By definition, an anesthetic is a drug used to relieve pain (analgesia), relax (sedate), induce sleepiness (hypnosis), spark forgetfulness (amnesia), or to make one generally unconscious. Anesthetics are generally administered to a patient by a specialist (anesthesiologist or anesthetist) in order to induce or maintain a state of anesthesia and facilitate a procedure. With such characterizations in mind, we recognize that anesthetic can be employed as a striking image for particular deficiencies in some of our communities of faith. One can cite many examples where faith is proclaimed and practiced solely as an escape from—rather than engagement with—the numerous struggles associated with human life. Accordingly, we recognize that anesthesia is incomplete without corresponding acts of holistic healing.
While the New Testament does indeed illustrate a God who seems to provide anesthetic-like relief from the various aches and pains of life, we also affirm God as an Advocate who heals that which cripples the pursuit of life in its fullness. In other words, not only did Jesus remove pain from the "crippled woman" in Luke 13, but he offered liberation from all that kept her incarcerated. In the same way, in response to such divine action in our own lives, our reaction includes—but goes beyond—momentary pain relief. We also seek corrective operation, healing of core injuries, and rehabilitative strengthening for the sake of the world. Just as Jesus "set free" the crippled woman from her various "infirmities," the same gift is offered to us. Through such grace we too may walk in solidarity with those in our world in need of repair.
Gracious God, as you set us free from all that keeps us in chains, may we be moved for the healing of our world. Amen.
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues,
11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.
12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."
13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
15 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.