Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 123: Healing in the Synagogue – The Man with Leprosy
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 123: Healing in the Synagogue – The Man with Leprosy

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

I think that one reason Jesus healed so many people was that he was trying to show that our broken world desperately needs healing. Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), and the earth requires much healing if it is to resemble a heavenly paradise. What has been the illness that has always stricken humankind? No doubt, people have suffered from diseases such as infections, cancers, and heart disease. From the standpoint of human community, the leading disease has been violence, as humans have killed untold millions of each other – approximately 160 million in wars during the last century alone.1 Human violence has also blighted God’s nonhuman Creation, and every year humans unnecessarily abuse and kill many billions of animals.

Jesus taught his followers how to heal both the body and the soul, and the ultimate consequence was a path towards healing broken relationships in our communities. For example, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus began his ministry by entering the synagogue and healing a man with “an unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23-25). There are several remarkable aspects to this story. First, Jesus healed the man’s demonic possession without harming the man. Previously, humans had frequently accused scapegoats of demonic possession and killed them or banished them. If it were safe for us to have our demons (e.g., addictions to sex, drugs, power, or fame) exorcised, we could acknowledge our demons and face them directly.

Second, the healing occurred in the synagogue. Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus repeatedly healing in synagogues: “And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mark 1:39). Only clean people were allowed in the synagogue, so people with “an unclean spirit” would normally be excluded. It is not clear how the man with an “unclean spirit” got in, but the important point was that Jesus did not do what was customary at the time – to expel the man. Instead, he chose to expel the demon. Historically, religions have always distinguished “clean” from “unclean” people. This is what people always do when they judge others – people believe that they are “clean” and condemn others as possessed by “unclean spirits,” or “evil inclinations,” or “sinful desires.” People tend to see their own violence against “unclean” people as “God’s justice” rather than as the violence that it is.

A third point involves how those in the synagogue received Jesus. Before Jesus healed the possessed man, they admired his teaching: “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Those with “authority” had always been able to “cure” the problem of demonic possession by killing or expelling the possessed person. However, Jesus healed with authority in a new way: “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching!’” (1:27). Remarkably, their amazement was not focused on the healing per se. Rather, they were astonished by the teaching, saying, “With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (1:27). The authorities had “cured” possession by scapegoating; Jesus’ nonviolent solution to the problem of demonic possession was a new teaching.

Go on to: Part 124: Holistic Healing – The Man with Leprosy
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