The miracles of Jesus the healing of an epileptic

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The three Evangelists, MatthewMark, and Luke, report a curious healing, that of an impressive illness manifested by crises described as “worthy of madness” according to the words of the latter. This healing by Jesus took place the day after the Transfiguration, as Jesus came down from the mountain accompanied by his disciples. On this path, He was addressed in these words by a desperate man: “Master, please look at my son, because he is my only child, and it happens that a spirit takes hold of him, pushes suddenly screams, shakes him with convulsions and makes him foam; he only moves away from him with great difficulty, leaving him completely broken” ( Lk 9:38-39 ).

The description of the evil leaves no doubt for modern medicine, the convulsions and the foam on the lips of the patient reveal an epileptic attack, an illness qualified in the time of Jesus as that of an evil influence of a mind on the patient. Ancient doctors considered, in fact, this illness as an attack on the “sacred substance” itself, where the soul resided. Curiously, the father of the child specifies that he had previously asked the disciples of Jesus to expel this spirit, which however they were unable to do… 

Healing of body and soul

Hearing the words of the Father, Jesus then spoke harshly to the crowd – and perhaps also to his disciples who had not had sufficient faith to heal the epileptic: “Unbelieving and misguided generation, how long will I stay close to you and support you? Bring your son forward here.” We know how Jesus never ceased to invite prayer to escape from unbelief and strengthen faith, the very faith that can move mountains ( Mk 11:23 ). But once again, He must, in the face of this wavering faith, prove that nothing is impossible for God, even healing the most terrible evils.

So Jesus immediately turned to the sick young man for a fight with the evil spirit, the latter then seeking to overcome his victim by increasing his suffering with atrocious convulsions. But Jesus threatened the impure spirit which left the child, definitively healed and returned to his father. It is not only a healing but also an exorcism that the biblical story describes to us, a sign once again that these two dimensions were closely linked at the time, to the great astonishment of the crowd present “before the greatness of God” underlines the Bible

Healing reported through the arts

This impressive scene left its mark and artists have often captured it in numerous works, such as that of the famous Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry in the 15th century. This well-known manuscript preserved at the Chantilly Museum constitutes a prayer book that Duke John I of Berry had initially ordered in 1411 from the brothers Paul, Jean and Herman de Limbourg and which was subsequently completed by other no less famous artists. such as Barthélémy d’Eyck or even Jean Colombe.

A true jewel of Gothic art, this manuscript reveals multiple artistic influences from Flanders, France, and Italy but also the Orient and antiquity. This emblematic work of the Middle Ages thus captured this miracle of Jesus, that of the epileptic represented with a luxury of detail that commands admiration. The scene takes place not outside but on the threshold of a synagogue evoked by a rich temple with slender vaults. Lapis lazuli competes with carmine red in shimmering colors highlighting the abundance of details of this impressive scene. The Jews are depicted as Ottomans while the sick young man dressed in rags writhes in pain and convulsions. An evil spirit hovers over him, turned towards Christ who tells him to get out of the body of the child whom his father is barely supporting because he is so desperate… This artistic evocation succeeded in a short space of time in representing the essential, Jesus came to earth to convert the hearts of women and men and save them from all their evils… 

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