Jesus performed many miracles during His three years of public ministry. He healed people who suffered from illness, pain, and evil spirit. He gave eyesight to the blind, made the paralyzed to walk again, gave hearing to the deaf, and raised the dead (Luke 7:21-22). All these miracles deliver the common message. It is that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah of world. Today’s passage also shows that Jesus is the son of God, Christ.
Today I want to give a thought on Jesus’ messages through His healing of a leper. To better understand today’s passage, I brought a picture of a leper. He is 24 years old. The leprosy is one of the difficult disease even now. Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
In the biblical times, people of leprosy were treated harshly (the Levites) because of their strong contagiousness. They had to be isolated from family and society. When they were cured, they can resume normal social life only after his condition was confirmed by priests (Mark 1:44). They have to live away from the loved ones and live like the sinner of the heaven. People look at them with contempt and treat them as if they are unbearable to look at. Lepers had bigger scars in mind than in body. Likewise, the leprosy was a dreadful disease that changes one’s life totally.
Naturally people of leprosy are eager to do anything only if they could live a normal life again with the loved ones, if they can escape from the curse. How much do they wish to be healed! Verse 40 shows their sincerity. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees. A leper came forward to Jesus and eagerly asked Him. His acts of kneeling might look as if he was praying or worshiping Jesus. He was seeking salvation from critical crisis in life.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
First message I want to share with you is in the leper’s attitude. He didn’t give up hope for healing. He sincerely wished to be healed.
While it seems natural for the leper to be persistent and courageous because they were in desperate situation, many people do not seem to have such quality in times of trouble. Not like the leper, many people give up hope in times of despair. They say, ‘I wish this moment passes quickly. I wish this cursed moment passes soon” Some will comfort themselves, “Time heals all wounds.” And we also comfort others, saying “all will pass in the end.” Of course such words pacify us. However, time doesn’t heal all wounds.
For lepers, time is not on their side. There is no guarantee that they will be cured when time passes. They would get mad if some try to comfort them, saying “Time heals all wounds.” In fact, many troubles in life are not solved even though time passes.
Here I want to ask several questions to you. What do you do in times of crisis and despair? What do you do when you are in a situation like the leper? What do you do if you wish to just pass this unbearable moment? What do you do when you are abandoned and isolated from your loved ones? What do you do when you feel uncomfortable with others’ looks? What do you do when everyone happens to know your shameful mistakes and weakness?
When hearts sink in despair and hopeless sorrow, everyone has the same thought, ‘I wish this moment passes quickly. I wish this cursed moment passes soon” Some will comfort themselves, “Time heals all wounds.” And we also comfort others, saying “all will pass in the end.” Of course such comforting words pacify us. However, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Sometime it can be a poison.
The leper in today’s passage wholeheartedly wished to be healed and didn’t give up. Likewise, we shouldn’t lose hope and give up in times of crises. It is not easy to do so. However, we will have a chance as long as we don’t give up.
We need courage to overcome despair.
We need to learn the leper’s courage. The leper in today’s passage walked forward to Jesus with a hope for healing. It requires a great courage to do so. It is courage if one can admit and reveal one’s weakness before others. Was Jesus alone when the leper knelt and begged? No. Matthew 8:1-2 recorded that Jesus was not alone but surrounded by the large crowd. What does it mean? The leper in today’s passage revealed his deformed and ugly face in front of many people. He showed his weakness before not just one people, but hundreds of people. He could be persecuted and stoned for violating rules. Nevertheless, the leper knelt because he had courage and sincere wish to be healed.
Here we should remember that the leper might have been humiliated for a moment but he was cured in the end. It means that we should have courage to reveal our weakness in public to overcome despair like the leper.
Revealing weakness in public is not easy to Koreans because I think we are raised with a training to hold tears. We have learned that we have to pretend nothing happened even during the hardship. A song in Korea explains our mind well, ‘I will not cry even though I am lonely and sad,’ I will hold and hold tears.’ We are afraid that we might be ridiculed if we recognize our weakness. So it is difficult to reveal our pain, sadness and weakness to others. However, today’s biblical reading teaches us that we will overcome despair if we have courage to reveal weakness before others.
If our persistent problems are solved, if we are healed, it is okay to be humiliated for a moment. We don’t need to pretend holy any more. To overcome despair we have to be courageous like the leper. We should be able to express our sadness when we are sad. We need to be courageous to confess our weakness and mistakes. And we have to kneel before Jesus like the leper in today’s passage.
We encounter many crisis in life. Sometimes we are wrongly accused and misunderstood. At those times we will fell into despair and distress. We want to avoid others’ looks. We want to hide our weakness and mistakes as long as possible. We want to live away from everyone believing time will heal all wounds. However, problems are not solved when time passes. If you want to get better, if you want to solve your problems, we should be prepared to reveal our weakness. We should be ready to be humiliated. And we should kneel. Then we can get better. Then our problems will be solved. Do not give up. Kneel before the Lord. This is what Gods wants from us.
Secondly, the leper believed that Jesus has the power to heal him. Where does his faith come from? At that time lepers were quarantined. So the leper in today’s passage had little chance to witness Jesus’ previous miracles. Then, how did he know Jesus and believe in His power? It might be that he came to believe in Jesus when he accidently overheard His miraculous works. He had hope and longed to meet Jesus. He had faith that Jesus would heal him just like He healed others. Remember he had faith upon only hearing others’ testimony.
The bible is full of stories about other people, and stories happened in the past. So some think that Jesus’ miraculous works such as healing the deaf, the blind, the limp, and the dead are lies. They argued that they cannot believe such stories without witnessing them in their own eyes. However, others think, ‘I will be healed if those in the bible were healed.’ They believe that stories in the bible could happen to themselves. They grow faith in reading the stories of the bible.
The leper in today’s passage was among those who believe others’ testimonies. He heard that Jesus healed many people. He believed and accepted that other people’s miracle can happen to him. He believed that if Jesus heals other people, He could heal him. Though he didn’t witness Jesus’ work, he believed in Him upon hearing about Him.
Faith comes by hearing. In fact, miracles happen even now all over the world. The blind gets eyesight back. The deaf gets hearing back. When we hear the testimonies of faith, we should be able to grow faith. I hope you and I could kindle faith upon hearing testimonies. I hope you and I could believe in Jesus like the leper, who believe in Jesus without seeing Him.
Thirdly, the leper puts the Lord’s will first before his will. Even though he strongly desired to be healed, he asked Jesus’ will first. Let us look at verse 40, A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The leper wants to be clean. He had faith that Jesus can heal him. So the leper courageously showed his disfigured face in public. He could be stoned or cursed for violating the rules. How shall he seek Jesus?
‘Lord, I want to get better. You have to fix me. So I can save my face.’ Don’t we pray like that? I often pray, ‘lord, please answer my prayer fast. I feel shameful if you don’t answer my prayer right away. I will fast if you don’t listen now. I will be sulky if you don’t answer my prayer. Lord, please hear my prayer, okay?’ Instead of asking God’s will, I often put my will first in prayers.
The leper didn’t put his own will first. Instead, he asked Jesus’ will. ‘If you are willing, make me clean.’ He wants to know Jesus’ will. Can you pray like him? Lord, if you are willing, please solve problems. Can we ask God’s will and wait for the response? I think the leper was a very considerate person. ‘If you are willing’ we should pray like him. We should seek Jesus’ will first before our wish.
Faith pleases the Lord.
Verse 41 records the Lord’s response, “Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Jesus felt the leper’s burden in his mind and was moved with his sincerity. The leper’s faith moved Jesus’ mind. Indeed, faith moves the Lord’s mind. Our faith can also move the lord’s mind. When Jesus is moved, His mind will be like our mind. He becomes compassionate to us.
When the leper seeks Jesus’ will, He answered, “I am willing. Be clean!” Jesus repeated what the leper said. ‘Yes, I am willing, I know your mind well.’ Jesus liked the way the leper asked Him. And He reached out His hand and cured the leper.
The LORD’s grace is big.
Life’s burden of the leper was lifted. The cause for his sadness was gone. He was cured. He didn’t have to live away from the loved ones. He can live with the family. He can live like a normal person.
When we think, we find how thankful it is to lead a normal life. It is thankful for being able to walk through flowers, to have a person to travel together, and to have a family. It is thankful for having children, raising them and growing old. Indeed, it is thankful to lead a normal life because there are many people who envy our normal life. So we should be thankful all the time.
Think of the leper. Think of how much he felt thankful for his new life. He couldn’t hold silence. Though Jesus told him to keep secret, the news of His miracles spread fast. Take a look at verse 45, Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
There is the common characteristic of those who experience the Lord’s grace. They proudly talk about the Lord’s grace, how big His grace is to them. They repeat the testimony over and over but never feel bored. It is because their heavy burden was lifted. I pray our church experiences such a grace.
Let us conclude today’s sermon.
We encounter numerous crisis in life. There are times we cannot do anything on our own. There are problems that time cannot help, either. What shall we do? We should have sincere longing for healing like the leper. We should have a strong longing for the problems to be solved. Our ancestors had such a longing because there was no other way but God. God was the only way of life. They faced starvation if God didn’t bless them. They walked toward the Lord and knelt. God gave them grace. So we, their descendants, enjoyed abundance. However, our generation seems to forget the strong longing that our ancestor felt.
Some say to think positively in times of troubles, ‘it will be okay. Everything will be fine’ such positive words may comfort us but they are not enough. Will the leper be cured with only words ‘everything will be okay.” No way. When we have pain, we should kneel down to the Lord like the leper. Only then we can live. Our life will find the breakthrough when we rely on the Lord.
Let us go back to today’s passage. What would happen to other lepers? They might hear the news that their friend was cured. However, they all thoughts it is only the story that happened to others. They didn’t believe such a miracle could happen to them. So what happened? Nothing happened. They still lived in a life of sadness, in a life of despair. They only needed to come forward and kneel down to the LORD. But they didn’t. What a tragedy!
Our church is in need of many things. It only points that we need to kneel down. Do you have many problems at home? It is time to kneel down to the LORD. With longing mind, with faith, we should pray. Our faith will move Jesus’ mind. And we should ask the Lord’s guidance as the leper asked Jesus’ will first.
The Lord is moved by our faithful mind. If He is willing, He could make us clean. And He will say, I am willing. I will make you clean. I pray that this word comes true in our life.