Jesus was a holistic doctor with some bitter pills. Radically holistic. Normal medicine treats a single illness, malady, or disease. Holistic medicine treats illness by treating the whole person, mind and body, diet, lifestyle, behavior, and perhaps the family context. Jesus was radically holistic; he did not stop with a single person. He treated illness within the context of the broader society. Here are two modern illustrations - one medical and one non-medical.
When my wife Martina started to practice medicine in Binghamton NY, almost every week (either on Monday or Thursday) she joined a small group of volunteers at the local free clinic. They served uninsured working poor. “Commercial” doctors were not happy. They accused them of giving medical care for free! One Thursday evening a waitress in a local popular restaurant came, a single mum of two, desperate to keep her job. She was diagnosed with a large paratonsillar abscess (it can be deadly if untreated - it killed George Washington for instance). For several days she had been waiting on tables with fever, spreading germs among the local upper crust. Is it better to treat promptly one uninsured for free than later dozens of well-heeled hungry throats?
In December I visited Mary Birchard in her home. On the wall in her living room she keeps an interesting artefact form her Philadelphia childhood home. It is an age-old sign which was to indicate, that fire insurance was properly paid. In the case of fire, the brigade would arrive, but they would fight the flames only if they found this sign. Even among the most independently minded individualists, suspicious of government and taxation, as many are on this side of Atlantic, people eventually realized that this arrangement did not work especially in densely populated cities. Thankfully, we have public fire departments almost everywhere now.
These are two examples as to why a broadly holistic way of treating illness and fighting fires make perfect sense. But where are those bitter pills? In the gospel of Luke (4:24-30) Jesus prescribed them immediately in his first sermon. He told his audience, get over your spiritual selfishness. I am going to treat you unlike any other doctor or preacher or prophet or healer before. I am going to treat you by treating and welcoming and helping not you, but people around you, neighbors, strangers, and even those whom you despise. In his first sermon Jesus outlined this program and made people so mad that they almost killed him, wanting to throw him off the cliff.
Thankfully they did not succeed, and the holistic treatment could continue and continues until now! Sometimes we simply need to take this kind of bitter pill; sometimes we simply need to hear that our own healing comes through the healing of others and the healing of the entire society. Sometimes we simply need to give up our natural selfish desire to get better individually, in order to get truly better together. Sometimes we simply need to accept that God wants to embrace us by loving our difficult neighbors or even enemies. Without this love, we could hardly get better. These are the holistic bitter pills of the sweetest hope.
And for those who read as far as here: The text in the gospel contains clear signs that this was not a single original sermon. It was Luke's creation, a collage of pronouncements and teachings which were to characterize Jesus' style and attitude.
In Gospel it is presented as Jesus' first sermon, while in fact it offers us even more, an insight into how Luke (or his community of faith) understood the essence of Jesus' preaching and early ministry.