So, a couple of weeks ago, Bobb preached on Mark 5:22-43. In this passage, Jesus is approached by one of the synagogue officials, Jairus, whose daughter is back home dying. Her condition is so bad that she is actually “to the point of death.” Jairus implores Jesus to come to his home and lay hands on her so that she will be healed. The wording in the NASB is “get well and live.”
Now, this is where I first noticed something peculiar. My Bible is chalk-full of little footnotes (quick shout-out to all you guys who actually read those!), and I noticed that just before Jairus uses the phrase “get well,” there is a footnote that reads, “Lit. be saved.” Huh! “Interesting,” I thought to myself with my internal Sherlock Holmes (a.k.a., Robert Downy, Jr.) voice. I noticed this again further down in verse 28. As Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jairus’ house, a woman who has been hemorrhaging for the last twelve years reaches out to touch Jesus’ cloak, thinking to herself, “If I just touch his garments, I will get well.” Now, there is a whole other topic that this put in my mind about being ceremonially unclean, and Jesus becoming unclean to help her (did somebody say 2 Corinthians 5:21?). But that’s a topic for another blog.
Anyhow, so when this woman thinks to herself that touching Jesus will fix her bleeding, the phrase “get well” literally translates to “be saved.” And then when Jesus notices that it was her who touched him, he says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” That last bit, the “made you well” part, literally means “saved you.”
So, being the nerd that I am, I went back and checked out the wording in the other two synoptic Gospels (Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:41-56), and they both have similar footnotes. Most of the time, the references to being “saved” refers to the hemorrhaging woman; however, there are a couple of times where this is referring to Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:23; cf. Luke 8:50) – who Jesus raises from the dead, in case you were wondering.
I even went back and checked the Greek to make sure that I wasn’t noticing something that wasn’t really there… which I have done… in the past… rarely. Anyway, turns out that the word that gets translated as “delivered” and “get well” in this story (sozo) is the same word that is used for salvation in the general Christian sense (cf. Luke 1:77; Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 3:15… and pretty much every time the words “saved” or “salvation” are used in the New Testament).
Now, I understand that the first rule of biblical interpretation is context. And bearing this in mind, I can see how the nuances of what the different authors are talking about might vary from passage to passage. But it does raise a question in my mind – Have we unduly limited the general understanding of salvation in Christianity?
Think about it – when someone says, “Jesus saves!” What comes to mind? Is it your current health? Is it whether or not you will die some day? What you most likely think about is whether or not you will get to go to heaven when you do die. If someone with a nice smile and a Bible came up to you on the street and asks, “Are you saved?” what they are really asking is where you will go after you die. In fact, there’s a whole evangelistic strategy built up around this idea. Here’s the basic breakdown of said strategy –
And that’s about it. This method has been championed by such street evangelists as Kirk Cameron and Ray comfort. It’s a really simple way to get a few notches in your belt and make you feel like you’re winning the world for Christ. It’s what Rob Bell refers to as spreading fear and selling hope. It’s fast, cheap, and easy – none of that tedious apologetic work or time-consuming discipleship. Instead, you just shotgun blast people with salvation. And what is salvation? It’s your get-out-of-hell card, your fire insurance.
But when I read the Bible, when I look at Jesus’ work, I can’t help but think that there’s more to it than that. I can’t help but think that salvation has more to do with the long-haul, the whole life. That’s why these passages really stood out to me. I’m not entirely sure why the Bible translators decided to render “saved” as “get well.” It seems to me (and my Greek word studies seem to imply) that sozo is broader than that. Maybe Jesus wanted to save us in more ways than just whether or not we burn in hell. Perhaps when we try to get people to say a prayer, but we don’t do anything to take care of their physical needs, we are cheapening what Christ came here to do. Personally, I think that they should have translated “get well” and “delivered” as “saved.” It would probably serve as a helpful reminder for us as Jesus-followers to look out for all of people’s needs, and not just the abstract/spiritual/theological ones. Maybe what Jesus did in stopping a woman from bleeding or bringing a child back to life did more to “save” them than we do when we give people our little one-two-salvation punch.
Or maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?