Daffodils are in bloom; new life is at hand.
Out of the waters of the Jordan, back from the wilderness, Jesus’ first public words were that he had come to proclaim the good news. That we are to believe in this good news for it is in fact what the kingdom of God, the reign and realm of God is all about. This is what he must have come to realize in his time in the wilderness, if not before, perhaps that is why he went to join John on the bank of the Jordan, that this is what his life was to be about. Good News.
What is this good news? We hear this phrase over and over, but what does it really mean. Jesus tells us this at the outset of his ministry. Both in Mark’s gospel and Luke’s. The first thing he does as a faithful Jew is go to the synagogue and reading from Isaiah he quotes the prophet saying he has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And then the next thing he does is drive the devil out of a man possessed. Then he goes on to cure Simon’s mother-in-law. So at the outset of his life work, Jesus begins by healing people, making them whole. The point of these miracle stories has been and is to convey we are told that Jesus was in fact God. That as God he possessed supernatural powers. That he had power over the physical world as well as the spiritual. Many of his miracles involves healing people, or in the case of a little girl and Lazarus, bringing people back to life.
Today when we read the stories of these miraculous healings we may view these as part of an ancient story, draped in myth and fantastical thinking. But Jesus’ healing those he encountered points to something far more reaching than proving he was God. They show us what was, and is, important to God, because they were important to Jesus. Recall in the Hebrew Scriptures Yahweh is known as the God of Life. God’s cause and care is the well-being of the human person. And Jesus shows that wholeness and well-being include not just the soul and spirit but the body as well. His healings were not just magic tricks about how powerful he was. Or proof texts, if you will, to show that he was divine. Jesus’ acts of healing show us what he valued in life. They tell us that the health and well-being of the whole person were important to him. That his domain, the kingdom of God, is the realm body, mind and spirit. There was and is no path or place that is foreign to him.
Religion has often disparaged or encouraged its adherents to look down on the body. That our spirituality could be gained by denying the body, its beauty, its value to the whole person. Of course, we have seen a whole segment of religion that decried even human sexuality. But if we read the gospels without blinders or without a power agenda, then we see a man who came into this world, who took on a human body and shows us that care of soul is also the care and valuing of the body. Even St. Paul, although he sometimes seems to contradict this, calls the body the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
A god became flesh. And we can only follow him in our embodied lives, our embodied soul, a soul which is the medium through which the spirit comes. We are in-formed of a sacred life in our embodied souls.
It was not enough for Jesus to heal others, to set them on their feet, but they also needed to return to society and their culture, to enable them to see anew because then they could learn to perceive what it was that is at the heart of his meaning and message. Healing and wholeness involves connecting or reconnecting with the sacred and reconnecting then with the world and society as well. That we are gifted with physicality as the expression of the divine.
We will be reminded that that expression of the body-soul connection becomes fully realized in a few weeks when we see that Jesus return to life, when his spirit AND HIS BODY come back from death to life, and become one in the resurrected Christ. He is showing us that this too is where we will follow him. The fullness of our humanity as it joins and comes to completion, in Christ, with all that is sacred within us.