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Reiki for Christians - Part 3

The ministry of Jesus will be explored further and more completely in a future blog series. For now we are focusing on the healing aspect of his ministry. To really understand Jesus’s healing ministry, it is important to briefly familiarize yourself with some historical facts about a few customs and practices that were the social norm from 0-50 CE in the Greco-Roman world.

First, there were many healers and temples devoted to healing in antiquity; they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire during the time Jesus lived. There were also other Jewish healers, several were named Jesus. From a historical viewpoint, there is absolutely nothing unique about the healing abilities the Synoptic Gospels claim Jesus displayed. I realize that, at first, these facts can be unsettling. However, they are the socio-historical facts about the time period when the teachings of Jesus first appeared and are no longer debatable.

Jesus’s healing abilities were not unique or uncommon in the ancient world. Community and religious leaders would have had no problem with the fact that Jesus was a healer, IF he had adhered to the accepted social protocols for such individuals. But, according to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus directly rebelled against the acceptable social systems in place that governed healers and healing facilities.

What was so different about the way Jesus healed that angered community and religious leaders? Typically, in the ancient Greco-Roman world, healers either worked for a healing facility/temple or they healed others in their home/the home of their patron. When a healer practiced in a temple, there were officials who either collected payments for the healing or required that the person receiving the healing purchase an animal for sacrifice. If a healer practiced from a home, payment was received for the healing and other members of the community benefited financially from the healer’s success and from those who traveled to see the healer.

Both of the above socially acceptable systems are based on financial gain for the healer or healing facility and the ability of the person in need to pay for the healing. In the case of temple healers, religious officials required some form of payment before a person could receive a healing. When a person healed from a household, the entire community gained financially because the household had more income to purchase local goods and services. Think of it as a sort of ancient form of tourism where the healer was the local attraction. The household or facility where the healer did their work collected payment before a person received a healing experience. This household or facility could obtain more goods from other people in the area. A community with a successful healer or facility probably would have had more money to pay taxes and to support itself. The Roman Empire collected monetary tributes from all their citizens and provinces and required that some form of taxes be paid by individuals living under their control.

We can now revisit the question: What was so different about the way Jesus healed that angered community and religious leaders? For starters, Jesus did not choose one specific religious facility as the primary location for his healings or maintain a healing practice in one specific community. Instead, he traveled and healed those who he came in contact with. However, the most significant difference between the system Jesus used to heal others and the popular healing systems in the first century was that Jesus did not require any form of payment before or after he healed an individual. He either healed those who were suffering and could not afford to pay for healing treatments or who died prematurely. Jesus did not settle in one community. Instead, he traveled throughout the countryside in order to freely share his knowledge and healing abilities with as many people as possible, regardless of their social class or standing.

Let’s stop here and consider a question that is almost never asked in 21st –Century Evangelical Christian settings: How did someone who healed as Jesus did – travelling and healing for free – impact the business of other healing communities and facilities? The ministry of Jesus became popular very quickly in an isolated region. The Synoptic Gospels all agree that there were times when Jesus healed many people in various areas and was often in such high demand that he would have to isolate himself from the public. We are also told that a wide range of social classes were attracted to Jesus’s healing ministry. It seems safe to say that if Jesus’s healing ministry was as successful as the Synoptic Gospels describe, then the other healing businesses of the area would have noticed a decrease in the number of their clients and funds.

Basically, Jesus was doing the same thing other healers did, except Jesus traveled and offered his services for free. If a large number of other healers and facilities in a specific area were not generating their typical income, surely those who collected taxes on this income would have noticed. If, over time, there was a large enough decrease in income from a region, representatives of the Roman Empire would have gotten involved in the situation. Potentially, movements like the one Jesus lead would have been dangerous to the economy, especially if he was teaching others to follow him in his actions and sending them out to other populations throughout the world. While it is true that the Synoptic Gospels report that the teachings of Jesus were delivered with a level of authority that angered religious and community leaders of his time and geographic location, as we can see, this conclusion only tells a part of the story.

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