God Is at Work!

When he 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 cured 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.”
(Matthew 8:1-4)

It is not surprising that the first miracle Matthew records of our Lord’s ministry (although not the first miracle He performed) is the cleansing of a leper.

Sin is the leprosy of the soul, keeping us from communion with God.
Leprosy is a lot like sin. It was known at that time in history as a dire and dreaded disease and was looked down upon by the Jews as a particular mark of God’s displeasure. Lepers were banned to a life outside the city where they had no physical contact with others. They were not allowed in the temple for worship, their arms were not allowed to hug, their ears heard no conversation, and their hearts received no words of encouragement or affirmation. They were required to constantly scream out “Unclean!” “Unclean!” to warn passersby not to come near them. Sin is the leprosy of the soul, shutting us out from communion with God.
“God’s mercy is vast and beyond our comprehension. He will never reject anyone who turns to Him for mercy. Nor will He force Himself on anyone who chooses to live without Him.” -Michael Youssef

Yet Christ came to turn away the wrath of God by taking away sin. It is so fitting that the first miracle Matthew records begins with the cure of a leper. Leprosy was a disease the Jewish people knew only God could heal. This leper could not help himself.

Leviticus gives us the specifics of the Jewish Law for those who had leprosy:

“The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:45-46)

Large crowds had begun to follow our Lord immediately following the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and although our leper was banned from joining the crowds, He was quite possibly within hearing distance of Christ’s teachings. In any case, this leper approached Jesus humbly yet with a bold confidence in His ability to heal him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Luke tells us in his account of this same story, that this leper was covered with leprosy–perhaps in the final stages–and fell facedown at Jesus’ feet in his humble petition:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

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.” (Luke 5:12)

Our sweet Jesus, who never turns away any who willingly seek Him, in an act of merciful compassion reaches out and touches the untouchable and speaks these assuring words to this man’s hopeful ears: “I am willing.” Jesus, who spoke the world into being, is not only able but willing to heal this man. Indeed, our God is able!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Jesus always answers when we come to Him. If the answer is “No” when praying for a physical or spiritual healing, we can be assured that it is for a far greater “Yes” to something else, whether we can discern that or not. There is always much more going on than what our eyes perceive. God is always working whether we see His hand or not. As believers, this world is not our home, heaven is. Remember Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead for him only to die again. Whatever “thorn” He allows in our lives to remain–whether infirmity, sickness, or pain–He uses for our good.

How can we say that it is never God’s will for us to be sick if it was His will to allow His own Son to die? Like a diamond on black velvet, divine power is often best displayed against the background of human weakness. Out attitudes of acceptance of whatever is allowed in our lives points us back to knowing God always has our best interest at heart and even though we cannot understand, we can still trust Him. It is called faith. He always provides the grace sufficient to meet each need He allows in our lives.

Take It to Heart

“What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well of sick.”(Oswald Chambers)

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