A leper approaches Jesus amidst great crowds. An outcast. Banished from society. Unable to have anyone near him, much less touch him. It is humiliating, but he is desperate. Full of sores, weary from living this hard and lonely life, he kneels before Jesus.
“Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he says. (Matthew 8:2)
Lord, if you are willing.
This man has no doubt Jesus is worthy of worship; no doubt Jesus CAN heal him. He just isn’t sure if Jesus is willing for reasons beyond his understanding.
Jesus replies, “I will; be clean.” With those words the man could be healed and cleansed, but Jesus shows even greater compassion. Jesus stretches out His holy hand and touches him. Likely the first touch this man has felt in a very long time. Immediately, the man is cured and cleansed.
Lord, if you are willing.
In this story, Jesus was willing and able. The healing came.
Fast forward to Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. In agony, He prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
We all know how this story ends. Jesus dies. God could have removed the cup. Jesus could have saved Himself. But Jesus was the one willing…willing to die for us on his own accord (John 10:11-18). It was plan A and the only way to save us.
Lord, if you are willing.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul recalls… “ So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.;”
Three times Paul pleads for healing. But the suffering continues.
It is tempting to look at the leper’s story in Matthew and declare, “Yes! The Lord is willing. We will ALWAYS be healed if we sincerely come to Him and ask.”
The truth is, in this human, temporary realm on earth, we may not be. The Lord is able, but due to surpassing knowledge we don’t have, He is not always willing. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because He sees a bigger plan.
That is a hard truth to type because we want to pretend everything is rosy when we follow Jesus. But even in this chapter of Matthew Jesus is wanting us to be sure we understand the cost of following Him.
After the leper is healed Jesus tells him to say nothing to anyone about it; to keep quiet. (Matthew 8:4) Jesus knows followers will come for the healing. And the healing is an incredible thing…but it isn’t THE THING.
Jesus is the thing.
If we sign up to be a follower, we are following Jesus, not miracles. Yes, miracles will and do come. And after this time on earth in our human bodies, we will be living in an eternal miracle fully healed, cleansed and free. But not always now.
Here is the important thing to know: God IS in the healing business. If it is what is best for us and God’s kingdom, He will heal immediately with joy. But His plans are bigger than our plans. He knows and sees more than we do. He knows what is best, even if it is painful in the moment. He is after our healing in more ways that we know…it just might look different than we imagine
God isn’t seeking popularity, celebrity status, or a following of miracle-only seekers. He is looking for followers, disciples, fellow warriors. Who do you choose to follow? Count the cost.
In the Old Testament, Daniel and his friends counted the cost and declared it worth it… “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18)
But if not…If the outcome doesn’t look like we hope or think it should, we are still all in. We won’t deny our God.
Salvation is worth it. Eternity is worth it. Living with the Holy Spirit in us is worth it. But it isn’t glitz, glam and ease. It is reliance on Jesus as Savior and Lord. Confident He is all powerful and all knowing. Trusting He is full of love and goodness. God’s will is worth seeking even if it goes against everything our will is crying out for.
As Paul says regarding his thorn not being removed, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
If you are in a deep healing seeking place, I pray that God will fully heal you. But if He doesn’t, I pray that you draw nearer to Him that ever before, and like Paul and Jesus, I pray you know without a doubt that His plans are good and He loves you so very much. He looks forward with anticipation to your forever healing and life with Him.
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