"Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
And with those simple words, life triumphs over death, health over sickness, and the powers of evil, the demons that bind us, are defeated. "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Cor 15:24)
It is a cosmic war God is engaged in. This battle between life and death. From that first moment that the Word was spoken, and life emerged from the dust of the earth, God has championed the cause of life over death. It is not only a battle that God has chosen to fight, it is in the end, the only battle.
And so you have this woman, bent over in pain, suffering for eighteen long years, "bound by Satan", a slave to this disease -- and Jesus takes notice. That was the battle he chose to fight on that Sabbath. One of many battles he would fight during his time on earth.
We are not comfortable with the language of demons with respect to the illnesses that plague us. Am I, a person who is bipolar, possessed by a demon? Is someone, such as this woman, who likewise has a chronic health condition bound by Satan? Would we classify cancer as an evil spirit? Surely, we can approach such conditions with a much more scientifically sound explanation. Our world view is changed.
But something is lost when we dismiss the demonic in the disease. We fail to recognize that the struggle we are engaged in is part of the larger cosmic battle between good and evil, life and death, that has been central to God's interaction with the world since the beginning.
It is not a sideshow, that when Jesus walked this earth one of his primary activities was to cure the sick. He wasn't just biding his time until that moment that his real work was to be done on the cross. Such events as this one, were not just minor skirmishes. They were and remain central to the plan of salvation and the cosmic battle which will in the end see life triumph over death. It's what God does. It is Jesus mission. And the priority given to such healings trumps all religious niceties such as Sabbath laws.
That being said, what is the Christian's calling with respect to health and healing in our world? Would it make a difference in our priorities if we all recognized this struggle as a central battlefront in God's redemptive work? And how would that affect our contribution to the issues of healthcare in our country, and globally?
We can get lost in the political rhetoric of the day, and often as a church remain silent in the discourse, lest we cross the lines and become political, not religious. A major political question of our day concerns the appropriate role of government in health care. Related to that is whether providing health care should be a for profit enterprise. Which of course, means that healing is available to those who can afford it. But to allow these two questions to shape the debate over healthcare in our country is to defer to others what ought to be a central mission of the disciples of Christ.
One cannot follow Jesus, without encountering the Jesus who took the time to cure the sick and heal the lame. Healing ministries are not a side show. Healing is central to the redemptive work that is our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Imagine a world in which neither business nor government had any role in healthcare. A situation made possible because the Church was fully engaged in this act of Christian charity. Imagine a world in which healing ministries were central to the work of every parish. A world in which we as the followers of Jesus gave the same priority to healing that he did.
Healing is a spiritual gift that is central to the redemptive activity of God.
"Come, follow me."