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.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
The leper had been “outside the camp,” shunned by everyday society around him because of circumstances beyond his control. Everyday he sees people who have what he doesn’t — health, companionship, comfort. He’s used to being looked down on, avoided, ignored, marginalized. That’s life as he knows it, just the way things are.
This statement he makes to Jesus is somewhat remarkable, especially considering the one who spoke it. “You can make me clean.” Here is a simple declaration of fact that Jesus has the ability to do something miraculous for him, and that both he and Jesus know and accept this.
In itself, this is rather out of the norm, as compared to, for example, the father of the boy with the seizure disorder who says to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Here is an interesting contrast. The father brings his son to Jesus and says to him, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus picks up on this wavering statement and uses it to press home an important point. “If you can…” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Jesus clearly had the ability to heal the boy, and the father had the ability to enable Jesus to do it. All that was lacking was the man’s belief that Jesus could do it.
The leper, however, expresses no doubt at all in Jesus’ ability to heal him. “You CAN do it;” his only question is, “will you do it?”
Of course Jesus was willing
Now, this may seem like an impertinent question, particularly in its implications. In effect he’s saying to Jesus, “I know you can do it, but I’m not at all sure that you will.”
It’s a challenge, and it comes directly from his life experiences. As a leper, a societal outcast, his experience has been that many can help him, but very few if any actually will. His life has been full of disappointments and disillusionment, based on seeing those who could do something for him simply avert their eyes and do nothing.
Jesus, however, meets the challenge with ease. He not only can do what the leper asks but is quite willing to do so, simply because the leper has asked him to.
A simple request granted. The healed leper’s reaction, to go out and tell everyone about his experience, is based on his amazement that Jesus had actually taken compassion on him and really done something for him – he’d been not only able, but willing.
Applying the lesson to ourselves
This brings to mind the way we bring our requests to our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We’re all really lepers ourselves, desperately in need of being cleansed and made whole. For most of us, throughout our lives our experience has been that when we turn to others for help of whatever type, we are disappointed. And we, in turn, disappoint those who come to us. Even though sometimes we can help in real, tangible ways, or at least by showing compassion, most often we’re simply not willing. We avert our eyes and turn away.
The experience has imprinted itself on us so indelibly that, I believe, most often we carry such an attitude in prayer to our Heavenly Father. When we bring our requests to Him, don’t we often say, in effect, “Lord, you can do this…….but I’m not at all sure that you will”?
For example, when we pray for Jesus to come back — do we make that request in full trust and faith that He will do it? At the most basic level, I suspect that many of us would easily say, “Father I know that you can bring Jesus back to earth and make this world into the Kingdom of God.” This belief in the omnipotent power of God the creator, to do whatever He wishes, is quite fundamental. With the leper, we could, I think, all say, “You can do it.” Or at very least, like the father of the boy, we can say, “I believe you can do it; help me overcome my unbelief.”
However, the extent to which we can say, “I know you are willing,” I know you will do as you’ve promised, I know that you will bring the glory of the Lord to the earth, you will make Jerusalem a blessing on the earth — is the measure of our faith. Abraham knew that God would continue Isaac’s life, even if he were to die. Jesus believed his Father would raise him from the dead. They were sure of what they hoped for, and certain of what they hadn’t yet seen.
All of Hebrews 11 is full of examples of men and women who had extraordinary vision and trust, which worked itself out in concrete actions in their lives. At base, they were certain that the Lord could do what He promised and what they asked for, and that He would do so. How much more joy would we give our Heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus, if we can learn to say to Him in prayer with surety and certainty, “I know that you can and I believe that you will.”