I wrote this for the Wednesday Word, a weekly column sent to members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. You can learn more about us here.
I noticed a christological debate being waged on my Twitter feed recently; in-fighting among liberal and conservative evangelicals. It was the same arguments that Christians have been having for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years (you’d think by now we would have found something more important to talk about): Jesus is a godly man! No, Jesus is the Son of God Himself! Jesus is a social justice prophet! No, Jesus is the agent of your salvation! Jesus is this-or-that and if you say he was not, you are not a real Christian.
Since it was not my fight this time, I could just observe the way that the Body of Christ manages to fight like weasels in a gunnesack for supremacy and righteousness in almost exactly the same way as did the original disciples. You would think Jesus, and then Paul, had not left us specific instructions about how stupid and wasteful is that exercise, but we are a persistently ridiculous community. Just for fun I checked to see what Jesus himself had to say on Twitter – there is a very funny account by someone with a talent for interpreting the gospel in contemporary terms tweeting as “@JesusofNaz316” – but the account didn’t wade into this fray. The latest tweet from Jesus of Naz says, “The greatest among you must be your barista.” Whoever you are, JesusofNaz216, thank you for your ministry.
Jesus was not a fighter, as we know. He was a healer, and it is his ministry of healing miracles that I seldom hear about lately as Christians bash each other around arguing whether to worship and follow Jesus Christ the social justice warrior or Jesus Christ the agent of personal salvation in this agonized moment in America.
Jesus was a healer. Jesus spit in his hands and laid them on a blind man’s eyes and the man could henceforth see. Jesus passed by ten lepers on the road and they were cured. A woman plagued by a chronic menstrual flow reached for Jesus and the mere touch of his garment healed her. What all of these people had in common was that they wanted to be healed and they had enough humility, desperation and faith to receive healing. Christians who think that it’s someone else who needs to be fixed and healed scare me. They’re standing in the wrong line and walking the wrong road where Jesus is not passing by.
What is for me Jesus’ most startling healing happens at his moment of crisis and the fulfillment of Judas’ betrayal. The New International Version reports this moment in Luke 22:
7 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him,48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Jesus is a healer. Even in the midst of a chaotic fracas that threatens his safety and during which he may have had an opportunity to take up arms in his own defense or flee, Jesus notices that violence has caused a wound to someone in his proximity and he stops what he is doing to heal it. Perhaps he pulls himself away from guards who are trying to detain him. Perhaps he has been knocked down and has to pull himself to his feet to get to the bleeding slave. Perhaps he has to wrest himself from the protective embrace of his disciples who are trying to spirit him away to safety. That detail is lost to us, but the healing is not, nor is the symbolic message contained in the fact that it is an ear – the incarnate symbol of listening – that Jesus makes whole in this moment of danger. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.
The christological bickerings that besets the Church universal are mostly egotistical indulgences that have very little to do with discipleship even as they mimic the dumb questions and propositions argued the original twelve, and which Jesus roundly mocked and chastised. As we walk the path of Lent to the Cross, let us listen to Jesus together, listen for his word, and humbly implore him to reattach our own ears and the ears of our opponents where they have been amputated by violent and rancorous debate.
The peace of Christ be with you.