Healing is the act of bringing health or wholeness to someone. It means to restore someone, or a community, to a sense of normal. If this is true, then, what or whom do we think of when we think about healing?
Perhaps one of the first things we may think about are doctors and nurses. Doctors and nurses take care of us when we are sick and help us to get back to normal. Everyday medical professionals work tirelessly to diagnose sickness and cure diseases in order to heel the sick. They go through years of training to understand the most common of sicknesses to the rarest of diseases.
We may also think about different types medicines, some of which we may be taking today. Millions of dollars are spent in research and development of new medicines, all with the goal of finding the right medications and doses to ease various pains and ailments. We take these prescribed medicines with the hope they will bring healing to our bodies.
These are two common avenues of healing. My guess is many of us would not have thought of ourselves as healers. We’re not doctors. We do not work in the medical profession. We’ve never invented a new form of medicine. Yet, when we think of healers I believe we are among those who have an important role to play in the healing process. I believe we are called to be healers to those in pain.
Each of us have the potential to bring about healing in the lives of others and our communities. This is because healing goes beyond simply easing physical pains. Our hurts and pains are more than just physical. There are emotional pains, such as stress, depression, feeling of loss, isolation, inadequacy, and others. There are also spiritual pains, where one might struggle with doubts or questions about why a loving God would allow evil to occur.
We can be healers. We do not do this on our own accord, but in response to how Christ has brought healing into our own lives. Jesus shows us the way to being healers. He routinely interacts with people who hurt and finds ways to address their deepest needs.
This is especially true when we look at this morning’s passage from Luke 7:11-17. Luke describes a moment of healing where Jesus raised to life a widowed woman’s young song. By following the ways Jesus provides healing we are given a framework for providing healing to those who hurt.
To see this framework at work we must ask ourselves this: Who is Jesus really healing?
Jesus engages this widowed woman and her deceased son as he enters the community of Nain. It was a town, perhaps a few miles outside of Nazareth. Jesus arrived there after spending time in Capernaum. It is likely Jesus met this woman at the town gate. This was a traditional place for meeting and gathering. Healing, in this scene, would come in the most normal of life situations.
However, it would also come in the most painful. Jesus likely would have met this widowed woman as she was leading the funeral procession for her young son. She would have been the first person Jesus saw. In those days, the grieving family member would lead the procession and would be followed by other mourners, including those who were paid to assist in the grieving.
It is significant Luke tells us that this woman was widowed. Without a husband, this woman would have depended upon her son for financial support. Now that he is gone, this widowed woman will be without financial means to provide for her needs. She was likely destined to a life of poverty and distance from the community.
Jesus sees all of this. He experiences her pain and it moves him to action. At first glance, we might think Jesus is moved to bring healing to the young man and raise him to life. The young man isn’t the one who is healed. It is the widowed woman. Much like how Elijah cared for the widowed woman in raising her son to life in 1 Kings 17, Jesus is doing the same here for this widow.
The healing begins when Jesus is “overwhelmed with compassion” because of her pain. Jesus wanted to provide some form of healing for her. He offered compassion to her in her time of loss and pain. When we think of compassion it means to have sympathy and empathy for others. Did you catch this? We do not worship a Lord who is distant from our hurts. We worship a God who embraces our pains and hurts. This is what Jesus does. He heard her story and knew what it meant. It broke his heart and moved him to express God’s grace in raising her son to life. Compassion for this widowed guided Jesus in how he cared for her.
Showing compassion to those in pain is something we can all do. We can feel sympathy or empathy for those who hurt. We can grieve with someone in times of loss. One of the most important ways we can provide healing is by emotionally connecting ourselves to someone in pain. By compassion to someone we remind them they are not alone. This is what Jesus did for this widowed woman and he continues to do this today for each of us. Jesus takes on our hurts and feels our pains.
Offering compassion wasn’t all Jesus did. He also shared his presence. Jesus went to the woman in her time of need. We can assume Jesus walked up to the woman and stood with her in her grief. He met her where she hurt and experienced her pain of losing a son. We see this in the words of grace and comfort offered to her when he said, “Don’t cry.” These simple words show that Christ wasn’t going to let her be alone in her pain. He was with her.
Presence is a significant aspect of healing. It reminds us we have people who are with us. When we offer our entire self to someone in pain, we are connecting with them on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. We are with them. No one should ever be alone in their times of pain.
Healing cannot take place unless we meet those who hurt and are in pain where they are. We cannot heal from a distance. We must take the step of moving toward a person in need. When I think about the church, we should be willing to move out from the pews and engage those who have needs in our communities. There are so many places where we can provide healing simply by being there. Places of brokenness. Places of loss. Places of rejection. Places of loneliness. Places where the church can move toward those who hurt and offer a shoulder to cry on and a reassuring presence in times of pain.
As well, we can be healers by offering acts of grace to those who hurt. The widow didn’t know how her financial and emotional needs would be met. So, Jesus approached the coffin and touched it. It was an act that would have brought uncleanness to the Lord according to the ceremonial laws of the day. This didn’t matter to Jesus. His focus was on this widowed woman. He showed grace to her by raising her son to life.
Think about what this means for us. When we are compassionate for those who hurt, and go with them in their pain, it moves us to offer expressions of grace to them. These acts are expressions of God’s grace freely given to those who are hurting. They are offered without expectations nor prerequisites. There are many ways we can provide healing to someone through acts of grace. It could be by providing food, offering words of hope, taking care of forgotten tasks for someone who is overwhelmed, or being that shoulder to cry on. I’m sure we could mention others.
In my time with you, we have provided acts of grace to those in need. The food we collect each month is given to those who are hungry. It helps to provide relief from the stress of not knowing where the next meal will come from. The change we have placed in jars have gone to help save the lives of children in Africa and to help alleviate poverty in Eastern Kentucky. Our Christmas offerings have provided hope to hundreds without food or clothing. The mission of being the church that is compassionate, present, and expresses grace to those who hurt continues onward.
My friends, we all know people who are hurting in our communities. We know the pain they feel, because we feel the same pains when we are hurting. Christ has shown us the way to offering help to those who hurt. We are called to being compassionate, present, and offerers of relief. They need to know they are not alone, just like we need that reminder when we hurt. They need to see that the church is with them, just like we need to see that the church is with us when we hurt.
How can we be healers in our communities in the name of Christ? How can you be a healer in your community in the name of Christ? Christ has shown us the way and has given us the foundation. We can be healers.