Matthew 8:1 – 4
Matthew remembers it well. Jesus had just finished the Sermon on the Mount and was headed into Capernaum. Probably not a long walk but an eventful one all the same. Along that dusty trail sat a man living out a death sentence. This story is recounted in three of the Gospels (Matthew 8, Mark 1, Luke 5), none of them give details about this man except that he was a leper. It was the untreatable condition and thought by most to be a judgement from God on a person. It starts off as a small, harmless looking, rash and slowly spreads over the entire body. Causing open running sores, nerve damage, muscle loss and ultimately death. This was the man’s future; the only possible outcome. But he had heard stories about Jesus.
Read the tail end of Matthew Chapter 4 (verses 23 – 25). Jesus was going all over the region healing everyone and anyone brought to Him. He must be asking himself: “Why doesn’t He come to me?”. “Doesn’t He know the condition I’m in?” “Maybe it is a curse from God.” Perhaps that’s why he phrased the question the way he did. And then the man hears that Jesus is close by, teaching on a nearby mount. Capernaum is surely His next stop and he readies himself to have an audience with Jesus.
Matthew says the encounter happened “suddenly” (NLT) and it must have seemed that way to him and the others. But both Jesus and the man knew well ahead of time that it was going to happen. Matthew makes note that the leper approached Jesus. The law required that the man move well off the path when someone approached. It also specified the warning that must be shouted for all to hear “unclean!, unclean!” Yet the man did neither. He wasn’t letting Jesus pass him by so he hobbled up to him, oozing sores, atrophying muscles and knelt or as some versions say “fell” at Jesus feet. And then comes the question. “If you are willing, you can make me well”
Notice that the question isn’t can Jesus heal; it is “are you willing to”. The man had heard of His ability to heal and believed it to be true and therefore the only question he had for Jesus is not can you help but are you willing to? It’s a common question. I work a lot with addicts and alcoholics. Earthly knowledge is that addiction is an incurable disease. It may have started off small, even hamrless, but for many it grew into a life eating issue that slowly consumed them. And secular reasoning is that this disease is incurable and the best you can do is abstain and go sit in a meeting at least once a day with others who have this disease and complain. This man was living an eerily similar life. He was tired of hanging around with other lepers all day waiting for the inevitable so he asked what so many others have. And his question is one I’ve heard literally 100 times in my seven years. I cannot think of one time that I was asked “Can God heal me?” No every time it has been “Do you think He’s willing to heal me?” The crowd following stopped; the disciples stopped and every eye went to Jesus because we’ve all had the question run through our minds as well. And everyone breathlessly waits for the answer.
Verse 3 is forever etched into my brain and I hope it takes such a place in yours too, “He stretched out His hand and touched him”. God reaching down to comfort a man; being moved with compassion for someone like him; God being love.
Everyone else must have sucked in their breath. Touching a leper made you unclean. Jesus then says “I AM willing!!!” The Bible gives us many I AM statements like I AM the God who heals, I AM the God who saves and now we can add to them I AM the God that is willing. And poof the leprosy is no more. One minute he was incurable, the next he is healed! Can you imagine the relief that flooded him when he first felt “normal” again? It’s a feeling that some of us do know. Because like him, we too have gone from incurable to healed in the blink of an eye. But before we get too far along we need to address Jesus. Did you notice that there was no problem because He made the unclean, clean. And He’ll do it for you and I like He did for this man. Jesus then tells him to “go and show himself to the Priests; bring the correct sacrifice and be a testimony for them”. Jesus immediately puts him to work as an ambassador of His healing power. My Jesus will do the same for you as well. You need no fancy degree or official title to be a testimony. You already have all you need, your story. The story of when Jesus reached out to you.
It is probably apparent by now that I’m not a fan of the “addiction is a disease” concept. If it wasn’t before, let me tell you, I am not! I offer my life as a testimony that what man said was incurable; God healed! When I asked “Are you willing?” My God replied I AM willing! And my life has not been the same since. How could it? God made unclean Thom, clean and I must go and be a testimony for Him. Think I’m a fluke? I can introduce you to hundreds of others who asked and received the same answer. Yes, my God can. Yes, my God heals. And yes, my God is willing!