“Fred Craddock tells of a young pastor visiting an elderly woman in the hospital. The pastor finds the woman to be quite ill, gasping for breath, and obviously nearing the end of her life. In the midst of tubes, bags, and beeping medical machines, . . .
“The pastor says, ‘What would you like me to pray for today?’
“The patient responds, ‘That I would be healed.’
“The pastor gulps. . . .
“[Then he prays,] ‘Lord, we pray for your sustaining presence with this sick sister, and if it be your will, we pray she will be restored to health and to service. But if it’s not your will, we certainly hope she will adjust to her circumstances.’ . . .
“Immediately after the pastor puts an amen on this safe prayer, the woman opens her eyes and sits up in bed. Then she throws her feet over the side and stands up. . . .
“Before the pastor can react, the woman walks over to the door, pulls it open, and strides down the hospital corridor. The last thing the pastor hears before she disappears are the words ‘Look at me, look at me. I’m healed.’
“The pastor pushes his mouth closed, gets up, and slowly walks down the stairs and out to the parking lot. There is no sign of the former patient. He opens his car door, and stops. Looking up to the heavens, the pastors says, ‘Please don’t ever do that to me again’ (Beukema, in Biblical Preaching, 130).
In some cases, even pastors are slow to believe that God wills to heal. Nevertheless, He keeps on astounding us with His grace as He did the leper in Matthew 8:1-4.
We’ll make a couple of observations about this incident – one concerning our requests and another about Jesus’ response. In the first place, . . .
We often qualify our requests for healing. (Matthew 8:1-2) Whenever we’re sick, most of us pray, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me [well].” We know He’s able to heal us, yet for some reason, we’re never quite sure if Christ wants to heal us for various reasons. Maybe we brought this sickness on ourselves. Maybe we didn’t take proper care of ourselves. Worst still, maybe we’ve sinned and we fear our sickness is God’s punishment. Frankly, we don’t know why this man was sick, probably because it doesn’t matter.
Jesus always takes time for the individual as well as the multitude. (Matthew 8:1-2) After “[Christ] came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. [And] a man with leprosy came and knelt before him.” In times of sickness, if we don’t approach the Lord, He usually doesn’t approach us! (James 4:8). When we do draw near to Him, one preacher reminds us, it should be with the confidence, the humility, and the reverence this leper had because they’re the only attitudes appropriate for a person asking God for a favor (Barclay, Matthew, vol. 1, 302-3).
Unlike religious hucksters, Jesus never shuns the ‘hard cases.’ (Matthew 8:2) This “man [had] leprosy.” The Bible uses this term for any number of skin disorders, ranging from mild to severe (Leviticus 13:45-46). Whatever his case, Jesus welcomes him. He always welcomes outcasts. He welcomes those self-conscious about their appearance. He welcomes the fearful. He even welcomes people with AIDS, who, by the way, an expert claims consists mostly now of “women and children – infected by the promiscuity of men and exacerbated by their poverty” (Wallis, God’s politics, 288). Jesus apparently welcomes strangers, since we don’t even know this man’s name. So if you fear you don’t know Christ well enough to approach Him for help, with all due respect, you’re mistaken.
Don’t be one of those people who question Jesus’ willingness to heal. (Matthew 8:2) Why do they qualify, “If you are willing?” Because according to one author, people “more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love” (A. B. Bruce, Synoptic Gospels, 137). Pride, guilt, fear, and doubt keep them from loving others as they should and they reason that God holds grudges like they do (cf. 2 Kings 5:1-14). Now, it doesn’t have to be an expression of unbelief to pray, “Your will be done,” if you understand that God only desires the best for you (Matthew 6:10).
When the disciples were in the boat and saw Jesus walking on the water in the night, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you . . . tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus didn’t hold his ‘if’ against him. He told him, “Come.” When the father with the demon-possessed son approached the Lord, he said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). Jesus didn’t hold his ‘if’ against him. After a brief discussion, He rebuked the demon and healed the boy. Jesus doesn’t hold our ‘ifs’ against us as long as we bring them to Him.
So even though Jesus always has time for the individual and never shuns the hard cases, we still tend to doubt His willingness to heal.
So, in the first place, we often qualify our requests for healing. In the second place, . . .
Jesus normally responds to our requests for healing. (Matthew 8:3-4) How wonderful it is when you sense Him saying to you, “ ‘I am willing, . . . !’ ” Let’s repeat these three words together three times, so they’ll begin to soak in, “I am willing. I am willing. I am willing.” Matthew tells this story so we’ll know that Christ possesses both the ability and the willingness to heal us of our illnesses. Therefore, as it has been said, “Never put a question mark where God has put a period” (McKenzie, Quips, 140).
Jesus takes immediate action to reassure us of His concern. (Matthew 8:3) While the leper knelt trembling in the dirt before Him, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched [him].” Imagine the leper’s stench. Think about the Lord’s sympathy (Mark 1:41). The leper probably hadn’t felt the warmth of human touch in years. Who knows what thoughts flashed through his mind at this moment? Plus, as someone explains, “By touching an unclean leper, Jesus would become ceremonially defiled himself. . . . But at Jesus’ touch nothing remains defiled. Far from becoming unclean, Jesus makes the unclean clean” (Carson, Matthew, 198).
Afterward, the leper could have sung the words of that old gospel tune we know:
“Shackled by a heavy burden,
’Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same” (“He Touched Me,” Sing His Praise, #219).
No disease exists that Jesus can’t heal. (Matthew 8:3) “Immediately [the man] was cured of his leprosy.” As marvelous as this miracle was, what Jesus did for him is nothing compared to what He did for us. Here’s how another writer describes the contrast, “When [Jesus] took upon him our flesh, he did not only [stoop] to touch us with his hand, but was united to one and the same body with ourselves, that we might be flesh of his flesh” (Calvin, Harmony, vol. 1, 374). Since He honored our bodies by taking on one, why wouldn’t He touch our bodies when we’re sick? Whether it’s from cancer, coronary disease, or a cough?
Interestingly, there are times we should keep quiet about what God does for us. (Matthew 8:4) Notice what happens next, “Then Jesus said to him, [Shhh!] ‘See that you don’t tell anyone.’ ” When shouldn’t we tell others about what Jesus has done for us? We shouldn’t tell people when it’ll tend to promote our pride as if we deserved the healing (Matthew 9:8). We shouldn’t tell people when it’ll prohibit our ability to evangelize people more interested in the supernatural than in salvation (Matthew 9:30-31). Nor should we tell people when it’ll provoke political repercussions prematurely (Matthew 9:34).
In any case, obedience to the Word of God remains the best means of showing our gratitude. (Matthew 8:4) After Jesus healed the leper, He advised him (point) to “go, show [him]self to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (cf. Leviticus 14:1-32). Divine healing is real – a priest officially verified the healing of this man’s leprosy. Thus, you don’t have to avoid doctors to prove you believe in divine healing. As a matter of fact, this incident may be one of the reasons why many priests eventually placed their faith in Christ after the resurrection (Acts 6:7). Someone else draws another parallel – the Lord commanded the leper to keep quiet and instead he told everyone. The Lord tells us to broadcast the message and we don’t say a word (Wiersbe, Matthew, 33).
For those of you who question whether God still heals today, listen to this story from Newsweek magazine: In May 1999, fifteen-year-old Tyler Clarensau [I know his father personally] shuffled to the altar in Park Crest Assembly of God . . . in Springfield, Missouri, to seek healing. Surgery to correct his malformed knee joints had left him with swelling and terrible pain. Forty other Pentecostal teenagers encircled him and began to pray. . . . Some 45 minutes later . . . Clarensau shakily stood up, then did deep knee bends – something he hadn’t accomplished in years. Now he can run. ‘I’d heard about people getting healed,’ says Clarensau, ‘and I thought it was pretty cool. But I didn’t know for sure until it happened to me” (“Teen’s Miraculous Healing,” www.PreachingToday.com, s.v. “Healing”). God didn’t hold this young man’s doubts against him because he brought his doubts to Jesus. Neither will He hold yours against you if you’ll do the same.
On one hand, Jesus always takes immediate action to assure us of His concern and has never met a disease He couldn’t heal. On the other hand, there are times for us to keep quiet and it’s always time to obey God’s Word.
Here’s then the good news – Jesus wants to heal your impaired body in spite of your imperfect faith. Regardless of how serious your situation may be, Jesus has the solution. He can do for you what no other can.
Let me share this story from Allen Golding. He writes: “When we were missionaries to the Philippines, we vacationed in Baguio City in the mountains of Northern Luzon. While there, we visited the St. Louis Silver School, . . . We admired exquisite workmanship . . . and took home a souvenir – a pure silver money clip embellished with a distinctive design. I carried that clip for the next 24 years. One day it finally broke . . . . I then took the two pieces of the money clip back to the silver school in Baguio. One workman, about my age, asked if he could help me. . . .
“After examining the pieces for a minute or so, he looked up at me and said, ‘I designed this clip. I was the only one to make this design. I made all of these that were ever made.’
“I asked, “Can you fix it?’
“He said, ‘I designed it. I made it. Of course I can fix it!” (“Creator Makes and Fixes Creations,” www.PreachingToday.com, s.v. “Healing”). God can ‘fix’ you too if you’ll bring the pieces of your life to Him.
So what are you going to do with your doubts? Bring them to Jesus and He won’t hold them against you.