Healing spiritual disabilities

Sally Oakes's picture

Last month, I wrote about meeting God with the sum of our parts, our scars, our wounds. It’s how the resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples — showing them the wounds left from his resurrection. It gives us hope that we, too, despite our wounds and our sins, can still share in that resurrection. This month, however, I’d like to focus on a time when there is healing from disability.

Acts 3 tells this story: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at 3:00 in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple ... so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John ... he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ ... Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms ... and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

After the man’s healing, the story continues: the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, didn’t like hearing that a man had been healed in the name of the resurrected Christ, so they put Peter and John in jail to be tried the next day. But there is more to the story than a simple healing:The man was healed not only of a problem with his legs, but he was made well socially and spiritually. No longer a beggar; he was now one of society and he no longer sat at the door outside the temple; he entered into the temple praising God the whole time.

In the name of Jesus, he was made well. The “name” of Jesus; not the man Jesus, himself. In ancient Judaism, names were important. They held power. It was believed that to name someone was to have power over it. Also, back then, to claim the name of someone was to claim the name of their leader/s as a way of inheriting some of that power.

Peter and John claimed the name of Christ — and when they healed the man, they gave him “sozo,” the greek word roughly translated as “salvation,” but not just after-life salvation; it means wholeness physically and spiritually. We don’t have a direct word for this.

Something keeping him from walking; something keeping him outside of the temple. It makes me think about what keeps us, literally or metaphorically, outside the temple.

Physical infirmities, illness, oppression, or even the rigid rules of the religious establishment keep people away.

Nowadays, “lame” has a new connotation: “lame” can refer to a person who is a “fuddy duddy” or who has little imagination or zest for life. It can also refer to an event that is lackluster, as in “what a lame party.”

We’re lame, but here is hope: Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected, now becoming the cornerstone of our faith. The Sadducees, made lame by their strict adherence to Scripture could allow for resurrection — they rejected resurrection, but resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith; it’s what makes us Christians. Not being stuck outside the temple, unable to walk, we are now able to hope that we can be made whole. We are able to hope that we, ordinary human beings, only two of us here have been to seminary, don’t have to have the knowledge of a scholar to, as the song says, “ ... tell the love of Jesus and say he died for all.” Here is hope: there is power in Jesus’ resurrection, for there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved — not restored — but made into a new person.

Here is hope: you don’t have to be bound any more. You don’t have to be made lame by rigid rules; you have freedom in Christ; you don’t have to be made lame by fear of the present or future, you have Jesus as your shepherd; you don’t have to be made lame by physical un-healthy, you have the Great Physician on your side; you don’t have to be made lame even by death, you have the Resurrection.

You don’t have to be made lame by anything because Jesus loves you.

Sally Oakes is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, 607 Rivers Road, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Phone: 770-964-6999 or 770-964-6992, or e-mail bethanymnc@bellsouth.net.

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