Dec. 9, 2011
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosycame and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Ever been sick on Christmas? I have been a couple of times. Once when I was a teen, I remember spending most of Christmas day on the couch with a blanket. Growing up, we seldom had soda in the house. There were two times when we did: when company was coming or someone was sick. My Christmas dinner was cold 7-Up. What a treat! As an adult, I got sick on Christmas Eve. For years, long-time family friends Dick and Jean Easterson would come to my parents house after church on Christmas Eve. Because they lived inCalifornia, this was the annual time we’d catch-up with them. I tried to enjoy their company that night, but after awhile, my upset tummy won out. I spent most of the night in the bathroom, praying for healing. I didn’t want to feel crappy all Christmas Day.
Healing is tricky. We pray for physical healing. There are also other kinds of healing: emotional, mental, spiritual. We want healing but not the person on TV who kind of scares us. We want healing but …
Right before this passage in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus completed the Sermon on the Mount. He was near theSea of Galilee and saw great crowds interested in him. The people sat on a hillside and he taught them many counter-cultural understandings of God. We find the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of Matthew’s gospel.
At the conclusion of the sermon, Jesus is coming down the hillside when a man with leprosy kneels before him. Leporsy is an awful disease where the skin is transformed and eaten away at. When Jesus lived, folks with leprosy were required to live in areas separate from the rest of the population. They were outcasts and no one wanted to be near them, help them or see if they could be healed. We could equate the disdain for leprosy in Jesus’ day to how people first felt about AIDS when it was becoming an epidemic.
This man asked for Jesus to heal him and Jesus does. One of the many, many people the bible says Jesus healed. Another miracle by Jesus!
Before we moved to Mazomanie, Marilyn and Wil were our neighbors. One day, Wil brought over a book about running for Rick. I’m the one who read it and decided that I could run again. I’d ran on and off over the years, but never with a goal in mind other than trying to keep my weight in check. Wil inspired me to set the goal of running a marathon and complete it. Wil and I have ran a few races together. A few years ago, Wil and I ran a half-marathon inDuluth,MN. He was in his 70’s and still running half-marathons.
This year, Wil was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. He went through very aggressive treatment, being in the hospital about every three weeks while he went through various chemo cocktails. Last Friday, Wil called and shared with Rick that he’d been to the doctor last week and received a good report. His next visit to the oncologist isn’t for another three months and at this time, no more chemo! A miracle for Wil! I’m confident Wil feels like he’s gotten a wonderful Christmas a couple weeks early.
When Jesus came into this world, he came as a change-agent. He was going to do, say and be things that were unpopular and would threaten certain people. In our very imperfect world, Jesus comes to heal us in whatever way we need healing. Jesus doesn’t want us to live crappy lives.
Unfortunately, when our lives are crappy, it becomes easy to blame God for our situations. Why did God allow this to happen? It’s not fair when a young person gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. We pray and pray for healing. Sometimes it happens. Too often, we think it doesn’t.
When Mary held her new baby in her arms the night he was born, it would have been impossible for her to imagine everything this baby would accomplish. The way he would heal would have been beyond her wildest dreams. She spent most of her life trying to understand Jesus. We see Mary showing up again and again, loving her son and wanting to try and understand why he did the things he did, said the things he said, lived the way he lived. She followed him all the way to the foot of the cross he died on, still not completely understanding Jesus.
Healing is an important part of the Christmas story. When Jesus comes into our world as a baby, he brings with him the ultimate healing: healing from ourselves, from this crappy world, from everything that separates us from God. Eternal salvation becomes available for us because Jesus makes this possible for all people. Our wounds are healed by Jesus’ wounds. We know this because we know how the story ends. For Mary and the man with leprosy, healing was what would fix their crappy situation right now. It was impossible for them to understand how Jesus’ life would become the ultimate healer for them and the world.
Like the man with leprosy, too often we look at the immediate need for healing and pray for that. If healing doesn’t happen as we desire, how do we respond? Get angry? Accept this? Or can we look deeper and see that Jesus has many different kinds of healing. He comes to us in so many different ways and venues that it’s impossible for us to even understand how complex his healing is.
Do you feel the need for healing in your life this day? What is separating you from completely experiecing God’s love for you? Or do you know someone else who would benefit from Jesus’ healing touch? Pray for them. Advocate for you or someone else. Don’t give up on how Jesus can heal you. I’m guessing the man with leprosy never expected Jesus to really heal him. It was a long shot. Jesus can take the crappy parts of our lives and worlds and make sense of them. This is the kind of present Christ gives every day.
Dear God: Thank you for sending the ultimate Healer in your Son Jesus Christ. You heal us even when we don’t know we need healing. The crappy part of our lives is not more than you can handle. May we seek and receive the healing we need in our lives this day. Amen.