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Triumph of The Past

by Michael Lane

Sons and Daughters of the Wind

Conclusion

June 2006

Fish will not live where the water is too clear. But if there is duckweed or something, the fish will hide under its shadow and thrive. Thus, the people will live in tranquility if certain matters are a bit overlooked or left unheard.
-Yamamoto, Hagakure


Faith and Forgiveness

Being born of the Wind is very, very closely connected with forgiveness of sins. In the third sending, Jesus says: "Receive the Holy Wind. If you forgive a man his sins, they shall be forgiven to him; and if you hold a man's sins, they are held" (Jn 20:22f.). Forgiveness of sins is part of their healing work, done through the power of the Wind. It is the healing of hearts. It need not be supposed that in this verse Jesus is encouraging his disciples to withhold forgiveness. The suggestion is rather that if they fail to promote this sort of healing, they are at fault. They dare not cause one of these little ones to stumble. They were always taught to forgive, to return good for evil.
Jesus sometimes healed people as more or less passive objects, like the nine lepers who failed to return in Luke 17. But for those who responded with what is called "faith," he could do more. The Samaritan woman at the well is of this type. He tells her that the water he will give her will become in her a well of Life, so that she will never thirst again. She will be healed not as a mere passive object but have the very power of Life and healing alive and active inside her, healing both herself and others with whom she comes in contact. She is not presented to us as sick in body or mind; rather, she is sick in heart because of her sin. So it must be that she is healed of this. This episode has many features in common with the formal sendings,1 and the woman's testimony leads to the conversion of "a great many."
The idea that the Wind is something he gives repeatedly and in quantity goes along with the first quote at the head of this essay: "I heal today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will be through. But I must do my work today and tomorrow, and I will leave the next day." Everyday he is healing minds, hearts, and bodies. What he does everyday he calls "my work." Dying is just "leaving." There is no room here for saying anything else is his work. The healing of hearts in the forgiveness of sins is the highest kind of healing, therefore the highest part of his work. There is no room for saying it was incomplete. He gave the Wind to all who were able to receive it, as much of it as they were able to receive, not holding anything back.
This makes these stories much more meaningful to us, because it means the stories' protagonists and we are on the same footing vis-à-vis the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. True, for some, Jesus' presence in the flesh could itself get in the way of the higher faith in the unseen Wind; but only for some: it is not an absolute barrier to such faith, as we shall see.

Mary and the Cruse

Now there was in that city a woman who was a sinner; and when she knew that he was a guest in the Pharisee's house, she took an alabaster cruse of perfume, And she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and she began to wet his feet with her tears, and to wipe them with the hair of her head, and she kissed his feet, and anointed them with perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he reasoned in himself and said, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who she was and her reputation. . . . Jesus said to him, There were two men who were debtors to a creditor; one of them owed him five hundred pence, and the other one fifty pence. And because they had nothing to pay, he forgave them both. Which one of them will love him more? . . . You did not give me even water for my feet; but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair, etc. . . . [We can know] her many sins are forgiven, because she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven, loves little. And he said to the woman, Your sins are forgiven. Then the guests began to say within themselves, Who is this man, who forgives even sins? Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace. (Lk 7:37-50)

In another version of the story, the woman is identified as Mary, and Jesus says, "Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial" (Jn 12:3, 7).
The words I have put in brackets indicate my understanding. The bystanders who think Jesus is issuing a pardon are, as usual, wrong. Rather, Jesus takes Mary's love (manifest in her actions but above all in her tears) as evidence that her sins are forgiven and blesses the fact: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." The acknowledgment of the fact does give her something new, though – self-knowledge. Knowing she is forgiven, she can "go in peace." This perfects her faith.
Her readying him for burial is also significant. Jesus has been telling his disciples he will soon be killed, but they are all in denial. In this scene Mary shows herself the first (in fact the only) to believe him. To believe him in this and yet to believe that Life somehow vanquishes death is to have the kind of faith that all will have to find when the man of flesh-and-blood is gone – faith in the unseen Wind.
So there is a give-and-take going on here. Mary has shown faith; the Wind has answered with forgiveness (healing of the heart); Mary comes back with renewed love; Jesus answers this with a blessing; Mary goes in peace. It is not that faith, love, and peace are different things (they aren't). It's bigger and bigger waves of the same thing, ramping up the power. (Remember that the Wind is called a "power" in many of these texts and remember my working hypothesis that the Wind is "a 'fungible' god, a 'liquid' god, a homogeneous, infinitely divisible god, who flows and pours and spends.")
The mini-parable of the debtors shows that forgiveness, too, comes in more and less. It is offered freely, note, in apparently limitless quantities but people vary according to how much they can receive. Here one doesn't want to be too literal. In the mini-parable, the size of the debt is the only difference; but Jesus tells Mary, "Your faith has saved you." Faith, or love, is a quality of heart that a person manifests proving that he or she is still being worked on and perfected and healed by God, is still alive inside and tender and changing, still sensitive to the Potter's forming hands, still able to feel. Sins are forgiven is a negative statement of this positive fact. Mary's conscience is very alive, therefore she weeps. Sin is a kind of suffering, a sickness of the heart. Faith is humility and the ability to receive healing. Whatever dead stuff of sins may have stiffened her in the past, she now offers God living material to work on.
Jesus' Pharisee-host, in comparison, is less alive. The material he offers God to work on is yet stiffened by dead stuff that has to be broken down and softened before the man can be made into anything. God still has his hands on him, but more as on a passive object than as on a living thing. This man doesn't even recognize his real sin, pride. Forgiveness is freely offered, but lacking the faith to feel the sin, he also lacks the faith needed to receive the healing balm, for they are the same faith.

Peter and the Cock

Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, that in this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. Peter said to him, Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you. . . . Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard; and a maidservant said to him, You also were with Jesus the Nazarene. But he denied it before all of them, and said, I do not understand what you are saying. And as he was going to the porch, another one saw him, and she said to them, This man was also there with Jesus the Nazarene. Again he denied it with oaths, I do not know the man. After a while, those who were standing came up, and said to Peter, Truly you also are one of them, for even your speech proves it. Then he began to curse and swear, I do not know the man. At that very hour the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. . . . And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Mt 26:34f, 69-75)

It might seem at first glance that after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, his healing works cease. However, this encounter with Peter is a healing work, and a very powerful one. It is also very simple. As in the story of Mary and the Cruse, the subject is a disciple, there is no visible miracle, and there are tears. Peter imagines he is ready to lay down his life. Jesus knows otherwise and so says, "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter can't comprehend it and so puts it out of mind (just as the disciples previously did Jesus' prediction of his own death). He then proceeds to deny Jesus three times without even realizing what he is doing – until the cock crow recalls him to himself with horror and shame. Had Jesus not said, "Before the cock crows," Peter would never even have noticed his deed. Bitter indeed are Peter's tears of self-realization, but they are also healing tears on the way to becoming, like Mary's, tears of gratitude, humility, and love.

The Woman with a Hemorrhage

And a large multitude followed him, and they pressed on him. And there was a woman who had had the hemorrhage for twelve years, Who had suffered much at the hands of many doctors, and had spent everything she had, and was not helped at all, but rather became worse. When she heard concerning Jesus, she came through the dense crowd from behind him, and touched his cloak. For she said, If I can only touch his cloak, I will live. And immediately the hemorrhage was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Jesus instantly knew that some power had gone out of him; so he turned around to the people and said, Who touched my garments? His disciples said to him, You see the people pressing on you, and yet you say, Who touched me? And he was looking round to see who had done this. But the woman, frightened and trembling, because she knew what had happened to her, came and fell before him and told him the whole truth. He said to her, My daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease. (Mk 5:24-34)

In the story of Mary and the Cruse, the bystanders think Jesus is pardoning sins, but Jesus refuses to take credit, saying, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." In the present story it is even more striking how the healing takes Jesus himself by surprise as he feels "power" go out of him. The woman's condition makes her unclean, like a leper, so she is not supposed to touch other people; but she thinks, "If I can only touch his cloak, I will live," and is determined enough to penetrate the mob surrounding him. Jesus is being mobbed, but he knows that someone has touched him in a different way from others and received healing. As in Mary and the Cruse, he declines to take credit for the healing but blesses it after the fact. And as Mary was in tears but is enabled by Jesus' blessing to "go in peace," so Jesus blesses this woman, who was at his feet "frightened and trembling," in the same language he uses with Mary, also calling her "my daughter" and saying, in Luke's version, "have courage" (Lk 8:48). Nothing is said about forgiveness of sins, but the words, "Go in peace" are virtually synonymous. They show that this is a healing of the heart as much as it is a physical healing.

The Paralyzed Man Lowered Through the Roof

And the power of God was present to heal them. And some men brought a paralytic on a quilt-bed; and they wanted to go in and lay him before him. And when they found they were not able to carry him in, because of many people, they went up to the roof, and they lowered him down on his quilt-bed from the ceiling into the midst before Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Man, your sins are forgiven. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason saying, Who is this man who talks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins, except God only? But Jesus knew their thoughts, and he answered and said to them, What do you reason in your heart? Which is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven, or just to say, Arise and walk? But that you may know that this human being [AL] has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic, I tell you, Arise, take up your quilt-bed and go to your home. And immediately he rose up before their eyes, and took his quilt-bed and went to his house, praising God. (Lk 5:17-25)

The physical picture here is that the house is built into a hill, so the branch-roof is easily accessible and can be opened by removing a few branches (AL). In Matthew and Mark's versions, Jesus calls the man, "My son." In Mark's version, instead of "knew their thoughts," Jesus "perceived in his wind," etc. As with the Woman with a Hemorrhage, faith is manifested by determination to get to Jesus in spite of a mob; and "Have courage, my daughter" in Luke's version of the Woman with the Hemorrhage is paralleled by "Have courage, my son" in Matthew's version of this one. As with both that story and Mary and the Cruse, the bystanders accuse him of presuming to pardon sins in his own right.
The first sentence here is interesting: "And the power of God was present to heal them." Sometimes it is not present. In the Woman with a Hemorrhage, it is present but takes Jesus himself by surprise. All this goes to reinforce the idea that Jesus is only the instrument, and were he not perfectly humble, he could not be the instrument. His humility is manifested in the phrase "this human being." This human being – even any human being – has authority (and the obligation) to forgive sins.
In this story the character of forgiveness of sins as a type of healing is particularly clear. Jesus uses the lower healing to give credibility to the higher. If "Your sins are forgiven" meant "I hereby cancel punishment for you past misdeeds," it would not parallel, "Arise and walk." Both dignity and the parallelism are maintained if it points to a healing of the heart.
We have to assume that the man himself had faith, not just his friends – that his faith and eagerness inspired them to help him. As with the two stories of the women, Jesus takes the man's faith as evidence of a healing of the heart that has already taken place and blesses it; and in blessing, completes it. And as the women go "in peace," so the man goes "praising God." This is further proof of faith. The man is like the one leper who came back, not the nine who failed to come back.

The Centurion

Now the servant of a centurion was seriously sick, one who was very dear to him; and he was near death. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent to him Jewish elders, and besought him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they begged him earnestly, saying, He is worthy to have this done for him; For he loves our people, and has even built us a synagogue. Jesus went with them. And when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent some of his friends to him, and said, My Lord, do not trouble yourself; for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; That is why I was not worthy to come to you; but just say a word and my boy will be healed. For I am also a man in government service, and there are soldiers under my command; and I say to this one, Go, and he goes, and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it. When Jesus heard these things, he was amazed at him, and he turned and said to the people who followed him, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith as this. So those who were sent returned to the house, and found the servant who was sick, healed. (Lk 7:2-10)

In Matthew's version, Jesus and the centurion actually meet, but in Luke they converse entirely through intermediaries. In Matthew's version, Jesus also declares, "A great many will come from the east and from the west, and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (8:11).
The centurion is being sensitive to social taboos and doesn't want to ask the Jewish holy man to contaminate himself by entering a foreign home (AL). Jesus sometimes breaks these taboos, but the man assures him this is not at all necessary, because Jesus, he is sure, has soldiers under command just as he does – invisible wind-soldiers that can act at a distance unseen. Thus, like Mary, the centurion has that kind of faith that transcends Jesus' physical presence. And just as the centurion also has people over him (Today's English Version reads, "I, too, am a man placed under the authority of superior officers"), who act through him and his subordinates, so Jesus has the Papa Who is Wind over him, Who acts through him and his wind-subordinates.
Jesus is "amazed" to find such faith in a foreigner, exceeding any he has seen in Israel (exceeding, therefore, that of Mary, Peter, and the rest).

The Bandit on the Cross

And there were coming with him two other malefactors, to be put to death. And when they came to a place which is called The Skull, they crucified him there, and the malefactors, one on his right and one on his left. . . . Now one of the malefactors who were crucified with him, blasphemed against him, saying, If you are the Man of Fire, save yourself and save us also. But the other rebuked him, and said to him, Do you not fear even God, for you are also in the same judgment? And ours is just, for we are paid as we deserve and as we have done; but he has done nothing wrong. And he said to Jesus, Remember me, my Lord, when you come in your kingdom. Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise. (Lk 23:32f., 39-43)

Matthew and Mark call them "bandits." They may have been involved in an uprising. This healing from the cross is Jesus' last act of healing work before he had to leave. It shows a very pure and simple faith. The first bandit is willing to believe only if Jesus will get them down off the cross; but the second simply loves Jesus as the Lord of Life. Instead of challenging Jesus, he confesses his own sin and boldly and simply asks Jesus to "remember" him when he returns. His faith, like Mary's, is not tied to the bodily presence of the Master but is steady in the expectation of Jesus' imminent death and his own. And Jesus replies equally simply with a perfect blessing, "You will be with me in Paradise." He might equally have said, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." And who can doubt but that the man did go in peace?

Notes

In this essay, I have made use of the Aramaic Light commentaries by Rocco Errico and George Lamsa, which I indicate by the letters AL. Quotes are from Lamsa's Modern New Testament from the Aramaic, with changes as noted.
1. Including harvest imagery: "Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, which have turned white and have long been ready for the harvest. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruits to life everlasting" (Jn 4:35f.)

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