By Revd. Canon Prof. Martyn Percy
Jesus’ healing ministry as recorded in the Gospels appears to be extremely discriminating. On only four occasions – out of well over forty healings recorded in the gospels – is a healing recorded in a building used for religious purposes (see Mk. 1: 23-27, Mk. 3:1-5, Mt. 21: 14 &Lk. 13: 10-13). In two of these four cases, it is a woman who is healed, whose actual right to be there is in some question. In every other case, healings by Jesus take place outside any community of faith, except where crowds of people or the poor are deemed by the gospel writer to constitute a group of faithful people. Jesus’ friends or relatives are not usually the beneficiaries of his healing power either. In fact, of those who are healed, we know little, not even a name, and certainly nothing of the long-term response of those who are healed. This may be partly due to the fact that those who are healed by Jesus are uniformly poor, voiceless, marginalised or despised within society. The form of healing is offered by Jesus is also socially deep and extensive, not just physical. The impact of the healing always extends well beyond physical changes in a person.
It is interesting, then, that Peter and John pick up the healing ministry of Jesus exactly where he left off. We note that the cripple – unnamed and unknown – catches the disciples before they get inside the temple. This is yet another healing outside a religious building: on the street, with the people, is where God meets the needs of our most needy.
Peter and John, now they are touched and charged by the Holy Spirit, heal in the way that Jesus taught. And the first person to be healed after Pentecost is an unknown individual, marginalised from society – and all outside the Temple. We find the Holy Spirit at work in the way that Jesus showed us. Not in places of comfort, safety and faith; but in the places where God is not known – yet the people long to be touched.
How can the church be an agent of Christ’s healing today?
Where outside the church is Jesus calling me to serve?
Lord, help me to be follow you in faith and hope and love, and grant us the courage to live faithfully amongst those who need your healing most – and to love, serve and heal as you taught us.
Revd. Canon Prof. Martyn Percy is Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon