FROM THE BIBLE: Illness, Healing and Miracles I

por diácono Orlando Fernández

jesus-sana-a-un-ciegoThe Evangelists unanimously affirm that Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, not only through words, but through works (Lk 24:19; Jn 14, 10; Acts 2, 22; 7, 22). The Master had spent doing good (Acts 10:38) and his works bearing witness to it (Mt 11:2, 19; Jn 5, 20, 36; 7, 3; 9, 4; 10, 25, 32, 37-38; 14, 10-12; 15, 24; Lk 7:35). Thus, a good part of the Gospels is dedicated to narrating these works that Christians call the miracles of Jesus. In total, we can find in them about sixty-five accounts of miracles. Mark refers to us eighteen, while Matthew and Luke agree in twenty each and John only seven of these signs.
To get closer to this very important topic it is good to know what terms they use in their works to name them. If we look at any Dictionary of the Spanish Language we would find the word miracle defined as: “Fact not explainable by natural laws and attributed to supernatural intervention of divine origin”. For the pagan mentality of the time – even for our modern Western mentality – miracles often manifest themselves in an extraordinary and portentous way. But for the biblical mentality this was absolutely not necessary. Although we cannot explain today– and perhaps never – many of the miracles worked by Jesus, we know that in performing them he did not break any of the laws that govern the known universe. God is the Creator of the universe and respects his own work.
Synoptic evangelists always use the Greek term dynamis, which can be translated by “power, strength or signals” (Mt 7:22; 11, 20-23; 13, 54, 58; 21, 15; Mc 6, 2; Lk 10, 13; 19, 37; Acts 2, 22; 8, 13; 19, 11), while the Gospel of John uses two different Greek terms: semeion, which is translated by “sign, sign or symbol” (Jn 2, 11, 23; 3, 2; 4, 48; 6, 2, 26; 7, 31; 9, 16; 11, 47; 12, 37; 20, 30); and erga which is translated by “works” (Jn 5, 20, 36; 6, 28; 9, 3; 10, 25, 32, 38; 14, 10-12; 15, 24).
The early Christians understood the works Jesus did as signs that the promised Kingdom of God had come through him (Mt 11:5; Lk 7:21) and that God was manifesting his victory over the forces of evil and death (Lk 10:18; 11:20; Mt 12, 28). His miracles were an eruption of the future in the present, which showed that in Him were joined two important aspects that characterized the mesianic age: the expectation of promised salvation and its realization in the present. Thus miracles are signs that the Kingdom of God was among them.
However, most of the miracles that the evangelists attribute to Jesus are healings and very few refer to other subjects. In the Old Testament the disease was held as divine punishment because of the sinful condition of the sick or his parents (Mt 9:2-7; Mc 2, 5-12; Lk 5: 20-24). The sickness caused by sin made the sick unclean. And they, when they healed, were to offer a sacrifice in the Temple for their purification (Lev 14:1-32). Legal impurity kept them from the community and excluded them from society (Lev 13:45-46). This belief was in the subconscious of the Apostles, when they asked Jesus, “Master, who sinned, he or his parents, that he may have been born blind?” to which Jesus replied, “Neither he sinned nor his parents; it is for the works of God to manifest in him” (Jn 9:2-3).
If sickness was the fruit of sin, only God was reserved for the restoration of lost health. Unlike pagan religions where sorcerers, exorcists, soothsayers, and priestesses engaged in this ministry, in the Bible only God can restore health through his prophets (2 Cor 5:7-8; 20, 5). Hence we find several psalms inviting the sick to prayer to be delivered from death (Psalm 6:2-5; 88, 16; 41,5).
When prophets speak of the mesianic times, the presence of God’s salvation curing diseases and ailments stands out among their characteristics: “The eyes of the blind will take off, the ears of the deaf will open, the lame will jump like a deer, the tongue of the mute will sing…” (Is 35, 4-6). The Gospels collect these texts by applying them to Jesus as Messiah (Mt 11:4-5; Lk 7, 21-22). With his work, Jesus changes the understanding of what life and death is, health, and sickness. With the Messiah, God came to His people with novel criteria (1 Sm 2:8; Lk 1:53). Evangelists echo this by justifying Jesus’ work by quoting the Old Testament (Is 61:1; Lk 4:18). It is in this context that the miracles narrated in the gospels are to be understood. Ω

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