What Does Jesus Teach Us About Healthcare?

This morning I wanted to focus on the current healthcare debate. The text we will focus on in discussing our topic this morning is one that has always intrigued me. It comes from Mark 12 but the same story is told in Luke and Matthew. It is the story of Jesus providing healthcare to a paralyzed man lowered down from a house’s roof. 
Here is the story:

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

 Now, what does this passage teach us when it comes to our current healthcare debate? What are the applicable lessons?


           1.  Jesus never turned away people needing care

In the gospels, there are 31 examples of Jesus healing someone needing care. None as dramatic as this one.

There’s not one story of Jesus turning someone needing healing away. Yes, he gets frustrated about the demand, but turns none away in the end.
Any healthcare that ends in people losing their healthcare amounts to turning people needing healing away

 
    2. Healthcare is a collective project.
Imagine you’re Jesus teaching a large crowd in a house. If you’ve ever taught, you know how much energy it takes. Deep into his teaching, all of a sudden, a hole in the ceiling is created. As the people above dig a hole in the ceiling made of branches and sapling, people would have looked up to see what in the world was going on.  Jesus would have wondered most of all. By this time, Jesus was already being viewed suspiciously and must have felt targeted. Making enough space in the ceiling for a man to get through would have taken some time. Jesus’ teaching was over as a result. People had to wait.

As it turns about a group of four men have lowered a paralyzed man needing care.  We aren’t told these men are family or even friends. They could have been strangers for all we know. There seems to be a parallel to the Good Samaritan story where a stranger sees suffering and gives their time and labor to make sure medical help is given.

Anyway, getting healthcare for the paralyzed man was a group effort. These men expended their time and labor to make this happen.

Other persons expending something for the care of the paralytic is the house owner. They will have to repair the roof and ceiling.

And of course, there is Jesus, the Great Physician.

There is a collective effort to see the paralytic man healed and there is a sharing of the costs to see a stranger healed.

The health of society should be a collective effort and sharing the expense must be involved.


    3. The rewards of a healthy society are collective as well.
One of the most interesting parts of this story comes in verse 5. “Jesus seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven.’” Because of the collective good faith of the men, a member in their society who needs healing is healed. This means the whole society is more faithful and healthier.


    4. Even if there is some human cause of an illness, care is still given and compassionately so
In Jesus’ day, the accepted idea is that illness was the consequence of some kind of sin, either in the individual who is sick or in the parents. Sound familiar, does it not? Addicted to drugs? Well, you shouldn’t committed that sin of taking drugs for the first time. A so-called “Crack baby”? Well, your parents should not have done drugs. Dealing with hypertension or diabetes? Well, you should lose weight.  An Alabama Congressman gets at this sentiment when he recently noted that healthcare should focus on “reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.”

That is not the approach Jesus takes. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus questions the link between sin and disease. But even here where he doesn’t question it, he still does the right thing and tends to the needs of the person in front of him. The focus for Jesus is bettering people’s lives no matter the cost.


5. Jesus provides free healing-care. Does not tie funds and profits into it.

I cannot understand the concept of tying helping people, aiding their health and healing, to profits.
Health insurance companies are for-profit corporations. The companies in the end answer to their stockholders and the aim of making a profit. Healthcare’s ultimate aim should be good health not wealth.

When a patient needing care becomes a customer boosting profits, which is what happens in the set-up we have and the ones being proposed by Republicans, then we must question the system.

Jesus never asked for payment only faith


So as we hear almost daily about healthcare plans, maybe we should ask what would Jesus do? We have a pretty clear answer. We have 31 examples of what he did. He, the Great Physician, tended to the sick and the dying and did so simply because it was what was needed.


Yes, Jesus was not speaking to a nation per se. But what is good for one faithful and compassionate person is good for a faithful and compassionate nation. The question is, and it is a question we must ask of our leaders and ourselves, are we indeed a faithful and compassionate nation?