The Gospel Truth: Jesus’ Ministry to Caregivers
Happy 2022! It’s a brand-new year, and the mental “reset” this affords all of us cannot be overstated. During the Holiday break, my family and I have been enjoying Angel Studios’ crowd-funded hit The Chosen. Watching the very ordinary—yet simultaneously extraordinary—way Jesus interacts with all kinds of people has been deeply moving as well as highly though-provoking.
I began considering the scope of Jesus’ ministry during His 33 years on earth; many of us are familiar with what the four Gospels say—that He healed people, raised the dead, supernaturally provided money for the temple tax, and He taught from the Mosaic Law and the prophets with authority. But my particular bent is toward caregivers, so what, I wondered, did the Gospels have to say about Jesus in relation to caregivers? Between Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see Jesus had an amazing ministry aimed specifically at this niche population group.
In these verses, we see the distress of a woman who is living with and caring for her daughter. When she cries out to Jesus, she asks Him to “have mercy on me,” even though it is her daughter who is reported to be “demon-possessed and is suffering terribly,” (v. 22). This is definitely the cry of a worn-out caregiver—she not only needs good news for her daughter, but also for herself. At first, it appears Jesus is not going to talk to her at all, but Bible scholars suggest He’s not actually ignoring her; rather, He’s demonstrating to His disciples how wrong it would be to disregard the anxious woman and send her away—like they were urging Him to do (v. 23). In the end, the woman stayed the course, and she was handsomely rewarded for her determination to remain there in the presence of Jesus–she received the help she was after: “’Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted,’ And her daughter was healed at that moment,” (v. 28).
This time, the situation involves a father and his son. For many years this father has been caring for his son who has a condition that sounds like epilepsy. The father is clearly distressed, and when they finally encounter Jesus, the boy is “immediately [thrown] into a convulsion,” (v. 20). Jesus shows tender compassion for this father by expressing interest and engaging him in conversation: “How long has he been like this?” (v. 21). He’s acknowledging that this man has been through something long and hard, and by providing a listening ear, Jesus gives this caregiver the time to go into the problem’s history. In the end, Jesus not only deals with the boy’s condition, but also with the fear and distress of the caregiver/father—something the Scripture makes painfully obvious he’s experiencing; in his anguish he reported, “the [demon] has often thrown him [the man’s son] into fire or water to kill him,” (v. 22). By verse 27, we see that Jesus has put things right by not only restoring the boy, but He has also bolstered the faith of the boy’s father.
Here we are told about Jesus coming to the aid of a family matriarch who has become ill. The Word tells us that Jesus comes into the home of Simon (we know him better as “Peter”) where He learns that Simon’s mother-in-law has “a high fever” (v.38). We are quite simply told that Jesus goes into her room and heals her, but it’s her response that’s so interesting. Verse 39 says she “got up at once and began to wait on them.” It’s not clear if someone asked Jesus to help her or if He just came in and discovered she was ill, but either way He did something amazing for her, and in her gratitude she wanted to honor Him by serving Him. As caregivers, our story is very much like hers: often we take on the role of “caregiver” to meet the needs of others because we love them and appreciate things they’ve done for us through the years—people like our parents, grandparents or a spouse. By healing this woman, Jesus equipped her to care for those around her—and He’s still equipping caregivers, even today.
Jesus’ friendship with John is well documented by John himself; his Gospel about Jesus is written from an obviously close, personal perspective. It is therefore completely understandable that Jesus, as He faces imminent death on the cross, connects His mother Mary with this very dear friend. We have here what might be called a “verbal” power of attorney in which Jesus is tasking John to become His mother’s caregiver, to both protect and provide for Mary. Jesus, Who is Himself the ultimate caregiver, even in the throes of an agonizing death—one in which He is taking the penalty for every sin ever committed by every human being who has ever lived—is involved in this exercise of “pre-planning” to ensure His mother will be covered in His physical absence. And John, completely willing to honor the One Who is both his close friend and his Lord, accepts his new role without hesitation.
It is clear even in these brief accounts from the Word that Jesus is deeply and personally concerned with caregivers. He both appoints them and He meets their respective needs. If it hadn’t been for His great help, I would never have made it through my own caring journey with my grandparents. He never once failed to help me, and I know that if you call out to Him, He won’t abandon you, either. Rest in Him, and have a very blessed New Year.