Healing the Sick: Freedom in Weakness

Written by Kailynn Nelson

We often refer to the church as a hospital for broken people. We build this idea from Jesus telling the Pharisees that “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:15-17). Here the Pharisees are calling Jesus out because He ate with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus responds by telling the Pharisees that He came to redeem those very people. He knew they were desperately sick and His mission was to heal them. I think this idea of Jesus coming to heal the sick challenges how many of us think about life and respond to the disease of sin.

Now I do believe that for true Christians there will be sanctification and change. There is an uprooting of sin. Jesus does not let us stay in our disease, but rather He desires that we are set free from it. For now, I just want to deal with the beautiful freedom that comes when we finally admit to ourselves, to the rest of the world, and to God that we are in fact sick. We cannot fully understand the cure for our sin unless we understand this first step of turning to Jesus for help.

Many commentators have noted that the Pharisees were just as sick as the tax collectors and sinners, they were just blind to their own sickness. Their sin was disguised as religion and trying to save themselves. They had an American, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of thinking. If they did all the right things, if they followed the law, if they just cleaned themselves up, they could fix the problem. In their own minds, the Pharisees did not need a physician. When Jesus was seen eating with people who looked as sick as they actually were, the Pharisees thought that He was defiling Himself. By associating with sinners, Jesus would catch their “disease”.  Jesus’ response was that He was in fact healing that disease. The people who came to Him knew there was something wrong with them. They were aware of the darkness in their hearts; they were aware of their sin. They knew they were dying. These people also found that Jesus was their only hope for healing and life. The Pharisees, in contrast, would not approach Jesus to be healed because they had convinced themselves that they didn’t need it. They believed  their holy lives and their good works had kept them clean. They believed  they could cure the disease of personal sin.

But Jesus clearly preached something very different. Jesus says that many people will come to Him saying they have done many works in His name, but He will tell them He never knew them. The Pharisees came to Him with all their holy works and He called them whitewashed tombs. He told them they could not save themselves. Because sin is a disease that no amount of religious activity can cure.

This “do-it-yourself” kind of religion is something that many of us try to live out today. We brag about how we have built up our own lives without help from anyone else. We boast in our own strength to push through trials. Whether it’s religious works or any other success, we believe that we can fix anything that is wrong with us. We value the ability to do anything without ever needing help. Strength is valued above any sign of weakness.

We shudder at any indication that someone thinks we are weak. If someone tells us we are too weak or we can’t do it, what should our response be? To push back harder, to prove them wrong, to show them and the rest of the world that we are okay, that we’re not failing. We may be able to fool the rest of the world, and even ourselves, like the Pharisees, but we can’t fool God. The truth is in trying to cure ourselves, we are really pushing ourselves closer and closer to death.

Martin Luther puts it like this

"Note, this worthy man, despite the holiness of his life, has no acquaintance with any article but that of the divine judgment according to the Law. He knows not the comfort of Christ’s gospel. After a long life spent in the attempt to keep God’s commandments and secure salvation, the Law now slays him through his own works. He is compelled to exclaim: ‘Alas, who knows how God will look upon my efforts? Who may stand before Him?’ That means to forfeit heaven through the verdict of his own conscience. The work he has wrought and his holiness of life avail nothing. They merely push him deeper into death, since he is without the solace of the gospel, while others such as the thief on the cross and the publican, grasp the comfort of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Christ."*

When we pretend we are okay and fool ourselves into thinking we can secure our own salvation, we rob ourselves of the grace of Jesus Christ. We rob ourselves of our only cure and our only hope. Our efforts at healing only push us deeper into our disease.

In that cry for help, in that admitting I can’t do this on my own, God graciously and lovingly steps in. In that cry for help, I am set free. In that weakness, I find my only comfort in knowing that Jesus has already killed my sin, “nailing it to the cross,” (Col.2:14). I am healed by His death and resurrection.

Martin Luther points us to this truth as well when he says this:

"Cast your sins from yourself upon Christ, believe with a festive spirit that your sins are His wounds and sufferings, that He carries them and makes satisfaction for them…For if you do not take this course, but miss the opportunity of stilling your heart, then you will never secure peace, and must yet finally despair in doubt. For if we deal with our sins in our conscience and let them continue within us and be cherished in our hearts, they become much too strong for us to manage and they will live forever. But when we see that they are laid on Christ and He has triumphed over them by His resurrection and we fearlessly believe it, then they are dead and have become as nothing. For upon Christ they cannot rest."**

See how freeing that is? When I come to terms with my weakness and inability to save myself, I can cast them onto Jesus. I don’t have to pretend I have it all together anymore. I don’t have to be strong enough. I don’t have to heal myself. Jesus has already healed me in His death and resurrection. In dying, Jesus took my punishment. And in rising three days later, He killed my sin completely. I can come to Jesus in all of my weakness, knowing that He has healed me.


*Luther, Martin. "15." 95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation. New Kensington: Whitaker House, 2017. 41-42. Print

**Luther, Martin. "14." 95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation. New Kensington: Whitaker House, 2017. 39-40. Print

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