Cure vs. Wholeness

by The Rev. Paul Feider
Nov/Dec 2007

The gospels make an important distinction between being cured and being made whole. Jesus could cure people because of his intense love, but if they wanted to be well or whole, they had to enter into a faith relationship with him. This distinction is best seen in the story of the cleansing of the 10 lepers (Lk 17:11-19). The gospel story says that by the power of Jesus’ word, all 10 of the lepers were cleansed of their skin disease. Jesus’ intense love, even at a distance, could re-create a person just as that love once created them.

As in many cases in the Gospel, this cure was an invitation to be made whole. One man came back and entered into a faith relationship with Jesus. His bowing down to worship him was an indication of his decision. Jesus says to him, “Your faith has made you well.” Ten were cured, but only one was “made well” or made whole. He used the cure as an invitation to be made whole.

There are different words in the Greek text of the gospel for being “cured” and being “made whole.” In verse 15 of this story, the Greek word iathe is used to describe that the 10 lepers were cured; that is, their skin was cleansed. In Mk 1:34 and other places in the gospels, the Greek word etheropoisen is used to describe people being physically cured, but in verse 19 of this story, the word Sesoken is used which means to be “made well.” It can include the meaning of being physically cured, but it describes being made well on a larger perspective. The Gospels tell us that the intense love of Jesus cures people, even if they do not know him, but if the cured person enters a faith relationship with Jesus, they are “made well” or “saved.” They will be well forever. The healing ministry of Jesus demonstrated the power of his love and his deep desire to invite people to wholeness, namely, an eternal love relationship with him.

It may be important to note that nowhere in the original Gospel does Jesus say your faith “cured” you. Jesus cured out of love for people, and if the person returned that love by entering into a commitment to him, he would say, “Your faith has made you well.” In the Gospel, a person was described as being well only if they had chosen to connect themselves to God through a commitment. One of the unique things about Jesus’ healing ministry is that it always had an eternal goal; namely, the salvation or wholeness of the person. His healing ministry was the most powerful tool for drawing people into that saving, eternal relationship. Christians are commissioned to carry on his work by doing the same.

The Rev. Paul Feider is a member of CHM’s National Advisory Board and vicar of St. John’s Community Episcopal Church and Center for Inner Peace in New London, Wisconsin. Nov/Dec 2007 Issue