- Rev John Smith, Uniting Church minister and active member of The Progressive Christian Network of Victoria Inc.
Reinterpreting the Healing Narratives in the Light of Progressive Theology
Research indicates that there are 23 examples of Jesus ‘healing ministry’ in the canonical gospels, if we include the stories of the ‘raising of the dead.’ In reality these stories are simply just a ‘tip of the iceberg’ of Jesus healing ministry and yet they receive little acknowledgement from New Testament scholars and theologians. The traditional interpretation of these narratives, paint a largely negative attitude towards people seeking wholeness. However, if we examine them in the light of progressive New Testament scholarship we recognize them as examples of empowerment promoting the ‘empowering tenor of the reign of God in Christian lore.’ A re-interpretation of the “Healing Narratives” from an historical Jesus perspective can assist personal communities in responding appropriately to the needs of people seeking healing, because they emphasise the importance of ‘inclusion’, ‘liberation’ and ‘embrace’. They further encourage faith communities to understand their role as important players in the healing process. The narratives however do far more by challenging not only the marginalisation of such people; they confront the systemic forces that inhibit the opportunity to achieve liberation from the labelling and isolating effects often determined by societal norms. The narratives demonstrate that it only takes one person to stand in solidarity with a marginalised person to challenge the forces preventing community inclusion. This fresh approach to these narratives places us in a “companionship of empowerment” with all people, which is a mutually beneficial and liberating activity.