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What Did Jesus Say About Salvation?
What did Jesus say about difficult subjects like money, politics, salvation and the end times?  Let’s take a closer look.

Jesus did many things during his lifetime. He taught, he prayed, he challenged. Consistently, however, Jesus healed people. He enabled the deaf to hear music; He gave sight to the blind; those possessed by demonic power he made sane; He renewed a leper’s disfigured flesh; and He restored an only son to His widowed mother. Whatever else might be said of Jesus’ public ministry, it brought healing to many.

The Bible has a word for that kind of healing; it’s called salvation. The family of words used in the New Testament-related to soterios – can be translated either “save” or “heal.” Practitioners of medicine in the world of Jesus could be called “saviours.” The Christian concept of salvation is immense, in that it has many dimensions, but it at least means healing.

We catch a glimpse of this especially in Luke’s Gospel. The author of this Gospel narrates a number of occasions where Jesus turns to individuals saying, “Your faith has saved you … healed you … made you well” (see Luke 7:50; 18:42; 17:19). One of the more instructive stories comes in Luke 8:40-56. Responding to a plea for help from a distraught father, Jesus is interrupted by another plea for help. An unnamed woman, plagued by a hemorrhaging body, reaches out to touch His clothing. Immediately her bleeding stops.

But Jesus also pauses and wants to know the source of this anonymous touch. For 12 years, her body rendered her symbolically unclean within the community. Now she steps into its public gaze, acknowledges her actions and how she has been healed. Instead of rebuke, however, Jesus takes that healing even further: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (v 48). No longer socially marginal, she is named “Daughter.” Jesus heals not only her body but her experience of community. Soterios.  Healed.  Saved!

While we tend to associate salvation with the death of Jesus (and rightly so!) the Gospels insist that His life effected salvation. Matthew’s Gospel, for instance, interprets the public ministry of Jesus by drawing on the words of Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). This notion of healing through one who bears our diseases does come to its fullest expression in the cross. For Christians, this instrument of mockery and death has become the source of dignity and life, of healing, of salvation! As one Salvation Army General penned it: “For from thy cross irradiates a power that saves and recreates” (Albert Orsborn).

Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find healing in our relationship with God, with others, with ourselves and with creation itself. Astonishingly, Christians view the character of God through those wounds on the cross. God Himself is what author Henri Nouwen refers to as a “wounded healer.”

This conviction is tremendously important for our times. You may recall the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who left the safety of America to return to Germany as the Second World War darkened the horizon. Eventually this Lutheran pastor was arrested. Conscious of the genocidal atrocities inflicted on the Jewish people, Bonhoeffer understood that a God detached from the wounds of His world was a useless, impotent God. From his prison cell Bonhoeffer wrote these words: “The Bible directs us to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.” Christians understand God through the story of Jesus, who bore the wounds of our world in His life and death. Christians worship and serve a wounded God, who brings healing-salvation! from those very wounds.

On one occasion Jesus sent His 12 disciples on an apprenticing mission: “He sent them out … to heal” (see Luke 9:2). Integral to the mission of the Church is its understanding of salvation. And when we realize that salvation has to do with healing, it informs our mission. We might ask The Salvation Army, for instance, what it would take to be known as The Healing Army! Empowered by the Spirit of Christ, the Church engages in a mission of healing, of salvation.

The diseases and wounds of each culture differ. An understanding of salvation as healing, however, prompts believers to engage in direct ministries of healing. Thus believers care for the dying in hospices, provide breakfasts for hungry children and create healthy views of sport in our community churches. Certainly there is more to be done. Our world not only lives with toxic rivers and skies, but sick Internet sites and unhealthy corporate practices. A mission of salvation will seek to bring healing to our relationship with God and “healing of the nations” (see Revelation 22:2).

The 2007 production of To Kill a Mockingbird at Ontario’s Stratford Festival was deeply moving. Despite Atticus Finch’s defence of Tom Robinson against the accusations of Mayella, the racism of the American South results in a conviction of guilt. As the enormity of its injustice takes hold, friends in the courtroom gallery quietly begin to sing the old spiritual:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

The Bible narrates a story of healing. Jesus healed, having absorbed the world’s wounds of betrayal and injustice.

Through this we understand salvation. Through this we understand God’s character. Through this we understand our mission.

Originally published in the Salvationist,October 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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