Jesus, Our Great Physician
Earlier today I took my mom to a doctor’s appointment. I honestly hadn’t wanted to go. I dislike doctors. Actually, to be more honest, I have no problem with doctors; it is modern medicine I have a bigger problem with. In a day and age when every lotion and potion offers you the cure to everything, is it not curious that there seems to be more things requiring lotions and potions than ever before? Yeah, a pill might cure you of this random ailment, but it may cause low blood pressure, thoughts of suicide, and on rare occasions death…
I’d rather not take the risk of being the rare ocassion.
But because I love my mom, I went.
I drove her to the booming metropolis of Haleyville, Alabama. – Pronounced “Hay-luh-ville” for you Yankees who are reading along. – Haleyville is best known for being the birthplace of 911 Emergency Calls. Other than that, it’s your typical rural small Alabamian city. There’s a city hall, a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and about four fast food places. It’s one of those quaint little places everyone should visit one day just so they can say they did.
The visit itself was your typical doctor’s visit in a typical clinic. However, this particular clinic was unique in that it had an unusually high amount of University of Alabama and Auburn University paraphernalia. There were pictures of stadiums, paintings of famous coaches, and even special cases full of tiger and elephant figurines with full sized pom poms. The nurse even called me “Sweetie” in her thick southern drawl when she motioned me where to sit and wait. – Classic Alabama in every single way possible.
I had no sooner sat down with my mom than I looked up on the wall of the waiting room and saw this hanging there.
"The Consultation" by Harry Anderson
It literally took my breath away as I sat there and saw this wonderful painting, and strong memories came flooding back. The last time, and in fact the only time, I had ever seen this image before was many years ago prior to my full-time mission for the Church. I was at my doctor’s office in Carbon Hill, Alabama. It was April of 2003, and Dr. Claude Osula was being very patient with me in trying to fill out medical forms for my mission. In his thick West African accent he asked, “Are you sure you’re feeling up to this?” Then he laughed his his boisterous, deep, and affectionate laugh and scribbled on the forms saying I was physically capable of serving wherever I was called to serve. “Go and take a seat right there around the corner,” he had said to me one. I stepped out of the examination room and towards the small alcove to which he had pointed me. “I am going to make a call and make sure I fill out these forms correctly so that they can get you on your mission trip,” he said, and he turned and walked quickly down the hall to what I assumed was his office. Although not a Mormon, Dr. Osula was a terrific man of great faith, and he had been more than gracious with his time that day as he made sure everything on my missionary papers was correct. As I sat down in one of the two chairs in this small waiting area, separate from the waiting room and away from the examination rooms, I saw the picture.
Hanging there, faded and old on Dr. Osula’s wall, was a picture of Christ hovering over a woman who seemed to be sick in a hospital bed. The woman, obviously past her life’s prime, was looking upon the doctor with a look that barely even seemed to register his existence. Leaned over, concerned, rubbing his thoughtful chin, the doctor was looking upon the sick woman as if to say, “I’m not sure what else to do for you; I’ve done all that I can.” On the other side of the hospital bed was a nurse, medicines on a tray with a glass of water extended towards the dear woman in the bed. And there, majestically, but oh so simply was the Savior standing behind the doctor with a hand reaching towards the elderly sick woman’s head. His gesture seemed to emulate car and compassion. The look on the Lord’s face was not one of concern, but of great love. The picture seemed to envelope my thoughts the more I looked upon it. It spoke countless lessons to me as I sat there as a soon-to-be 19 year old young man embarking on a mission for his church.
Dr. Osula had returned a few moments later, my papers in hand, and sending me on my way. But as I left I stole one last glance at that picture and thought of the Savior caring for us in every moment of our lives.
“Jesus is our Great Physician,” I thought to myself.
I thought of the picture often over the next few months as I began my missionary service. More things seemed to come to my mind as I pondered upon the artist’s intents in painting it. The Lord, so close in physical proximity to the woman struck with me. His love for her touched me. The gesture of His hand was even striking to me. Little did I realize that I was about to understand the true significance of such a painting.
I was in my second area on my mission. In one of the wards we were covering there was a very elderly couple. When I met them the first time I was amazed at their kindness. They had love in their eyes, and smiles on their faces continually. When you walked into their beautiful, and obviously very affluent home, the Spirit abided so very strongly. They were recent converts that had only joined the Church a year and a half before I got to the area. We instantly became very good friends, and in the course of things I ended up going on splits with this good elderly brother numerous times. In that particular ward we had arrangements with the high priest group to spend every Thursday evening with two of the high priests from the ward. My companion would go teaching with one of the brethren, and I would go with the other. As it turned out, high priests would often find this good elderly brother to take their place. He was enthusiastic and happy to do so, and my companion was gracious enough to always let me go with this good brother with whom I had developed a special bond. I loved this brother with whom I spent many rainy nights knocking on canceled appointments’ doors, less active members’ doors, and even the occasional random door for fun. He was a true Saint, but slim as a hickory rod and probably not 110 lbs. soaking wet. I confess that I always felt like I was going to freeze him to death that winter, but despite my always dragging him to the nether regions of our ward boundaries we developed a tight bond.
Then, out of nowhere, he was diagnosed with cancer. Terminal. Fast acting. He’d be gone in three, maybe four months. He missed church for two weeks in a row. No visitors were allowed because they were afraid for his immune system. He was placed on hospice in his home where his dear wife could be at his side. A hospital bed now where their beautiful dining room table had been. One particularly cold and rainy night he called and left a message for my companion and I. We had just came in to dry off and eat dinner in our small apartment before heading back out to finish our day of proselytizing. I returned the call. He wanted a blessing. I told him we would be honored, “But what about the fact that you could get sick?” He didn’t care. “Come now,” he rasped in a whisper over the phone. “Come tonight.” So we did. Putting our soaking wet coats back on we instantly got back into our car.
I was overwhelmed. Luckily I had been an elder for nearly a year by the time I’d gone on my mission. I’d home taught lots of people. I had given many blessings. I was familiar with the words. I wasn’t afraid of that though. I was afraid of blessing a dying man. What would I say? We drove through the affluent neighborhood and up to his house. My teeth were literally chattering, but more from fright than the bitter cold and wind outside. We knocked on the front door and his wife stepped back for us to walk in. I saw him propped up in his chair. My eldery friend, even thinner than before, smiled his broad smile and he reached for my hand. I couldn’t not reach back and clasp his gaunt hand tightly. “I need that blessing Elder Way,” he whispered out with all of his effort. “I need you to give it.”
I felt prompted to ask him to pray. He asked if his wife could and I agreed. – In my youth I hadn’t yet come to understand that this good brother presided in his home. I should have asked if he’d allow a prayer. He made a wise choice in choosing his wife though. – She offered a beautiful and simple prayer, ending it by asking the Lord to let her husband live. Shocked, I begged for inspiration in silent prayer. We stepped forward. My companion annointed. I continued to plead for inspiration. The annointing was complete. I felt at a loss for words. Then we placed our hands on his head together. My heart was pounding. I pronounced his full name while speaking in my head the most desperate prayer of my life, and then I said, “I seal this annointing by the Power of the Melchizedek Priesthoood.”…And my voice was gone. In an instantmy words were gone. Everything Elder Stanley Way might have said was gone. And I felt the Priesthood literally work through me. ”Through” me like I was nothing more than a conduit, a semiconductor on a circuit board, and the Lord spoke magnificently. Then the words my mouth said were, “Thus saith your Lord unto you…”, and our Lord, our beautiful Master, through an inexperienced and totally unworthy 19 year old kid, told this dying brother that it was going to be okay. Promises were made. Promises Elder Way wouldn’t have ever made. Not in a million years. And then these words, “I have stood in your midst…”, and further details entirely unknown to me. As my mouth said the words I felt my jaw go slack while speaking…”Did I just hear what I thought I heard?”…My mind was racing. It was as if I were having an out of body experience while still in my body. I was aware of everything in the room although my eyes were closed. I could feel my hair standing on end. I felt encompassed in light and electrified. It was both spiritually and physically entirely beyond words. And as my mouth continued to move I heard sacred words said to my dear friend.
After the blessing we left immediately. We drove home in silence. And once we returned to our apartment few words were spoken as we reflected upon the experience we had just shared. My mind kept reflecting upon the picture I had seen just months before in a small clinic in Carbon Hill, Alabama. In the picture the Savior had stood in the midst of a woman who was sick, and as I pondered the things I had heard and felt that night, I knew that the Lord was indeed so loving and merciful.
In three of the four Gospels we find this beautiful story while the Lord Jesus is teaching in Capernaum amidst the multitude.
And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four (brought by four men).
And when they could not come nigh unto for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”
I love the beginning to this story. Here is the Lord surrounded by countless people. He is obviously indoors in someone’s house teaching, and there are so many people gathered around that no one can even get to the door to the place. Then comes these four men carrying a sick and afflicted man upon a bed of some sorts. Perhaps they try to push through the crowd. Maybe they shove a little bit to get to the door, but they can’t. They have brought their friend, this poor sick man with palsy, from some distance unknown to be blessed by Jesus. But they can’t even physically get to Jesus. Luckily, as was common for the area in this time period, there was an opening onto the roof of this particular dwelling. So these men drag their sick friend up to the roof to lower him in to Jesus, but alas, the hole isn’t big enough! So in their final rush to see their friend healed they start breaking apart the opening to get their friend to Jesus. They are not letting anything stand in their way when they are so close.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive thy sins but God only?
And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the pasly, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
Bu that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he said to the sick of palsy,)
I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way unto thine house.
And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God…”
That Jesus could heal the sick was made manifest in a powerful and touching way that day in Capernaum. But His teaching of His true healing powers were not over for the day.
And he (Jesus) went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alpheus sitting at the recepit of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinner?
And when Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
When I saw that picture hanging on a wall in Haleyville today I was reminded of Jesus Christ as our Great Physician. I was reminded not just of His infinite capabilities to heal the physically sick when they are afflicted, but of His great power to heal all those who are afflicted in any manner.
In The Book of Mormon the Lord came to the Nephite people and physically ministered to them also. Before leaving them, and sensing that they did not want him to leave, He said,
Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or mained, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with the blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought to him.
In my mind’s eye I love to picture that sacred event taking place. There were obviously so many within the crowd that had been saved from destruction, but were suffering with physical, mental, and other ailments. I love that it says that “all them that were afflicted in any manner” did go forth, and “he did heal them every one”. Through His love, through His mercy, and through His great atonement all pains can eventually be healed.
Jesus is the Great Physician.
The Book of Mormon teaches that “He [would] go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11
). He did so that he might more fully understand how to succor us in our mortal pains, in our sins, and in every sorrow (Alma 7:12-13
). The Lord knows what it is like to be in your shoes. He knows what it is like to be a broke and struggling college student. He knows what it is like to be struggling with the affairs of your family. He knows what it is like to have unruly children, to deal with the death of a loved one, to be behind on the bills, to suffer from depression and panic attacks, and feel like life is hopeless sometimes. He knows of that one temptation that is always gnawing at your soul. He knows what it is like to feel overwhelmed at work, and He knows what it is like to be out of work and not able to find a job. He can heal you from your sins, no matter how blatantly scarlet red and terrible they are, and He can make it to where you literally remember them no more. He can heal your soul, He can mend your broken heart, He can fix the problems in your life and He can fix you if needs be.
Jesus is the Great Physician.
He loves you. His call is universal, “Come, follow me.” Like the good Samaritan in His parable, when He finds us wounded at the wayside, He binds up our wounds and cares for us (Luke 10:34
On the last full day of my missionary service in Seattle I was blessed to go to the temple with my mission president and all of the missionaries leaving the mission the next day. The Endowment Session was amazing. The Spirit was there in abundance. But the greatest moment of that day was in the dressing room as I was about to leave the temple. There, wearing all white and still thin as a hickory rod, was my dear elderly friend. Eighteen months earlier the Lord had blessed him to live in a priesthood blessing that I will never forget. As I clasped his hand for that final goodbye he spread his broad smile, and it was almost like I was getting a miniscule glimpse into what eternity would be like.
I testify with solemnity that the Lord lives, and that sometimes He even stands in our midsts. We are all sick in some manner. We all need healed. Christ came not to heal those who were already well, but those who need His special doctoring. He is not far away. He is so very, very near. And He is indeed our Great Physician, and He can heal us from all things.
Wherever you are at in your life, I invite you to come to know Jesus as your Great Physician more fully. Reach out to Him. And when you find Him, do as He has prescribed. Live as He has taught. Bless others as He has blessed you. Never feel like you are past His healing touch, because Heaven won’t be full of people who have always been perfect. It will be full of the sinners and the afflicted like you and me.
I am glad that I went with my mom to her doctor’s appointment today. Had I not I wouldn’t have had the great opportunity to be retaught so many important truths as I looked at that picture.
I guess what they say is true. A picture really is worth a thousand words…
– Stan Way