Word came this morning that a dear friend, Don, was rushed to the emergency room yesterday with internal bleeding. His hemoglobin count had dropped to a woefully low 5.5. Don is one of six classmates who gather each year for renewal of friendship, reflection, good food, a game of softball, and morning prayers.
Don’s hospitalization drew me back to an as yet unpublished follow up to the “Jesus in the Hospital” post from several weeks back on the weird dream of Jesus as a patient in the hospital.
Some readers stop reading when they see the name Jesus. Others like the name Jesus and are curious to read the story. Yet another group is distraught or confused by the thought of Jesus as a patient in the hospital. He might be the doctor or the healer, but not the patient.
This brief post is written for the latter group of readers.
Biblical scholars and theologians interpret the church’s sacred writings (Holy Scripture) according to the different genres of literature. They also differentiate between Jesus of history (Jesus of Nazareth), and the Jesus of faith (the crucified-risen Christ of believers). In Christian scripture the two are welded together. The Jesus story is told by four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A gospel is by its very nature a witness to faith, written by faith to elicit faith in the reader, not an objective eye-witness account of events in the life of Jesus as a video camera might have given us. The only access we have to Jesus of Nazareth is through the eyes of faith.
The theological tradition of the church has always insisted on the full humanity of Jesus. His humanity was only half the Chaledonian Formula (fully divine, fully man), but Jesus’ humanity is the starting place for any claim to the Formula’s other half: the divinity of Jesus Christ. Time after time there have arisen fanciful representations of Jesus. In some of these, the historical Jesus is, for all intents, obliterated. He wears flesh and blood the way an actor playing a part assumes a costume to draw into audience into the play. In these versions of Christian faith, the bodily Jesus is a disguise for God.
But a Jesus who was never sick a day in his life, a Jesus without bodily functions, pains, and hungers, a Jesus who didn’t feel the hammer slam his thumb at his carpenter’s bench, a Jesus who couldn’t be admitted to the emergency room with 5.5 hemoglobin and the need for transfusions is a not one of us. That Jesus is a figment of imagination.
Why I dreamt of Jesus in the hospital remains a mystery. What I know is that the dream wouldn’t have come without a deep sense of Jesus, the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. The only way I know to love Jesus is to love those who could end up in the hospital or hospice care. They are Jesus. Jesus is us.
One of the six friends who call ourselves the Old Dogs wrote a prayer for Don:
O Great and Merciful God, hold our brother Don in Your strong and loving hands. Lift him. O Jesus, Lord of the universe, as you did so often and so naturally to the sick and infirm in ancient Palestine, bring new health and healing to Don. And Holy Spirit of Power that tombs cannot contain, be with the Dog we all wish we were with right now, with him, with him. Amen.
– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 2, 2015.