Words of Jesus – I Am Willing

Large crowds followed Jesus as He came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Him and knelt before Him. “Lord,” the man said, “if You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

~ Matthew 8:1-4 NLT ~

Image Credit: http://www.idri.org/blog/?p=666
Image Credit:
http://www.idri.org/blog/?p=666

To understand the beauty of this passage of scripture, we need to understand the ugliness of leprosy in biblical times. To fully comprehend the magnitude and glory of this passage, we must first come to grips with the shame and disgrace of leprosy…

Leprosy was very common in biblical times — much more so than it is today, although people still get the disease even in this day and age. Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes horrible disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage. Some leprosy sores look like large, painful open blisters or ulcers, but they are not painful, even when pricked with a needle, because the person with leprosy has lost their sense of feeling where those sores are. Still other manifestations of leprosy may have pale spots or even what  looks like ringworm with a loss of feeling. Lepers (those with leprosy) may have thick, square earlobes, thick eyebrows, and deformed hands and feet.

Image Credit: http://www.reocities.com/capitolhill/6502/mother.htm
Image Credit:
http://www.reocities.com/
capitolhill/6502/mother.htm

Leprosy effects the skin, a person’s peripheral nerves (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord), the thin tissue lining inside a person’s nose, and the eyes. The first thing someone usually notices is when the person’s skin becomes disfigured with open sores, pale patches of skin, and lumps and bumps. The person with leprosy will also notice that those disfigurements on their skin have little or no feeling. 

This disease is not physically painful, and here lies one of the greatest problems with leprosy. Because a person with leprosy feels no pain in those areas, where the leprosy has attacked his/her body, he/she may injure him/herself without being aware of it, which can lead to infection, and in some cases, loss of fingers, toes, and even whole limbs.

Leprosy
Image Credit:
http://www.bilkent.edu.tr/~bilheal/
aykonu/ay2007/ocak07/leprosy.html

Leprosy is a horrible, ugly and debilitating disease, which at one time had no cure, unless God worked a miracle in someone’s life. Nowadays, leprosy can be cured, usually with antibiotics that may have to be taken for six months to one year, and sometimes even longer for more severe cases. Steroids and anti-inflammatory medication is given to treat the swelling that appears with leprosy, and a drug called thalidomide is used to treat skin nodules, because it suppresses the body’s immune system. This was just a brief overview of what leprosy is, to help you understand what the bible is talking about when it refers to lepers. To read more about the disease, you may go to The Leprosy Mission International.

Image Credit: http://diseasespictures.com/wp-content/ uploads/2012/11/Leprosy-9.jpg
Image Credit:
http://diseasespictures.com/wp-content/
uploads/2012/11/Leprosy-9.jpg

In biblical times, a leper was considered unclean. A person with leprosy was forced to live outside the camp. The leper’s clothes were to be torn, and he/she was to cover his/her upper lip, and shout out, “Unclean! Unclean!” They were forced to live apart from their families, and they weren’t even allowed to come within six feet of another person, and if the wind was blowing, the leper wasn’t even allowed to come within one hundred and fifty feet of another person.

Can you imagine how frightening and shameful it must have been to discover the telltale spot or blemishes on yourself? It must have been terrifying for a man or a woman to discover those horrible sores on him/herself, knowing that it would ultimately mean being cast out of the camp, forever separated from your family and your friends, destined to live alone, or among the other leprous outcasts, whom you had shunned just yesterday.  Can you imagine the shame of tearing your clothes, and letting  your hair hang loose, covering your upper lip, as you shouted, “Unclean! Unclean!” Can you imagine  how lowly the lepers must have felt? Can you imagine how hopeless they must have felt?

Image Credit: http://risingstaroutreach.org/ menu/about-leprosy.php
Image Credit:
http://risingstaroutreach.org/
menu/about-leprosy.php

Put yourself in their place, and just try to imagine how they must have felt… Now imagine watching as this Man they called Jesus healed sick people, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and voices to the mute. Imagine watching from the required distance, as a lame man suddenly got up at Jesus’ command, and began walking and leaping and praising God! One poor leper listened to the words of love that this Jesus spoke, and he saw all of those healings, and he was so tired of being an outcast. He felt as though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he wore his tattered and torn clothes, covering his upper lip and shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!” It broke his heart, as he watched his wife and child from a distance, and they would leave food for him outside the city gate, being careful not to speak to him. Can you imagine how he must have felt, when his loved ones lowered their eyes in shame, as he walked by shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!”?

Now, as Jesus came walking down the mountainside, he had to take a chance. It was now or never. He could be killed for daring to approach Jesus and speak to Him, but really, what did he have to lose anyway? Wasn’t he as good as dead to everyone he loved anyway? And so, with his heart pounding loudly, the man with leprosy approached Jesus and knelt before Him.

“Lord,” the man said, “if You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean.”

~ Matthew 8:2b NLT ~

What great faith that man had, as he knelt there and made that proclamation. He just knew that Jesus could heal him if He wanted to. What happens next is the unthinkable. It was not what the man expected…

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

~ Matthew 8:3-4 NLT ~

Do you see what happened? I’m not talking about the healing — I’m talking about what happened before Jesus healed him. Do you see it? Jesus reached out and touched him! He did what no one else had done to that man for who knows how long. He touched him. He didn’t make him shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” He didn’t turn his head away and pretend not to see him. He reached out and touched him, and He spoke these words… “I am willing. Be healed!” I wonder what that man felt as Jesus reached out and touched  him. Jesus didn’t flinch. He wasn’t disgusted and repulsed at the sight of him. He did the unthinkable. Jesus touched him, and then He healed him. 

Cheryl - Grade 3_v1
Cheryl – Grade 3

Do you know what it’s like to be rejected? Do you know how it feels to spend your life as an outcast, feeling unloved and unwanted? Do you know how it feels to have people look at you, and then look away in disgust? Do you know how it feels to have people, both adults and children laughing at you and making fun of the way you look? Do you know what it’s like to feel as though you’re inferior to everyone else?

Do you know what it feels like to be isolated from others? Do you know what it’s like to long for someone to love you, to touch you, to smile at you? Do you know what it’s like to yearn for someone to hold you close and love you, no matter what you look like or what you’ve done? Do you know what it’s like to try really hard to win someone’s approval, only to fall short?

Cheryl - Grade 6
Cheryl – Grade 6

I know what it’s like to be a little girl, who couldn’t do anything right. I know what it’s like to be a little girl with big buck teeth that would rival Bugs Bunny’s in a mouth that was way to small to hold them in. I know what it was like to be rejected by my classmates, because I was uglier than they were, and because I was always in trouble for one reason or another. I know what it was like to be rejected by my teachers, because I was “whiny” and my voice was nasal, and because, “Cheryl just doesn’t apply herself. She’s lazy.” I know what it was like to receive beatings for my laziness, and to be punished for nine weeks at a time, from report card to report card, when I received a bad grade, until the next report card came out, and my grades improved.

Cheryl - Grade 7
Cheryl – Grade 7

I know what it’s like to lay in my bed at night, crying, because nobody likes me. I know what it’s like to lay weeping in my bed at night, because I made my mommy and daddy mad at me again. I know what it’s like to hear my parents tell me that they are ashamed of me, and how they wish that no one knew that I was their daughter. I know what it’s like to wish I was dead, or that I’d never been born.

I don’t pretend to know what it is to suffer from leprosy, but I do know what it is to be rejected and ostracized. I do know what it’s like to be hated for how you look, and I know that many of you who are reading this post have experienced the same feelings. Many of you have experienced the same type of emotional and spiritual pain that the lepers and I have experienced, and many of you are experiencing the pain I am describing right now, even as you read this post. 

My beloved readers, I’ve got good news to share with you. You see, just as Jesus touched that leper and said that He was willing to heal him, He also touched me, and healed me from the emotional and spiritual pain that I suffered. And just as He touched me and healed me, so He wants to touch you and heal your pain. He’s just waiting to hear you cry out to Him, “Heal me Lord and save me!” 

My friend, Jesus knows the pain you’ve suffered. He understands the rejection you’ve suffered, because He too suffered pain and rejection, and He was with you each and every time someone hurt you. He loves you, and just as He was willing to heal the leper and me, He is willing to heal you, if you will allow Him to heal you.

This is my prayer for each and every one of you who have been rejected, abandoned, despised and ridiculed…

Father, You are the God of all comfort, and Lord, in Jesus’ name, I pray that just as Jesus touched the unclean leper, and just as You touched me, You would also touch each reader of this post. I pray that You would gather them into Your arms of love, and that You would speak healing to their souls.

Lord, I pray that You would heal them, and set them free from all bitterness, shame and pain, in Jesus’ name. Please draw them to You, and deliver them. I pray, Lord, that You would cleanse each person, just as You cleansed me, and that You would reveal Your great love to each one who reads this post, so that they will realize and understand how long and how wide, how high and how deep Your love for them really is. 

Lord, in Jesus’ name, please reveal to each reader how precious they are in Your sight. Lord, let them look into their mirror, and see themselves as You see them, not as the world sees them, and not as they see themselves. Let them see themselves as they can be, if they will give themselves to You. Restore their hope, Lord, and let them know the true joy that comes from being in Your presence, in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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