Both the Old Testament (O.T.) and Gospel readings for this weekend speak of men with some type of terrible, incurable skin disease (leprosy). In the O.T. reading, we meet Naaman, the wealthy, respected and influential commander of all of the Syrian armies. We can imagine that he had “tried every cure known to man” to be rid of his disease. Finally, he heard from a young Israelite captive that he could be healed if he would only visit the prophet of God (Elisha) in Israel. He went to the prophet with a “king’s ransom” to purchase his healing/restoration. (He took 10 sets of clothing; 10 talents of silver – 750 pounds, worth about $4,020,000; and 6000 shekels of gold – 150 pounds, worth about $4,137,600!) Elisha, speaking for God, told him to “Go, wash seven times in the Jordan [River], and [his] flesh would be restored and [he] would be cleansed.” (2 Kings 5:10) Reluctantly, but eventually, Naaman did as he had been instructed, and by God’s divine will and power, he was completely healed! “He went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” (2Kings 5: 14)
The second leper, the one mentioned in the Gospel lesson, came to Jesus with the same terrible malady, but with a completely different attitude and demeanor. He “came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” (Mark 1: 40) Jesus looked at the man and saw his faith, humility and need. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” (Mark 1: 41)
Jesus was willing and did cure the man completely. So, why is it that Jesus doesn’t answer every request that we have of Him? God’s will for us is always perfect; He always answers our prayers in ways that are best for us – even when we don’t see and understand His perfect, divine plan. He never gives us something that would be bad for us, or that might result in our spiritual harm! Even when our lives bring suffering, we are convinced that God is only working in us that which is for our ultimate “good.” In his suffering, the Apostle Paul wrote, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5: 3b-5) Through every circumstance and all troubles, we are convinced “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Jesus can heal every brokenness in our lives – that of body, mind, relationships and soul. With His own life He paid the price for our sin and has restored our relationship with God and with each other.
Throughout all of life, in every circumstance, may we – like the man in the Gospel – come to Jesus in humble faith, making our requests, “Lord, if You are willing… Thy will be done!” Amen!
See you in church this next weekend!
Blessings in Christ,