I know that it is dangerous to put words in Jesus’ mouth. It is something that I would not advise or encourage. The pages of the Bible are full of truth. Indeed they are not just words about God – they are actually God’s words. In them there is truth that will lead to eternal salvation and a relationship with the maker of the universe. In fact, we do not need to put words in Jesus’ mouth because everything that he said was perfect already.
As reliable as the Bible is however, there are areas that we cannot directly lift to aid us in our 21st century lives. We need to do some digging to find out what the Bible has to say on the internet, traffic jams, deep sea fishing, immigration and assisted suicide. In these situations we must endeavour not to put words in Jesus’ mouth, but look at his life and understand his view of life, relationships and love. In the absence of his words, we look to his actions to understand what the Son of God believed.
So how can we understand if Jesus was in favour of assisted suicide or assisted living?
From the outset of ministry of Jesus, there is evidence that healing and restoration was in his heart. Immediately after calling the first disciples, Jesus starts healing the sick and those with diseases (Matthew 4:23). He went throughout the regions of Galilee teaching, healing and restoring those with illness wherever he could.
In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus demonstrates his desire to help one of the most vulnerable members of an ancient society – a man with leprosy. If you contracted this disease in Christ’s lifetime, there was no hope of a cure and you were inevitably a terminal patient. Lepers would be banished from their families, declared unclean and often sent to a leper colony. When asked if he would make the man clean, Jesus declared “I am willing” (Matthew 8:3) and proceeded to heal the man of his disease.
And many others were healed as Jesus’ ministry continued: the blind and the mute (Matthew 9:27-34); a boy suffering from seizures (Matthew 17:14); a man who was paralysed (Mark 2:5); a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years who had spent all her money on doctors but had found no one could heal her (Luke 8:48).
In none of these examples does Jesus declare that health was not worth restoring. None of his actions here demonstrate that he viewed life as valuable only if you had a clean bill of health and no disabilities.
Some may argue that these people who Jesus healed were not actually at the end of their life as many could have continued to live with their disease or disability for many years. Yes, whilst this is correct, Jesus goes further than this.
Not only does Jesus save and heal those who are at the end of their life, he heals and saves people who are actually dead! One example of this is the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11. Lazarus has already been in the tomb for 4 days; there is no debate here – he is dead. But Jesus has the power to reverse this, he has the power to literally bring someone back to life and give them life again. With a loud voice Jesus calls into the tomb “Lazarus, come out!” and the dead man walks out with his grave clothes (embalmment) still on (John 11:43-44).
Healing was at the centre of Jesus’ heart. He came to heal our relationship with God the Father by dying as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He was all about giving life and healing those he met. I think that it is clear from his life that he is in favour of assisted living – he demonstrated this many times – and that his heart was far from assisted suicide.
As we have been called to be Christ-like, perhaps we need to take note of this.