God’s People, part 196: The Sick

Read Mark 6:53-56

“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.’”  (Matthew 9:12, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SickPart 196: The Sick. “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”  Those words of Jesus’ ring true when we read today’s scripture passage. Anywhere and everywhere Jesus went, he was being bombarded by people who were seeking to get something out of him. Mark tells us that once people recognized who he was, “they ran about the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever he was.”

Bombarded might actually be an understatement. Still, Jesus understood their needs and had compassion toward them. He healed as many of them as possible and continued to minister to those who were sick and healthy alike. No doubt all of this was draining, but the Spirit of God was upon Jesus and, as God’s Son, nothing was going to stop him from doing his Father’s work. Certainly not exhaustion.

With that said, who are the sick? This is one of those English words that doesn’t capture what is being conveyed in the original Greek. When we read the word sick in this and other passages of the Gospels, we have to understand that we are not dealing with people who have the common cold. “The sick” were were not people who had a cough and a fever and needed some rest to recover; rather, these were people who had been suffering terribly from a whole host of various maladies.

In Greek, the word for “sick” comes from the word astheneō (ἀσθενέω, pronounced as-then-eh’-o), which not only means weak or feeble, but can mean diseased. What’s more this word is also used to describe male impotence. With that in mind, “the sick” were those who were crippled, who were suffered from degenerative diseases, who suffered from other types of nasty diseases, men who were impotent, as well as people who fell ill or sick for other reasons.

In other words, “the sick” was a catch-all word that encompassed a whole host of different people with an enumerable variety of illnesses. Certainly, these people were experiencing social and spiritual isolation and rejection due to their illness. While most people would avoid contact with the sick, Jesus was doing the opposite of that. He was engaging them, laying hands on them, and healing them.

What we can learn from “the sick” stems with our reaction to them. Who are the sick in our communities? Perhaps they are physically sick, ill, or people who are differently abled. Perhaps they, are emotionally or psychologically sick. Perhaps they suffer from substance dependence or addiction. What’s our reaction to those who are sick? Do we judge them? Do we try to avoid them? Do we reject them?

The challenge for us is to begin to move in the direction of Christ. We should never shun, reject, avoid, or judge; rather, we should show compassion, we should work against stigma, and be a healing presence in the lives of those who suffer. Let us be a people who model ourselves after Christ and reject the ways of the world. Let us work to bring hope, healing, and wholeness into the lives of those who need it.

“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” – Tori Amos

Lord, soften my heart and help me to grow in empathy toward others so that I might be used to bring your hope and healing to others. Amen.

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