I was thinking about this today when preparing to write this piece…..how often have we read the Bible and come across a passage where a miracle was performed and just glossed right over it without thinking about it?
It probably happens more than we realize. At least it does for me.
One such example was recently brought to life for me in a new way. I was watching “The Chosen”, which was a wonderful show that I really enjoyed that focuses in on the life of the apostles as they discover who Jesus is and begin their walk with him. One of the scenes in the show is where Jesus heals a leper.
I’ve either read or heard about this story dozens and dozens of times but in truth I’ve always just read it and thought to myself “Wow, that’s really cool. Jesus just heals him right there like it’s nothing and he goes on his way.” But there’s a lot more to it than that.
The encounter is described in Matthew 8:1-4 after Jesus had delivered the Sermon on the Mount:
“When he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. Right away a man with leprosy came up and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Where Matthew picks things up here in chapter 8, Jesus has lots of people following him, many of whom have just heard him teach the greatest sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount.
I think to really understand the impact of what happens next, you have to understand exactly what it meant to have leprosy during those days. Leprosy was a debilitating disease that had no hope of improvement during that time. It slowly ate away at people’s bodies, leaving ugly scars and rashes and blisters. It could last many years and eventually lead to death.
Lepers were treated extremely poorly during those times. People shunned them. You were to stay six feet away from them at least (sound familiar?) and they were basically seen as subhuman. Leprosy was viewed as a punishment and a representation of sin.
This man had no hope in his life. He knew that nobody wanted to associate themselves with him. He knew that there wasn’t anything that doctors could do about his condition. And yet despite being surrounded by people who viewed him as the scum of the earth, he recognized Jesus for who he was.
His faithfulness and hope that he placed in Jesus is amazing to me. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” This man knew full well that Jesus had the ability to heal him. But he didn’t demand that Jesus do this for him. He humbly submitted to the will of his Savior.
The next few words of what Jesus did next seem so mundane, but I think they are some of the most powerful words in the New Testament and sum up exactly who Jesus is. Matthew says, “Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him.”
Think about the WEIGHT of that. Nobody wanted to even come close to this man, much less touch him. Jesus didn’t care about any of that. He willing reached out his hand to touch the man and cleanse him of his disease.
It’s no accident that Matthew used that phrase to describe the action that Jesus was taking. By touching the man, Jesus was showing him that he had power over his disease. He was different than those in society who looked down on the man and scorned him. Jesus did not have to touch the man to heal him. He’s God. He can heal him in whatever way he wants. But he purposefully chose to reach out and touch the man and show him that he was truly cleansed.
That’s an illustration of the compassion that our Savior has for all of us. Even someone who was a total outcast to the world around him was shown love and favor by Jesus Christ.
One of the main things I take away from this story is the submission to Jesus’ will by this man. He had the head knowledge that Jesus had the ability to cleanse him. But what really separated this man was his heart. He fully submitted himself and his future to the will of Jesus.
How many of us have the head knowledge of what Jesus can do and who Jesus is but don’t follow that up with a heart for submitting to the will of the Lord? How much more fruitful could our lives be if we submitted to the will of the Lord on a daily basis?
There will be times in this world, especially in today’s age, where people look down upon you because of your faith. They will scorn you. They will mock you. They will attack you for your beliefs. But the chief concern for those of us who follow Jesus should be to submit to the will of our Lord. Every time. And trust that his will is always greater than anything we could hope for on our own.