This is a wee bit out of order seeing as I just finished up Summer Greek, but I thought it was important anyway! In our first week of Greek, we learned the verb “to save” (it’s σῴζω for all those interested). We also learned that while this verb is often translated as “to save,” it can also have the broader meanings of “to heal” or “to make whole” in the original Greek.

This brought to mind the frequent healings Jesus performs in the New Testament. In Mark 2:17 we read, “on hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” The full story is found in Mark 2:13-17, Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 5:27-32. In this statement, Jesus Himself draws the parallel between being sick and being a sinner. Just as those who are ill need doctors, those who sin need to be made righteous.

In addition, when Jesus heals the paralytic in Matthew 9:1-8, He not only heals him of his physical ailment, but forgives him of his sins, linking the two ideas of health or wholeness and redemption together:

Jesus Heals a Paralytic
1Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7And the man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

Therefore, Jesus as Savior also acts as the Great Physician, the healer of our physical and spiritual ills. When we are forgiven of our sins, we are healed and made whole again. Like the once-paralyzed man, we are ready to pick up our mats and walk upright with God again. I find it fascinating that the Greek could unite such ideas into one short word.

Likewise, verb θεραπεύω can mean “to heal” or “to serve.” This struck me as odd until I started thinking about it a bit. Could this word be connecting the theme of healing through serving? I’ve read about the concept of a “wounded healer” – the idea that one who has experienced great pain or sorrow can use those experiences in serving others. For example, someone who has experienced loss in the past can provide comfort and an excellent listening ear to one going through loss and grief. This arrangement not only benefits the recipient of such “therapy,” but also the “therapist.” One can finally begin to heal through reaching out to someone else – they can use something painful and turn it into a positive, powerful healing tool for multiple people.

People have often said that focusing on someone else’s troubles or pains instead of their own has helped them not to wallow in self-pity or get stuck in a rut. I wonder if this Greek word is another way of thinking about how we heal. We can reach out from our own painful situations to heal others, thus helping not only the recipient of our outreach, but also our own hearts. When we’re focused on others’ needs, I think we begin to broaden our own perspectives and it’s near impossible to become stuck in self-pity.

I also think that this word speaks to the importance of service in our lives. Maybe if we focused on loving and serving others, we would be able to heal some of the pain we hear so much about in the news. Just a thought…

© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.