Jesus the Healer

What is the Bible?
Jesus and AIDS
Women Disciples


John 9:1-38

Jesus and his disciples saw a blind person on the street.  The disciples asked Jesus, "Who committed the sin that this one should be born blind?"  They assumed that all suffering and sickness were the result of sin.  They were wrong.  Jesus replied, "Neither this one nor his parents sinned."  Nobody was to blame.  Jesus had no interest in trying to decide whose fault it was.  Jesus said, "This gives us an opportunity to demonstrate God's love and power."  Then Jesus gave sight to the blind person.  Read carefully through John chapter 9 and notice the many parallels to AIDS issues in the story.  

Jesus was surrounded by sickness, suffering, pain and death.  The average life expectancy was 25.  No effective medical treatment existed for most illnesses.  Most diseases were fatal.  Treatments often were worse than the sickness.  The woman in Luke 8:43-48 who touched Jesus for help had "suffered at the hand of many physicians." 


Jesus was motivated by compassion.  The Greek word for compassion is built on the word for the viscera and was used to express feeling the pain and suffering of someone else "in the pit of your stomach."  It was the strongest word in Greek for human feeling.  It expressed Jesus' real identification with the wounded and suffering people around him.  Jesus had compassion for lepers, whose painful and disfiguring disease kept them away from all other people.  Lepers were thought to be punished for sin and were called "unclean" and not allowed in the synagogue or Temple.  AIDS is much like biblical leprosy in the way people have reacted to it.  Jesus loved, touched, identified with, and healed lepers.

Spiritual help can be elusive for those who already feel alienated and isolated from the church.  Religious bigots and ignorant Bible abusers frequently have distorted the "good news" of the gospel of Jesus Christ into an insensitive and destructive tirade of condemnation, rejection and guilt aimed at the very people who most need love, tenderness, acceptance and understanding.

AIDS is a medical, political, legal, economic, social, spiritual and religious issue.  Most of all, AIDS is a human issue.  Mental, emotional and physical pain engulf victims of AIDS.  Despair and fatalism often blur the vision and dull the senses of people with AIDS and those who are close to them.  The compassion of Jesus, who identified with and felt the pain of others, is perhaps the most needed spiritual ingredient in our war against AIDS. 

For a powerful look at how gay and lesbian people have responded to AIDS, see The "Names Project" AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT.   


The holistic healing ministry of Jesus is described in Matthew 9:35:  "Jesus was going about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the reign of God and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.  Seeing the crowds, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd."

Jesus healed the whole person.  Holistic medicine began with Jesus, who combined compassion with teaching, healing, and helping people to live at peace with God, others and themselves.  Jesus gave wholeness and health to all of life in body, spirit, mind, and relationships with others. Jesus never condemned or blamed people for their pain or sickness.  Jesus' angry judgment was aimed only at those who were insensitive to human suffering and who condemned the people who most needed love and encouragement.  To Jesus, human pain and suffering were always seen as opportunities to do the work of God and to demonstrate the love and power of God.

The following material was added April 16, 2001:

This past Easter weekend gave us a multitude of images of Jesus in television specials that were dramatic, political, complex and contradictory.  Everything from the Pope's Easter message to a new London production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" along with hours of scholarly debates and documentaries poured off the airwaves.

When you think of Jesus, what do you see?  How does Jesus look in your mind's eye?

After Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the religion of the empire in AD 325, his mother traveled to Palestine to search for the holy sites associated with the life of Jesus.  Local people were quite happy to satisfy the curiosity of the mother of the emperor by identifying just about every place mentioned in the Gospels, whether they were accurate or not.

By the time the mother of Constantine went to look for the places where the events in the life of Jesus took place, Jerusalem had been completely destroyed three times and new streets and buildings built over the rubble.  The ground level of Jerusalem today is anywhere from about 30 to 150 feet above the ground level in the time of Jesus.  Time magazine last week ran a cover story about the contrast between what Jesus saw and what exists today in Jerusalem.


If someone were to ask Jesus to show where the sacred places were, he would point to people, not to buildings or ancient ruins.  To Jesus, people always came first.  People were more important than religion or ritual or laws or buildings.  Jesus called people to follow him, not institutions or organizations.  Jesus frequently stopped everything else to talk and listen to a single individual.

Easter Sunday, PBS showed a film on "The Face: Jesus in Art" which explored the history of the various ways that Jesus has been pictured by artists in many different traditions.  Artists imagined and painted the face of Jesus in an endless variety of designs and expressions.  The race, culture, religious environment, and personality of the artist noticeably influenced how the face of Jesus was represented.  The sum total of the pictures of Jesus is the face of everyone.  It is the remarkable face of all humanity.

Religion often has pictured Jesus as a strange unusual person dressed in glory robes and with a halo around his head.  We see very few people that look like that in our everyday life!  Yet Jesus made it clear that when we see anyone in need or suffering or marginalized by society, we have seen him.  Perhaps the face of Jesus is more like the faces you see at work and in your home and even in your own mirror than the faces in stained glass or church paintings.


Seeing Jesus only in terms of the supernatural and spiritual denies the reality and relevance of the humanity of Jesus.  We cannot identify with a magical supernatural or spiritual vision of Jesus that keeps Jesus at a remote distance in hazy uncertainty.  The humanity of Jesus makes Jesus relevant to our daily lives and to our present culture and way of thinking.

Many of the features of contemporary church life work against seeing Jesus in ordinary people and in everyday life.  We are expected to go to a special building to experience Jesus.  There we sit in rows looking at the backs of other people's heads and not at their faces.  We are distracted from any meaningful contact with each other by the stern architecture and medieval rituals which lead us to recite ancient formulas and propositions without understanding, interest or relevance to anything in our lives.

A bizarre 1960 movie scene at the beginning of "La Dolce Vita" by Federico Fellini has stuck in my mind for years.  Two women are sunbathing on a rooftop in Rome when a helicopter comes into view carrying a statue of Jesus hanging by a cable.  One of the women exclaims, "Look, there goes Jesus!"  It was a very brief moment in the film, but it somehow set the surrealist mood of the entire production.  Is Jesus just a remote figure soaring far overhead beyond our reach?  Is that all we can say when we look at the churches: "Look, there goes Jesus!"


Back in February, I asked you to write to me and tell me who Jesus is to you.  Your responses were wonderful, and I am grateful to every person who wrote to describe your vision of Jesus.  Many of your letters were very thoughtful and some were quite inspiring.  But nobody said that Jesus was the next-door neighbor.  We can imagine Jesus as our lord and savior and as our friend and protector but always someone very special and very different from ourselves.  We have a lot more trouble imagining Jesus as the person we live with or the person in the store or in the other car or homeless and slumped in a doorway late at night.

The real humanity of Jesus with which we can identify and live our lives was lost long ago in glorious religious clouds, spectacular artwork, speculations about heaven and the end of the world, and "churchianity".  Artists have precluded our freedom to imagine Jesus for ourselves by giving us an endless array of suffering, teaching, heavenly figures with halos and unreal physical appearance with which we can never fully identify.  All of this confuses what it means to "follow" Jesus.

The person of Jesus is the focus of art and architecture, and the real life and teachings of Jesus often are ignored.  The high drama of the "way of the cross" and the "Fourteen Stations of the Cross" that is pictured in churches and along the streets of Jerusalem on the "Via Dolorosa" every Friday afternoon is a creation of the church that ignores the facts in the Gospels and the history of the city and that distorts what Jesus said about himself and his purpose for his followers.

The recent Time magazine article observed: "The path of the Via Dolorosa through the Old City of Jerusalem is almost certainly inaccurate.  It follows a 14th century grid of the city rather than a 1st century plan, and probably reflects the desire of 14th century merchants along the way to get pilgrims' business."  How much does the church today reflect the desire to get pilgrims' business?

The aura of magic and superstition that surrounds popular images of Jesus is medieval and distracting from what Jesus really intended.

All of this has made me more determined than ever to take a fresh look at Jesus as a guide to spiritual health and realistic faith for everybody who has been misled and abused by traditional religion.  This is not just an issue for GLBT people, but they frequently have been impacted more by abusive religion than most others.  Everybody in contemporary culture, however, has been affected by sick oppressive religion in one form or another.


The power of established religion to control the lives of millions of people is awesome and seemingly invincible.  But is it?  Jesus challenged the powers and was crushed.  Yet Jesus set the stage for all subsequent challenges to sick oppressive religion.  What can we learn from Jesus to show us how to create a better world of freedom and genuine humanity?  That's the big question for me.

Our mission is a ministry of truth and information that is honest, objective and realistic.  We are not at war against humans.  All of us are in the human condition together.  Too many religious people deny their humanity and honestly believe that they have been called to play god.  "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of evil." (Ephesians 6:12)

Jesus was totally committed to truth and love.  Truth and love are the powers that make us truly human and truly the children of God.  Deceit and violence have no legitimate place among the followers of Jesus.  The truth sets you free to love.  Truth and love will win.

But not yet.

Rembert Truluck
The Day after Easter, 2001

(See the new London production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" if you can.  Both "Superstar" and "The Face: Jesus in Art" are available online from

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