Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two Words

I was doing reading my bible before bed, (trying to re-read the gospels this month) and I was just passing through Matthew 8 which starts off with a very short story regarding a leprous man who asked Jesus for healing. I must have read that story thousands of times by now, I'm sure it must have been referenced or used as an illustrations in thousands of sermons I've either heard or written (not that i've written thousands of sermons, but I digress) and something caught my attention. At first glance, it seems so common, so plain, but then I read it again and this thought took hold of my brain: Have you ever noticed how the leper asked Jesus for healing?

     The statement itself gets lost in the magnitude and magnificence of Jesus healing a man from a torturous sentence. Now, wether you believe that the man had actual leprosy or some other form of skin disease, is really besides the point, and I really don't want to get into what the Hebrew meaning of the word Tzara'at or if the greek lepra was used correctly. what really astounded me was the way this man asked for his miracle. Take a look at it in Matthew 8:1-4, if you want and see what you can glean from it. In verse 1the man says to Jesus "if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean."(NLT) Did you catch it? lets see it again with some underline help "if you are willing, YOU CAN heal me and make me clean." did you see it now?
    "…You can…" Those two words triggered something in my brain, it is such and astounding statement to make! to me, there is so much confidence, so much boldness in these words! He was not inquiring if Jesus had the power to heal him, but it seems like he already knew it in his heart and believed it so much that his faith was brimming out into his words. If it were most people, that statement would read " if you are willing CAN YOU make me clean?" and I think you would agree that this is accurate, since most times we ask the Lord for something but in the back of our minds there is this hidden cloud of doubt, this residue of cynicism that hinders us  from making bold statements like this mans.
There is no scepticism, no reservation, but just the resolute hope that this Nazarene could heal him. His faith ran so deep that poured out of his words almost as if he had made up his mind that this Jesus was no regular professional healer (which there were many at the time) nor was he someone trying to sell something. I would propose for your thinking that this mans statement is more profound than the healing itself. I'm not downplaying healing, just so we are clear. I believe Jesus heals today, I have seen it, experienced it and know healing to be real; However, in this instance I can't help but think that the seemingly simple reordering of two words can be a much greater miracle than a supernatural act of healing.

   Think about the situation that man was in. Leprosy was no laughing matter to any Israelite, in fact one could argue that it was a fate worse than being imprisoned in the darkest and deepest of dungeons. If a person found some sort of skin problem in their body, there were supposed to be examined by the priests who would quarantine the person for 7 days, then re-examined and if it was found to be a serious skin decease that person would be declared ceremonially unclean, have to tear their clothes, uncomb or uncover their hair, shout "unclean!" wherever they went and live in isolation out side of any encampment or city. (Leviticus 13:45) that person would only be welcomed back AFTER they were re-examined, went through the ceremonial cleansing ritual (Leviticus 14) and were declared ceremonially clean by the priest. Until then that person was an outcast, doomed to die alone and to wonder in shame, having people chase them off, have kids throw stones at them, be insulted and cursed, and worse yet, be labelled as someone who was being judged by God for some great sin.

  This man chose to not accept the fate that the world had assigned for him. Somehow, he heard about or saw the miracles Jesus did. His faith grew bolder, to chance a trip into a crowd, into a place where he would be chased away with rocks and quite possibly be killed for deifying the law! But I believe he believed in Jesus. he believed with everything he had in his body that there was something different about this man. He was no ordinary professional healer. This man would gamble with his life for a chance to kneel before Jesus and say with all the faith in his soul "I believe!!! I believe in You, Jesus!!! will you affirm my faith by healing my body? I know you can do it! I know who you really are! I believe!" this, I believe, is the greater miracle. A man who was doomed to die alone, to never know human contact again, that was to be reviled until he breathed his last breath and whose ears would be filled with the sounds of mocking, cursing and horror, a man that was broken and ground lower than dust decided to place his trust, his faith, his future and his very life into the hands of Jesus. Now that is a miracle, the physical healing, then was simply a perk. an affirmation of the mans faith, a testimony for the ages.

   This mans' was brought out of the gloom of death to be a beacon not only of God's great mercy and healing power, but also that stalwart faith can keep the flames of hope alive though any wisp of doubt or torrential negativism would snuff it out. Jesus went as far as making sure the man was legally restored under the law of moses and before the priests by sending him to be examined and fulfill the ceremonial cleansing ritual (Leviticus 14, read it it wasn't simple or easy and you should read about it). I like to think that maybe a priest had not given this man any hope, but rather yoked him with the burden of the law and cast him out, and perhaps this former leper stood before the same priest and said "see?! I am healed! the Lord made me clean!" and perhaps somewhere in his heart that priest was moved, repented and rejoiced with the former leper as he reinstated him back to his family and society.

If you read this far, I commend you and would like to leave this thought for your edification: Sometimes, faith manifests itself  in the simple re-ordering of two words, the "Can You?" to the "You Can" we saw above can bring about a great transformation of the soul and that is a great miracle!