In this first article we look at the simple story of a leper being healed by Jesus and the implications arising from the story. In Part 2 we will look at some of the healing God is continuing to do in His world today to help bring us a sense of His ongoing love and power.
1]. A MAN WITH A PROBLEM. He was a leper!
Luke 5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The difficulties the leper faced
There was the danger the disease presented. Leprosy could lead to a growing numbness in the body and the risk of severely injuring limbs because they could not feel pain.
There was the isolation the disease brought. Leprosy was seen to be contagious. It meant that lepers lived isolated lives on the extremity of towns. They had to cry out “Unclean” when any one ventured near them.
There was the rejection that came from members of the general society and even from members of their own family.
On top of all this was the stigma they bore daily as unclean people. In much of the thinking of that time there was a simple equation, sickness = sin. In other words the cause of someone’s sickness was the sin they [or their parents] had committed. So for this man to be covered with an obvious disease mean that some would have seen him as a particularly evil person.
It was as though the leper was among the ‘living dead’ with little hope for any sort of future.
His reaction to Jesus
It seems that he wasted no time in approaching Jesus as He entered the town.
His attitude to Jesus was significant. He humbly fell at Jesus’ feet. Few people would have been willing to humble themselves before Jesus in this way.
His form of address to Jesus was also significant. He called Him, “Lord” [kurios]. It was a mark of respect for an important person. However it was also used for God in the Old Testament. Did he have a very high regard for Jesus? It would seem so from his statement to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He believed that Jesus had the power to heal him of his leprosy. His problem was his attitude to himself. Would Jesus be willing to heal an untouchable like himself?
It’s a question many have in today’s world when they feel dirty or unclean because of the things that happened in their past.
2]. JESUS WITH A SOLUTION TO HUMAN PROBLEMS!
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
His Words answered the man’s unspoken question. “I AM WILLING!“
His Attitude. Jesus reached out and touched the untouchable. What a great shock that would have been to people when they saw what happened.
It is encouraging and humbling to know that Jesus has the willingness and the ability to bring healing to those who need it, even to the untouchables!
3]. THE RESULT
Immediate healing. “And immediately the leprosy left him.”
The leper had been right. Jesus did have the power to heal him. Now he also knew that Jesus was willing to heal unclean people such as himself.
This was none other than a demonstration of the love, mercy and power of God.
But did Jesus always heal in this manner? It helps us to understand the true nature of healing as we see how even Jesus healed in other ways.
4]. HOW GOD HEALED THROUGH JESUS IN HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY
We see it here in this story of the leper.
But Jesus’ healings were not always immediate.
II. Gradually or in stages.
We see this in the story of the blind man at Bethsaida. Mk 8:22, “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24, He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” He was healed! By Jesus! In 2 stages!
If God healed through Jesus as His perfect instrument in more than one stage then He obviously may heal in different stages today.
III. Delayed healings
Sometimes Jesus healed at a distance. In Luke 10:13 we read that 10 lepers called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” He told them “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” We read what happened next. “And as they went, they were cleansed. “ They were healed as they moved away from Jesus [in time and space] in obedience to His words.
IV. When healing seems to be impossible
Jesus spoke to Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come out!” It was a bit difficult to say the least for someone who had been in a tomb for 4 days and whose body was in a state of decay, to ‘come out’. But ‘come out’ he did, John 11: 44 “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Humanly impossible! But possible when Jesus spoke the word of healing!
It seems that God used Jesus to heal in many different ways. But wasn’t it Jesus who did the healings? Yes it was! But He explained His ministry like this, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:10. Jesus taught and healed many people. But He said that the origin of His whole ministry was the Father who gave Him the words to say, and who worked through Him to accomplish His miracles. They were one and ministered as one.
Some have seen a great significance in Jesus’ words. What they have suggested is that God worked through His perfect instrument Jesus as PERFECT MAN rather than Jesus doing His own thing apart from God as the eternal perfect Son of God. As my New Testament teacher Dr Leon Morris wrote in one of his books, “There was no resource open to Jesus [as Perfect Man] that is not open to us.”
Does that mean that God is able to do things in today’s world that resemble what He did in the time of Jesus’ ministry? None of us could ever claim to be perfect like Jesus, the sinless one! But could God work through His [less than perfect] people today to bring such healings and blessings to needy people? He certainly worked through Paul and Peter and Stephen and others to accomplish miracles but how about lesser folk today? Perhaps He could if they were in communion with Him and open to be used by Him in His purposes.
I thought recently about the implications of these verses, Php 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul is saying that we need to work out in practice what God is inwardly working in us. He gives us the willingness and the ability to do His will, to do the things that are part of His plan and purpose for His world. Things that give Him pleasure! Might that include using imperfect but available instruments to bring His healing to needy people whom He loves?
That will be the topic in Part 2 of this 2 Part series!
Blog No 308. posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 22nd January 2019. [53rd Wedding Anniversary for Carole and me!]