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Jesus, I know you can, but would you heal me, too? Jesus, I know you answer prayers, but would you answer mine too?--Here's a story that addresses those thoughts.
Jesus was preaching in synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. Now a leper came to Jesus imploring Him, kneeling down to Him, and saying, "If You are willing, you can make me clean."
Then Jesus, moved with compassion*, stretched out His hand and touched him. Jesus said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed. As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
Jesus strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded."
However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Mark 1:39-44 NKJV, condensed___________________________________________________________________________ Jesus, If You WilI . . . I Know You Can!
A crowd of people and a man with leprosy just don't mix. Lepers were outcasts. Deformed and nasty to look at, they were scary. Because it was contagious and there was no known cure, leprosy was the most dreaded of all diseases at that time. The disease attacked the skin, both tissue and nerves. It caused ulcers and white scaly scabs. Body parts wasted away.
In addition to the physical disfiguration, lepers were forced into social isolation. Separated from the rest of the population, they lived alone or with other lepers and hid their grotesque appearance behind their clothing. As a precaution when close to "normal" people, lepers were required to call out and identify themselves as unclean.
This man was full of leprosy. How he pushed his way through the crowd without being identified, or how many people he touched in the process--these were some big concerns which helped to make this a memorable incident. People must have been frightened by the thought: he may have touched me! There would have been shock and horror on many faces. Lepers were to stay away and they knew that.
This one had faith and it made him bold. Having moved quickly to get to Jesus before anyone knew what was happening, he suddenly plunged into view and fell at the feet of Jesus. Picture in your mind a disheveled homeless person, the most deformed person you ever saw, the fear of a contagious disease and the odor of wasted flesh; now roll all those images into one person and you will have some sense of what the people in the crowd saw before them.
"Jesus, if you are willing you can make me clean." What kind of statement is that! Had he rehearsed the line and in his excitement gotten some words mixed up? The leper had taken a big risk. Jesus might say no, and then he would be in very big trouble.
The man had lots of faith, and that's what propelled him onto center stage. The "if" for him was not whether Jesus could, but whether Jesus would. As it turned out, Jesus was willing. That meant it was Jesus' turn to take a risk. Jesus reached out and touched the man full of leprosy, and immediately the man was a leper no more.
I can hear a great hush come over the crowd. Utter amazement. Mouths dropping; breath being sucked in. Whispers of, "Did you see that!" I envision the healed man examining his wonderful new skin, more beautiful than the skin of anybody in the crowd. I can feel the satisfaction Jesus received from freeing this man from the bondage of his leprous body.
When the initial silence broke and action resumed again, Jesus instructed the man to be quiet about his healing. Just show yourself to the priest and do what the Law requires. God, the giver of good gifts, has healed you; that is enough.
Word of this healing spread, it was bound to. One miracle begets many more. So many people, so many diseases, so many lives needing God's grace. Jesus gave all he had, and when all was exhausted, he withdrew into the solace of the wilderness.
Jesus had come to proclaim the good news of "the year of the Lord." Miracles do that so well. With each healing, the body, mind and spirit is restored. Our once-to-be-pitied but not-any-more leper was restored to the community, to his family, to the living of his life. A day, a year, a life of jubilee--according to one's faith, it will be so.
*Some translations use the word "pity" instead of compassion. Some Bibles include a footnote saying that a correct translation of the word compassion in this instance is "anger". That gives the sentence an entirely different meaning. Why would Jesus be angry as he reached out to the leper? Was he angry about what the leper said? At the situation? At the callousness of a society that allows such a horrible existence? Whatever it was, this healing aroused Jesus' passion in a way that many other miracles did not.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe someone who, for you, is difficult to look at. As you think about that person, what emotions do you feel?
What are some of the most dreaded diseases of our day? Do you have a loved one with such a condition? If so, are there any signs of remission or cure? Some hope? If the illness is terminal, how does that impact your family?
Are there any diseases or health issues today which carry a stigma? What reactions do people have toward sufferers of those conditions? How does our society discriminate against people with health problems? The leper in this story may have questioned his worthiness. Had you met him on the streets of Capernaum, would you have thought his life worth saving? Have you ever noticed that a person's health problems affected their self-image? If so, share an example. How did the man with leprosy help in his own healing?"Jesus, if you are willing you can make me clean." Play with that sentence a little, looking for other possible ways to interpret what he was saying. Lord, make me clean.--Is this a universal cry of mankind? "God, I know you can help me; but I don't know if you will." When have you felt that way? Are we able to do anything to make God willing? How can we become partners with God in answering our prayers?
Was Jesus subject to leprosy like anyone else? Did you ever take a risk when you touched someone?
React to the thought that Jesus felt angry during his encounter with the man who was full of leprosy. Could that be? If so, what exactly sparked that anger? Is there such a thing as holy anger? Are you ever angered by things that happen in our world? What makes you angry? Has your anger ever moved you to take positive action?Jesus went off to the solitude of the wilderness to pray. Where do you go to pray?