Summary: The healing which Jesus gives us reaches beyond our bodily ailments to the forgiveness of sins.
SALVATION AND HEALING IN LUKE: A HOLISTIC GOSPEL
The Apostle Paul calls Luke, “the beloved Physician” (Colossians 4:14).
As Luke’s Gospel opens, it is interesting to observe something which would have been of interest to him in a professional capacity, but which is often lost in translation. The Greek word translated “Saviour” in the song of Mary (Luke 1:47), and in the announcement of the nativity to the shepherds (Luke 2:11), may also be translated “Healer.”
We may notice in the use of this noun the shift of subject from Mary’s “God my Saviour” to the angel’s “a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” This will give rise to some debate later in the Gospel, as Jesus appears to the Pharisees to arrogate to Himself the prerogatives of God.
Whilst there are three Greek verbs which might be used to convey healing, it is this one word which serves for both healing and saving which is the greatest source of fascination for our writer.
There is a difference between cure, and healing. We are total beings, with body, soul and spirit. We have psychological and social needs along with our physical needs. We have a spiritual dimension to our person, with a never-dying soul.
1. Our first reading (Luke 5:17-26) gives us an example of the type of holistic healing which Jesus offers.
We have a patient closed out from the ministry of Jesus, whilst there were Pharisees and lawyers there who did not think themselves sick. However, this sick man had very resourceful friends.
It is important that we do bear our friends and loved ones to Jesus for both their physical wellbeing, and for the healing of their sin-sick souls. Jesus sees our faith, and hears and answers our prayers.
It is what Jesus says to the patient which causes a storm amongst His critics. “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
This gave rise to the accusation of blasphemy which would eventually lead Jesus to the Cross. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Yet “God our Saviour” and “a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” have already been identified with each other in this Gospel.
Jesus makes it simple for the Pharisees. Having healed the man’s soul, our Lord now demonstrates His authority by pronouncing words for the healing of the patient’s body. There is a hint here that salvation is not only the forgiveness of sins, but the healing of sin-damage.
2. The right of Jesus to forgive sins again becomes an issue in the account of the unnamed woman who washed His feet with her tears in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Having pronounced her forgiven, Jesus said to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” The word is the one for both salvation and healing, and represents the holistic healing power of soul-salvation.
3. The account of the man with the Legion of devils (Luke 8:26-39) is a dramatic demonstration of the kind of spiritual warfare which is going on for the bodies, minds and souls of mankind. The swineherds gathered a posse against Jesus after the loss of their illegal trade (to eat pigs is forbidden to Jews), and their fellow-countrymen found the patient whom they had known and feared “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”
The swineherds also told how the demon-possessed had been “healed.” The good citizens asked Jesus to leave their borders, as many a supposedly good person has done since. Yet the right-minded man bore a fruitful testimony to Jesus. He had been healed, the devils had been cast out, and his soul had been saved.
There are three different Greek words used in relation to the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Luke observes first of all that she had “spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any.” In effect: “there was no therapy for her!”
Then she touches the garment of Jesus, and the flow of blood is stopped. Called to give an account, she declares to Jesus “in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.” She admitted how her illness was cured.
What Jesus then told her reaches beyond therapy and cure to the deeper need of the whole person: “Your faith has made you whole.” This is salvation healing for the whole person.
Whilst Jesus had tarried to heal the woman, the child had died. His response to the bearers of this news was astounding: “Do not be afraid: only believe, and she will be made whole.”