Christ the Physician

On the Fourth Sunday after Pascha we read the Gospel lesson of John 5:1-15, the paralytic.  

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the   Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

The healings which Christ performed vary greatly in how they are accomplished.  Sometimes Christ merely says a word and the person, who may be at some great distance from Christ is healed.  At other times, as in the Gospel lesson of the paralytic, Christ uses physical material to heal a person.

3rd Century Syrian Drawing of the healing of the paralytic.

“What kinds of skills and methods does the healer bring to the therapeutic encounter? By his explicit and deliberate use of physical means in many of his healing miracles (e.g., John 9), Christ blessed matter as a medium through which the healing grace of God can operate in addition to non-physical means of healing. This is only reasonable and consistent with the reality of the incarnational axiom of Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘For that which He has not assumed, He has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved.’ By fully assuming our human condition, including its physicality, Christ blessed the material aspect of his creation making of it a means of salvation and healing.

St. Panteimon the Unmercenary Healer

Every healing mystery (sacrament) of the Church utilizes a physical element whether it is the water of baptism, the oil of anointing for the sick, the touch of a priest’s stole (Greek – epitrachelion) during  absolution in confession, or most importantly, touching the very Body and Blood of the Lord himself in the elements of consecrated bread and wine during the Eucharist. It is in this context that healing modalities commonly used in the therapeutic encounter must be examined.” (Daniel B. Hinshaw, Suffering and the Nature of Healing, p 175)