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When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
In Jesus’ time, leprosy was a death sentence in more ways than one. Certainly there was no cure, but lepers also lost their entire way of life, and their place in society. The leper in this story reached out to Jesus in desperation. He didn’t come with anger in his heart. He didn’t blame anyone else for his situation, or come with an attitude that Jesus owed him anything. He knelt before Jesus in humility, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and with genuine faith, he simply said, “if you are willing, you can…”
This is such a short passage, and yet it has so much to teach us about how to respond in our own moments of desperation. At one time or another, we all face hardship, tragedy, sickness, fear; do we get angry, or blame others? Do we try to make deals with God, or even worse, demands of Him? This leper who lived thousands of years ago got it right, and ironically, still lives on as an example to us today. In the face of his own death, the leper acknowledged who Jesus was, and understood that Jesus was his only real hope. He also knew that Jesus could heal him, but didn’t have to. The leper was searching for God’s will in his life, whether that meant healing or something else.
But asking in humility took faith. Faith to believe in God’s power and mercy; faith to believe in the benevolent will of an all powerful God; faith to accept whatever answer would come. In response to the Leper’s faith, Jesus touched him, and he was healed. But that’s not the end of the story. There was one last thing the Leper needed to do. He was told to “offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony…” He needed to give thanks for what he had received. We can only assume that he did. This is an important step that we sometimes forget, but God certainly deserves our thanks, and the act of giving thanks changes our hearts.
Lord, I am amazed by the faith of this leper. He did not yet have the knowledge we do today, of your full life’s ministry, your resurrection, and the testimonies of all who have been touched since by the Holy Spirit. Yet he saw you for who you were, he asked your will, and he was thankful for your mercy. I know that not everyone who asks will receive healing–to accept that also takes faith. Sometimes you reveal your will to us, and sometimes it remains a mystery that we can only hope will someday be explained. But in the book of Romans, we find our reassurance that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”
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