OpinionsThe ForerunnerJesus is willing

Jesus is willing


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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

Jesus had just emerged from his usual prayer time when large crowds began following him. Many of them were fascinated and intrigued. Quite a number were curious, if not, deeply suspicious.

Who wouldn’t be? His teachings were nothing they had heard of. His miracles were breathtaking. His public appeal was beyond remarkable.

As Jesus walked further away from the crowd, a leper came and knelt before the Lord. It was possible the man had concealed himself to get near enough to Jesus. As a sick person, he understood it was forbidden for him to be seen publicly.

People like him were viewed with utter disdain. They were often forced to live in dark caves — abandoned by their families, forsaken by their faith, and left to endure the excruciating pain associated with their debilitating disease.

Occasionally, the more compassionate members of the community would leave them provisions in designated outer villages. But you can only do so much. Eventually, many of them end up malnourished, emotionally-broken, and psychologically-damaged for life.

But you see, friends, there was something different about this leper. He longed for a new life. He refused to die without giving up a fight. He wanted to carve out a different destiny for himself.

In sheer desperation, ignoring extreme physical discomfort, he carefully made his way to the Lord. Once he got close enough, he knelt before Jesus and begged for his healing. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

We could only imagine what the leper must have felt as he waited for the Lord’s response. He had been rejected countless times before. Disappointment was no stranger to him. Certainly, he could just quietly go back to the cave, wallow in self-pity, and perhaps negotiate with God for an earlier death — but all that did not happen.

Jesus saw the spiritual strength beneath this man’s disfigured body. More importantly, Jesus felt the power of his faith and humility overflowing from within him. The heart of the Lord was deeply moved and then, another unthinkable thing happened.

Defying the laws of Moses prohibiting physical skin to skin contact with lepers, Jesus reached out his hand and touched this man’s flesh. He said to the leper, “I am willing. Be clean!” The response of Jesus totally blew him away. No one had ever shown him such sincere and generous compassion. He was overpowered by a love he could not fathom and a hope that filled up all the emptiness inside him. He was never the same again!

For the very first time, someone did not run away. Someone looked at him in the eye. Someone stopped to talk and listen. Someone truly cared. Someone saw him more than a diseased man but a human being who needed to be given hope, love, and sincere respect.

Friends, when our faith and the very power of the Lord come face to face, awesome things take place — healing comes, faith is restored, deep needs are met, and genuine hope is proclaimed even to the most sinful and desperately sick.

Sicknesses continue to abound today. Some affect our physical bodies making us weak and powerless, while some affect our minds and hearts like spiritual leprosy, eating us up slowly, and consuming our every inch of joy and peace.

In 1918, Lutheran theologian Dr. Theodore Graebner wrote a well-publicized article the on the “spiritual leprosy” attacking many churches during his time. He cited that in the name of self-serving interests and loyalties, Christians quickly veer away from pursuing what truly pleases the Lord and builds up the Church, thus, becoming more and more entangled with the world’s filth and stench.

Sadly, many people in our generation are in denial. We like to hide under the guise of our so-called wisdom, achievements, and conquests. We are too busy bragging about our wellness that we do not see how truly broken we have become because of our continued spiritual arrogance and apathy. O God, have mercy!

We need to open our eyes to see for ourselves our festering wounds, to realize our inability to cure ourselves, and to humbly draw near to the only One who is able and willing to make us truly whole.

How amazing it is to realize that the hope that springs from Christ is eternal! How awesome it is to know that even the most disfigured and most vile can still come to the Lord, make peace with him, and start over.

Jesus is willing; are we? Are we willing to swallow our pride to draw near to him, to beg in faith, and to believe in his all-surpassing grace and power? Let’s make up our minds because as far as Jesus is concerned, he is and will always be willing!

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