looking at the saving work that Jesus does for us, but to an actual, outright deeper relationship with him, his creation, and one another. It isn’t just some spiritual restoration that Jesus is promising us when we live in relationship with him…This is a restoration to wholeness that is both immaterial and material, physical and metaphysical. This restoration has real life consequences for us—right down to our very bodies. Simply put, the good news of Jesus affects the health of our bodies just as much as it affects the health of our souls. It’s not just a spiritual reality, but also a physical one…

Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

In case you didn’t know it, we’re going through a global pandemic right now. We’re living through a time when a pathogen, a disease is running rampant through all humanity. It fills our environment. It transmits easily, and there seems no matter what we do, we’re all at risk. It touches every part of our lives. It creates distance between, not just social distance but also political and physical distance. It makes us skeptical of those we don’t know, and angry, scared, or worried when we have a close encounter with someone who we find out has it. There are even different variants of it, and it changes over time. We all know it, right? It’s not really something I have to tell you. We’ve been living with it now for what seems forever…Right?

Me Disease.

That’s right.

Me Disease.

We have a pandemic of Me Disease in our culture, in our society, in our whole world. And its symptoms are I, me, my, mine, and myself. Me Disease infects us deep within. And while it’s easy to write it off as merely a psychological problem, something akin to self-centeredness, it’s more than that. Me Disease affects our mind, body, spirit, and relationships, in many and various ways.

It’s a disease that affects our entire lives. And it’s different for each and every person. But at its root, it starts out deep within us. We might be tempted to think, “Well, I don’t have Me Disease. That doesn’t affect me.” But it’s right there—“It doesn’t affect me.” It affects each and every one of us…We are all captive to Me Disease, and we cannot heal ourselves…

Don’t misunderstand me. We need to look out for ourselves and take care of ourselves. Self-neglect is just as detrimental as self-importance. We are, each and every one of us, beloved children of God, and precious beyond worth. But that’s the point. We all are. No one has more intrinsic value than the next person, and though that is most certainly true, we oftentimes, or if not oftentimes, at least sometimes, judge ourselves less harshly or critically than we do others. Or I consider my priorities more important those someone sets for themselves. I consider my needs somehow just a bit needier. I know time is valuable, but I behave as if somehow my time is more valuable than it is for other folks—especially when they come asking or demanding time of me.

To be sure, we need to care for ourselves, look out for ourselves, and treat ourselves with kindness, but oftentimes we’ll delude ourselves into thinking that taking care of ourselves, looking out for ourselves, or treating ourselves with kindness looks like putting ourselves first, all the time. After all, how often have we heard the popular wisdom, “Look out for Number One. If you don’t, no one else will.” That, folks, is sorely, sadly, summarily simply wrong.

This Me Disease, by other name, is original sin, the sin from which all other sinfulness originates. Since the fall of Adam all human beings, each and every one of us is born with sin that alienates us from the goodness of God’s design for creation, from one another, and ultimately from God himself.

So what are we to do? Me Disease affects each and every one of us, and none of us can heal ourselves of it…We’re all sick with sin. What are we to do? Where are to go for healing? To whom shall we go? Hmmm…Now that sounds familiar. To whom shall we go? Lord, you have the words of eternal life…words of wholeness, goodness, and healing.

Jesus has the words of salvation. In fact, Jesus is the Word, who for us and salvation, who for us and our wholeness, for us and our healing came down from heaven, became a human being, and lived among us. Jesus, sometimes called the Great Physician, is the one who heals us our original sin. Jesus is the one who heals us Me Disease.

In today’s gospel text, Jesus confronts an ailing man at a pool just inside a city gate of Jerusalem. The man has been blind for 38 years—no small amount of time. This pool is a healing pool, a place where people come to seek physical healing by means of the spiritual realm. “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down,” St. John tells us, “and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured and the affliction no more.” This is a place of healing—but it’s not just spiritual. It’s physical healing as well. And what’s more, we also know that this is social and relational healing for this man.

Sickness in the world of Jesus, and in many cultures to this day, even our own when we honestly admit it, dislodges a person from their social moorings and social connections. Relationships with family members, friends, neighbors, and the whole community come to a halt. To be healed is to be restored to one’s social network, to be put back into relationship with one another. And so when Jesus heals this man today at the pool just inside the city gate, he doesn’t only restore him to health, but he restores him to wholeness—wholeness of mind, body, spirit, and relationship.

How does Jesus do this? He moves out of himself and considers the man and his need. He asks a question—“Do you want to be made well?” Do you want to be made well? Do you…? Jesus moves the focus away from himself, and puts it on the man. He considers the other, if you will. He considers an alternative way of looking at things than way the world around him would have him look at it. Not “Let me…” but “Do you…?”

Jesus shifts the paradigm from himself. And this is what Jesus’ entire ministry, his entire life is about. For us and salvation, for us and our wholeness, for us and our healing, he came down from heaven and lived among us as one of us…

Jesus came down to restore us to the goodness of life as God first intended it—to open our eyes, much like this man who was blind for 38 years had his eyes opened, to seeing that we are part of the pattern of God’s grand design. Just as the rock at the top of the mountain isn’t somehow any more important than the rock at its base, so are we each, every one of us, no more and no less beloved, valued, or important in eyes of God. And we who, as disciples of Jesus, are charged to love one another as Jesus loved us—we too are see each other with the same eyes as Jesus, as God himself sees us. We are called by love, fed by Christ the Word, to care for all…

Let the same eyes be in us that were in Jesus. He who had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of godliness and gave it all up to become a human being like you and like me, like each of us. And as a human being, he didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death, at that—even death on a cross. He considered, opened himself to, and embraced an alternative way…

And it was through this alternative way that God brought him to greatness, to perfection, to wholeness of both godliness and humanity. And it’s this perfection, greatness, and wholeness that we enjoy because of Jesus, because he laid aside himself for our sake. For our sake God made Jesus who knew no sin, who didn’t suffer from Me Disease, to be sin, to take on our sickness, so that in him we might be restored to goodness, wholeness, and wellness.

Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be made well?” I’m betting we say we do, but this wellness rids us of our Me Disease by looking at our whole lives—mind, body, spirit, anf relationships—through an alternative way. God gets rid us of Me Disease through Alternative Medicine.

To enjoy the fullness of wellness in relationship with God, to enjoy the fullness of wellness in life as God intends for us, our lives must embrace this Alternative Medicine, this medicine that opens our eyes to a way of life that doesn’t see ourselves as the Number One, as the most important, as somehow, even sometimes, as better, worse, sicker, smarter, busier, needier than others.

This Alternative Medicine opens our eyes to seeing not only God’s love for us, but for everyone—and our oneness with each other. And it’s when we open ourselves up to this alternative, this different way of looking at our lives, that we find wholeness, healing, and salvation. When we open eyes to Jesus’ Alternative Medicine we are made whole in mind, body, spirit, and relationship. We are made truly well.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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