Over the centuries Christians have found much to disagree about, often because we can not agree on the meaning of scripture. The sacraments are a good example. First of all, how many sacraments are there? And even among Protestants who tend to agree on that issue there is a sharp contrast on what the sacraments mean and/or how they should be performed. In the case of baptism it would have been helpful if Jesus simply had said, “when you baptize be sure the person is of age, then fully immerse him or her in fresh, flowing water and only once in that person’s life.” But we receive no such specificity from Jesus, and so we are left to infer things from the various baptism accounts found in the New Testament.
I was reminded of this phenomenon when I read this morning’s gospel account of two healings performed by Jesus. The two stories could hardly be more divergent. The first, in Mark 7:24-30, tells of Jesus and the daughter of a Gentile woman. Initially Jesus declines to heal the girl of the demon that possesses her, but after a brief conversation with the mother Jesus relents. Yet the girl is never in Jesus’ sight and he has no apparent contact with her. In the next account, in vv. 31-34, Jesus is asked to heal a deaf man whose speech is also impaired. In this case Jesus does have contact with the one being healed, touching the man’s ears and putting saliva on his tongue. So, first we have Jesus healing a Gentile girl of a demon without ever seeing her, then a Jewish man who is deaf and unable to speak by touching his ears and tongue. But wait, there’s more! In other accounts Jesus also heals people he sees but never touches, people to whom he speaks whether he touches them or not, and people who simply touch his clothing without his prior consent.
What all of this ambiguity tells us is that Jesus is not the same thing to all people, not “one size fits all”. Jesus is able and willing to meet people where they are and offer them what they need in their particular circumstances. The same is true for us. Jesus Christ is active in our lives, in ways that meet our needs head on, not in some general way that suits all purposes. The Christian faith is still a community faith, called to be the body of Christ at work in the world. But within that body are men and women, boys and girls with particular needs and particular concerns. God knows this, and in Jesus Christ God has responded. Thanks be to God.
Prayer: Lord, cure us of what ails us, calm us in the face of what frightens us, and lift us up from what threatens us according to our needs. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.