by Glenn Pettit
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1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.
2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Take a look at the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and think about it for a moment:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
Now, do you see any time in that prayer that we are to say "if it is Your will" or "if You are willing"? No, you don't. In fact, if you look at all the times Jesus healed people, all the times He spoke to people about salvation, there was not one instance of Him saying "if the Lord is willing." The ONLY time that Jesus ever hints that something may not be the Lord's will is in the garden of Gethsemane, a passage we all ought to know quite well.
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
That is the only time we see that something may not have been the Lord's will. Understandably, Jesus would rather have accomplished the salvation of all humanity with something other than the bitter cup of His death, and yet, as He said, the Father's will must be done. Why, then, do we ever doubt if something is the Lord's will? Why do we hem and haw and make excuses for our Almighty God? Today's verses from the Gospel of Matthew ought to serve to remind us that our Lord is ALWAYS WILLING.
Lepers have always been shunned by society. The disease of leprosy is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium leprae), and although most people have a natural immunity, it is still contagious, and if untreated it can lead to terrible wounds and disfigurement. Today, with proper treatment, a person with leprosy can lead a relatively normal life. But back in Jesus' day, there were no antibiotics and steroids to heal the lepers, and so they were segregated from society to keep the infection from spreading. Worse yet, under Mosaic law, lepers were considered "unclean," and so they were rejected from the temple and from worship.
Having been rejected for so long, living on society's fringes, the leper's natural reaction is to ask if the Lord is even willing to cleanse him. After all, most people would never approach a leper, and certainly no priest would risk becoming ceremonially unclean by touching a leper. Could you imagine if a leper went to the pool of Bethesda to see if he could be healed in those waters? There would have been a riot! Lepers weren't even allowed within the city gates, much less allowed near the temple or a place of healing. It is no wonder the man asked if the Lord was even willing to cleanse him, to come near enough to heal him.
It is interesting to note that, of all the healings Jesus did, this is the only man who asks to be CLEANSED or purged of his disease, not just healed. This man wants to be cleansed of that which has kept him from being able to worship the Lord his God.
And Jesus responds very simply by TOUCHING him and saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."
Yes, Jesus, the spotless and utterly clean Lamb of God touched a leper! Contrary to traditional beliefs, in touching the leper, Jesus did not take on his "unclean" state. Quite the opposite: Jesus' own cleanliness purged the disease from this man's body and made him clean, too.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
This man may have been unclean of body because of his disease, and he may have been unclean of soul because of unconfessed sins, but because he believed in Jesus as the One who could cleanse him, Jesus was willing to heal him, body and soul.
54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55 "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
56 "And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."
58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Just as belief and prayer calls the Lord's will and power to heal us, so, too, does unbelief cause the Lord to turn away. Now, we are not talking here about whether or not we have ENOUGH faith. We are talking about the difference between those who believe in Christ and those who reject Him. We are talking here about apostasy--claiming to believe in Jesus with our words and rejecting Him with our hearts. We must be like the man whose child was afflicted with a demon, realizing our double-mindedness and coming to the Lord and saying to Him, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
I wish I understood the will of God so well as did His Son. I wish I knew those cases when God was delaying our hope just to be glorified even more by miracles, signs, and wonders. But even though I do not know those things, I remain steadfast in my hope, knowing that the testing of my faith produces perseverance and character and even more hope. (Romans 5:3-4) I am built up in the Lord even as I await His cleansing for my own or others' troubles. I pray for healing for my friends and family, even as I know that God is most concerned about forgiving our sins, cleansing us of that which prevents us from worshiping Him and glorifying Him in our lives.
And when He has cleansed us, what then?
And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
Our first priority is not to glory in our healing but to give glory to the Lord our God for His abundant mercy, to offer Him our thanks and our praise, to lift Him up and, most importantly, to stay true to this newly-cleansed life in which we now stand. Jesus told the leper to show himself to the priest. Why? So that God would be glorified, so that those who minister before the altar of God would know that He lives and works in their midst, so that the priest would see the truth of the testimony of God's salvation.
Note, too, that the leper was not to TELL anyone anything, but only SHOW himself, his body being the living testimony of God's grace upon Israel and all mankind. We can TALK all we want about how Jesus has washed us clean of our sins, but unless we LIVE that life, unless others see us embody that cleanliness and offer our sacrifices to God, then our testimony means nothing. It is our cleansed lives that become the living testimony of our faith, the living example of what God can do to change lives and heal hearts.
Jesus is always willing--always willing to heal, always willing to forgive, always willing to take our burdens upon Himself. He was even willing to take our sins and bear them upon the Cross for our salvation. That is the willingness of a God who truly loves His people, who truly wishes all men to repent and join Him in eternal life. We must have faith not only in God, not only in His power, not only in His majesty, but mostly in His willingness to act on our behalf.
6 Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
When some people brought to Jesus a paralyzed man on his bed, Jesus said to him, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." (Matthew 9:2) Jesus has come to forgive, to pardon us for our sins, to take them and nail them to the Cross for all time. He has given us an opportunity for a whole new life to live to the glory of our Father in heaven. We need but seek Him, find Him while we still can before the Judgment, forsake our unrighteous ways, and call out to Him to cleanse us. Jesus Christ is willing. Are we?
Holy Lord God, I praise You for Your willingness--Your willingness to love us even as we stumble and fall, Your willingness to lift us up even as we struggle in Your grasp, Your willingness to send Your only Son to die for us, Your willingness to grant us eternal life because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Your grace is sufficient, Lord--sufficient to cleanse us, sufficient to heal us, sufficient to keep us bound to the hope of the gospel. Please, Father, help our unbelief and cleanse us--this people, this nation, this world. Purge us of all unrighteousness so that we may always live for You. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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