The Miracles of Jesus and Social Connectedness

Many of the things Jesus did have a greater poignancy when considered in their social context.

Many if not most of the miracles involved handicapped or chronically ill people. Today such people aren’t necessarily treated really well, or welcomed everywhere enthusiastically, but sickness is just sickness. It’s bad, hopefully a doctor can help you, but if not that’s life.

In that time and place though, a handicap or chronic illness was a sign of condemnation by God. Outside of one’s immediate family, no one would have anything to do with such a person. The woman with the “issue of blood”- continuous vaginal bleeding, to be frank- was regarded as ritually unclean, as menstruating women still are by Orthodox Jews. When a woman is having her period, her husband can’t touch her. As soon as it stops, they can have sex again. But for this woman the bleeding did not stop, and the unclean state was permanent. If she had ever been married, her husband had probably divorced her.

But with her healing, she became clean again. The old Hebrew religion at least had a way for people who had suffered some kind of uncleanness- usually a skin disease- to be declared clean and returned to the community. The miracles of Jesus tend to be thought of by modern people as individual things, but people at the time would have understood Jesus as returning these people not only to physical health, and spiritual wholeness, but social wholeness.

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4 responses to “The Miracles of Jesus and Social Connectedness

  1. Matthew

    The other major category of miracles was providing food, which is also socially oriented. Wine for a wedding, so the host would not be shamed. Provender for a large crowd. Windfall catch of fish (“let down your nets on the other side”). By these miracles, Jesus was acting as a sort of itinerant patron, and accepting the loyalty of clients.

    • The idea that God provides is condemned as “prosperity gospel” by right-thinking people, but it’s right there in the scriptures. Jesus does provide for people’s needs in the here and now. The people who wanted to make him king figured that was and end in itself and enough, but it was all to a higher purpose. But Jesus knew that hurting, isolated people needed more than platitudes about God, they needed restoration.

      • Of course God provides. Usually He does it through what I call type 0 providence (which is to say, He engineered the world such that you could provide for yourself and your family using those gifts that He has given you). Sometimes He feels the need to go up to type 1 (which are things that COULD be explained ‘naturally’, like the windfall catch of fish or the like), or to type 2, which are out and out vulgar, like the feeding of the 5000 or the like.
        The danger of the prosperity gospel is what I call the D&D’ization of the faith. God will bless you according to what He wants and on His schedule. You can’t compel God to do something like some D&D diety that grants clerical spells and has 400 hit points. That’s not how He rolls.

      • Exactly, Jehu. While I also agree with Matthew and thrasy that God’s providence is definitely one of His attributes (‘Jehovah Jireh’, the God who provides, one of his titles) and should be taken as a cue that we ought to strive for a society where no-one is left behind, so to speak, nevertheless, we shouldn’t take Christ’s miracles as support for any sort of notion that if you believe, you will automatically prosper; that clearly wasn’t His intent; He was displaying both His power and His mercy, in healing those in need, but wasn’t meaning, surely, to indicate that ALL who are in need will be uplifted directly due to THEIR faith; it is up to us who believe to strive to ensure no-one is left behind. Whether it is best to do that purely through private initiatives by churches, or whether possibly by ostensibly Christian states, is open to debate, IMO.

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