A Roman officer, a poor widow, a spiritual leader, a Pharisee, a prostitute: in one chapter Jesus encounters each of these. It is a broad cross section of society, and it is interesting to see how Jesus reacts to and treats each one of them. Often when I read the New Testament I find myself wondering what people thought about Jesus, but in this chapter I am challenged by what Jesus thought of the people he met.
I am a doctor, and my particular specialty is that of general practitioner, so in a way, my daily fare is not dissimilar to that of Jesus. I too meet a broad cross section of society, from rich to poor, from high society to low, from powerful to powerless.
As a follower of Jesus, I see him as my perfect role model. Jesus was a healer. If I could think about people the way he thought about them, and treat them the way he did, perhaps I would be a better healer. Perhaps the Jesus model of meeting people is more healing than the standard medical model.
I wonder sometimes if the healing that people experienced at the hands of Jesus was as much because of his attitude to them, as it was because of his supernatural power. As Christians we can get very much preoccupied with the power of Jesus to heal. We find ourselves wondering how we can access the same source of power. As doctors we seek knowledge and wisdom accumulated through centuries of scientific research and accumulated experience. Since medical training in the Western world is secular, Jesus is not a focus of our studies when it comes to knowledge and wisdom, though perhaps he should be.
But possibly the most important key to healing lies neither in miraculous power or scientific knowledge, or even carefully honed skills, as important as these may be, but in the attitudes we have to the people (patients) we meet. Perhaps the key to healing lies in the way we receive people, the way we listen, the way we care. Ultimately, it is the way we love the people we meet that is most important in healing. Jesus’ greatest challenge is always to love: “faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.”
Not all of the encounters in Luke 7 are about healing, but all of them are about love. What is more, although healing occurs in every encounter, the focus of each story is not that healing, nor the person who is healed. In the first encounter it is the Roman centurion who is the focus of the story, not the servant who was healed. The second story is primarily about the widow of Nain, not her son, who was the one raised to life. In the third the focus is on John the Baptist, not the many who Jesus had healed as testimony to his own identity. The focus of the last encounter is as much on Simon the Pharisee as it is on the sinful woman who Jesus received and forgave.
Luke 7, then, paints some wonderful pictures of how Jesus related to the people around him. My work as a GP involves relating to many people every day. My goal is to be like Jesus as I do this, for that is the best key to healing that I know. It is a struggle to have the attitude of Jesus every day, it is a challenge to follow his instructions. But it is surely worth the effort. The sermon of Jesus that is recorded in Luke chapter 6 contains the instructions. In chapter 7 we see Jesus putting his own words into action. Reflecting on these encounters gives a strong foundation for being the kind of doctor that Jesus wants me to be.