A couple of weeks ago my dear friend and dentist, Dr. Chitwood, invited me into his office for a Sinus Elevation party. I accepted the invitation, not completely sure what a Sinus Elevation was, but always eager to celebrate. Who knew? The sinuses they sought to raise to a new level were mine, and that the only one who would NOT remember a thing about the party was me. The surgery took about four hours. The knocking me out took about fifteen minutes. (Apparently an Ativan, four Lorazepam, and a handful of other things does a little more than “make you relax.”)
The next thing I remember is laying in the recliner at home with Doris texting videos to the kids and laughing hysterically at me sucking on the ice pack that was wrapped around my head. I seem to recall Dr. Chitwood saying, “This might hurt a little bit when you wake up, or it might feel like a mule kicked you upside the head.” I also recall his very helpful, but overly optimistic assistant saying, “You can probably go back to work tomorrow.” NOT TRUE, Gunga Din. Me and my elevated sinuses were swollen, groggy, and painfully black and blue for the better part of five days. I could imagine my clients pouring their hearts out about troubled marriages or distraught lives, only to hear me say, through gauze and an ice pack, “I really can’t remember a thing you said, but I’m sure everything will be alright.”
Healing is a wonderful thing. It is also a very painful process sometimes. The Words of Jesus that intrigue me this morning are found in Mark, starting at verse 40.
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” NLT
Interestingly enough, this story is repeated almost verbatim in the other two Synoptic Gospels. Matthew 8 and Luke 5 tell the story almost word for word, complete with Jesus’s warning to not tell anyone. That’s unusual. Many, if not most, of the stories in the Gospel’s have some subtle little differences in timing, number of people in attendance, or the response of Jesus. This story must have such importance that Matthew, Mark, and Luke at least, said. “We have got to get this one right.”
If that is true, then what are the lessons for us on this Monday morning about healing? Here are four things that jump out at me:
First, Jesus is moved with compassion. The NIV says, “He was indignant.” Now, I know a little Greek and a little Hebrew. (The little Greek runs a restaurant and the little Hebrew runs a clothing store. I know, it’s a terrible joke.) It seems to me that most manuscripts use the word compassion, rather than indignant. I like that. I like the idea that the heart of Jesus is moved by the things that trouble us. I like the fact that He wanted the little children to feel safe with him, that He wept over the city, that His heart was broken at the death of Lazaruz, even though He knew that He would bring him back from the dead. Listen, whatever it is that has plagued you for so long, that gets you down, that keeps you from the “abundant life” that Jesus has for you, HE IS MOVED TO COMPASSION BY THAT THING.
One of the terrible pains of almost any sickness, physical, emotional, spiritual, even DENTAL, is that we begin to feel we are all alone in this. Nobody else has ever experienced it. Nobody else knows. Nobody else really cares. Jesus knows. Chonda used to sing this old song with us:
My Jesus knows when I am lonely
He knows each pain, He sees each care
He understands each lonely heartache
He understands. He always cares
The second thing in these Words of Jesus, HE IS WILLING. I grew up praying for God’s healing. In the church of my youth, and most of my adult life, we believed in the power of God to heal the sick and almost every prayer included that plea. At Wednesday night prayer meeting the pastor would ask for prayer requests and what would follow would be several “organ recitals,” my kidneys are failing, my heart is fluttering, my gall bladder has quit galling, one after the other, people would lay out a long list of the things that needed healing. And then we would pray. Sometimes lay hands on. (Not the specific organs. Ain’t nobody touching my gall bladder.) But we would always hedge our bets with these words, “Lord, if you are willing.”
It seems to me in this story Jesus is saying, “Hey, let’s clear that up once and for all. I AM WILLING. My heart is moved by the things that trouble you and I am willing to make those things right. That nagging back ache that won’t go away. I am willing to fix that. Those chronic headaches. I am willing. That depression, or loneliness, or anger, or fear. Yep. Willing.” The repetition of this story seems to me to say that this is a universal word. Jesus is willing to heal what hurts you.
Now I know, I know. The problem is that sometimes we don’t get healed. The third thing that grabs my attention in this story is that Jesus says, “Don’t tell anybody. Go to church. And (Pastor Eddie’s gonna’ love this one) take an offering.” There seems to be a process sometimes to our healing. Dip in the river seven times. Wipe on the mud and then wash it off. Stretch out your hand. A lot of times it seems we have a part to play in our healing. Here, the healing happens immediately. (That’s one of Mark’s favorite words.) But other times there was a delay, something that needed to be done. I don’t know all that I believe about that, but it does challenge me to do what I can do. Is there unbelief? Pray and read the Word more. Is there unconfessed sin? Deal with it. Is there a place where the hand of God is extended toward me? Reach out and touch it. Remember the woman with the “issue of blood” that pushed her way through the crowd and took the huge risk of reaching out and touching the hem of Jesus’s robe.
The healing that I deal with most often is emotional healing. Someone is depressed. Or angry. Or wounded. Almost always there are some things that THEY need to do; stop isolating, talk about it, be willing to forgive, break off toxic behaviors or relationships. I don’t understand this fully but it seems that sometimes, God loves me and He is willing, but there are some steps I need to take.
Which leads to the last thought, Jesus says, “This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” Leprosy was a nasty business. It was so destructive, and so contagious, that there was a very specific protocol to follow before the priests would let you back into society. You had to do the “public testimony” thing. I wonder if that isn’t true today? I wonder how many times I have missed out on “my healing” because I kept whining and complaining instead of expressing a confidence that God was at work? I wonder if I would not see Jesus healing me more if I was willing to talk more about His compassion than my calamity, to profess His power more than my pain, to testify to His Spirit in me rather that my sickness in me?
Listen, the last thing I want to do is inflict MORE PAIN, to make you feel guilty for feeling bad. My whole story is a story of God NOT healing. Cheralyn died. Dad left. I stay addicted for way to long. Even the Apostle Paul says, “I prayed for the thorn in my flesh to be removed and it wasn’t.” I don’t understand all of that. Sometimes it feels like we are doing everything right and healing isn’t happening. Well then I just go back to number 1, Jesus cares, and start over again.
I don’t know what you are facing. Depression. Cancer. Divorce. Lost kids. No money. Elevated Sinuses. But it seems to me that this morning Jesus is saying to you, “I do care. I love you and my heart is broken by this thing you are struggling with. And…I am willing. Let’s start taking steps together.”
Oh, and He also might be saying, “Quit sucking on that ice pack or I’ll put your picture on FaceBook.” Or maybe it was Doris that said that. I was groggy.
God loves you and so do I. ?
Let’s look at another healing tomorrow. Matthew 8:10-13