11

Jesus Heals a Leper

The stories and news reports were reaching my little village and a spark of hope began to spring up, perhaps for the first time since the day I pulled my shirt over my head to get into bed that night nearly four years ago. My wife asked me about the white splotch under my left arm.

I had to pack my things, leave my home, my wife of nine years, and my three beautiful children, and go live with the lepers.

Some say there is no way out of this village, but I have seen many leave. Their destination? The grave. Welcome to No Hope Flats, my home.

Jesus meets a leper in Matthew 8.

This leper put into words the thought a great number of good God honoring Christ followers have every day:

Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. ~ Matthew 8:2

A number of things intrigue me about this statement.

He acknowledges Jesus as Lord.
He doesn’t question the ability of Jesus to heal.
He doesn’t actually ask Jesus a question.

He begins on a very good footing. He calls Jesus “Lord.” This is as much a fact today as when He walked the shores of Galilee. Jesus is Lord. As He sat on the hillside teaching, the people could tell – they knew this was not some gifted teacher. The authority which He carried declared it.

He had demonstrated right from the start of His ministry that sickness and disease were under His authority, and the leper had, no doubt, heard these stories. He, our leprous friend, does not wonder about Jesus’ ability. He is confident that he has come to the one man who could set him free from this living death of leprosy.

He does however have ONE HUGE QUESTION that is stuck right in the center of his being.

Will He or won’t He?

He does not frame it as a question though. It is almost as though if he asked the Lord the question, it would force an answer, and the thing he dreads even more than living with his disease is going back to the land of no hope.

When Jesus comes on the scene suddenly hope springs up. It stands boldly on our friends splotchy right shoulder saying – ask Him, ask Him, ask Him. But in his left ear he hears some familiar words. I bet you have heard some of these in your left ear.

  • You deserve this disease
  • You certainly don't deserve healing
  • He won’t help the likes of you
  • Maybe if you were a better father (mother, son, daughter)
  • Maybe if you were a better Christian (prayed more, served harder, slept less, ate less)

You no doubt have heard others. That left shoulder liar has a HUGE repertoire to shut down hope.

Today there are a few words I want you to hear. I want you to hear Jesus speak them to you. If you can identify with our leprous friend, I want you to read these next few lines out loud – YES out loud – do it – really – it’s important that you hear Jesus' answer to this unspoken question.

I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Matthew 8:3
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Luke 5:13
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Mark 1:41

Just in case you are not sure you understand what Jesus said, here is Matthew's account in a few different translations (keep reading out loud – it will help)

I am willing; be cleansed by being cured. AMP
I do want to. Become clean. CEB
I want to! Now you are well. CEV
I want to heal you. Be healed! ERV
I will; be clean. ESV
Of course I want to. Be clean! JBP (I love this one!)
I will; be thou clean. KJV
I do choose. Be made clean! NRSV
Of course I wish to. Be clean. VOICE

Are you getting the point. There is no equivocation here. Jesus takes this non-question, these waves of doubt and hope that are tossing our new friend to and fro, and calms them with this one phrase.

I want you to hear Him speak these words today, and not just in your right ear, but in your inner most being. “I Will, be clean.

BenThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

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This was originally posted in June of 2013. It encouraged me this morning, and I hope it encourages you too!

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Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation; Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible; Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society; Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) Copyright © 2006 by World Bible Translation Center; English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.; J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS) J. B. Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition by HarperCollins; King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain; New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.; The Voice (VOICE) The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

1

Surely our sicknesses he hath borne,
And our pains -- he hath carried them,

Isaiah 53:4 YLT

What’s that you say?

He – Jesus – bore my sicknesses and carried my pains?

My sickness borne by Jesus.

My pain carried by Jesus.

Jesus dragged my sickness through the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus carried my pain up to the crown of Mt Calvary.

OK – that’s awesome!

Time for me to lay this junk down.

 

Here we are back that the pool of Bethesda and we hear one of the saddest statements.

Sir, I have no man… ~ John 5:7

My first reaction is “get hold of your self man,” “suck it up,” “quit your whining.”

Then I remember how David prayed in the cave.

(Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.)

I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD;
I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Thou didst know my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.

Psalm 142:1-3

David was honest about how he felt when he prayed, and this did not offend God. God commands that we love Him. He does not command that we feel good about everything that passes through our life, nor that we keep it all to our selves.

God has no problem when we cry out to Him with what feels like hopelessness.

Back in Bethesda, this is not our friend’s first visit to the pool. It sounds like he has been coming, perhaps for years, perhaps for decades. I don’t know how long he had been alone, but he is alone now.

I have no man.

No man cares for my soul

There is no one who regards me

It reminds me of another man:

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus gets it.

Jesus steps in.

Jesus heals him.

Jesus restores his dignity.

Man I love Jesus! [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonSee you again soon

Ben

---

This post originally ran last August, but it touched me again this morning.

3

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rode_1.jpg

As we ponder this story from the gospels of the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, I am energized by what we can see clearly in Mark’s account.

And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. And being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven. ~ Mark 2:3-5

I really only want to pull two words out today: “their faith.”

Who “their?” you may ask.

As we noticed last week, the house was full of skeptics, and there was only one “who” in the stretcher, so that leaves the deconstruction team on the roof.

Jesus saw the faith, the expectation in these men. That expectation was clearly expressed by the lengths they were willing to go in order to get their friend to Jesus. They were willing to risk some real world trouble, and face some serious consequences in order to get their friend to Jesus.

This is so encouraging to me today.

For one thing, nothing is said about the one in the stretcher. When you have been sick or disabled for decades, it is pretty hard to stir up any expectation. You, as likely as not, will build up barriers against such expectations, and protect yourself against having hope spring only to be dashed once more.

But what I learn here is that we can bring our friends to Jesus.

I don’t want to build some magic doctrine that says everyone we pray for will be saved or healed.

But I will say this. We can bring our friend to Jesus.

We can do it with our words,
we can do it with our prayers,
we can do it with a posse,
you can do it in that chair.

We can bring our friends to Jesus. [Tweet This]

Why not do it right now? There is someone on your heart, someone who needs their sins forgiven, someone who needs their body mended. Perhaps there is a broken relationship the Spirit is highlighting.

Let’s bring our friends to Jesus today.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

By the way, if you missed the first hand account of this day in Jesus life, you should check out "Arise, Take up your bed and walk"

8

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rode_1.jpg

As we look at the Red Letters today, I want to stick with this story we have been talking about all week. Today I want to observe two interesting facets in Jesus’ healing ministry.

"But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”--then He said to the paralytic--“Rise, take up your bed, and go home.” ~ Matthew 9:6

So, I want to be more like Jesus, in the way I do everything. Don’t you?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never prayed for the sick? He did not pray and ask God to do something. In fact Jesus tells us specifically how He does what He does.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  ~ John 5:19 (NKJV)

So, according to Jesus, rather than pray for God to heal this sick man, Jesus looks at what the Father is doing, and acts as the hands of God on earth to bring about what the Father is doing in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong here, I do think we need to pray, but perhaps the prayer we should be praying is “Lord, help me see what you are doing right here and right now.” [Tweet this] Of course then we might find ourselves making mud out of our spit, or writing in the dirt, or even declaring that someone’s sins are forgiven.

The second observation I want to make is that He often adds a call to action to His ministry.

I know when someone comes to me for prayer, there are times when I ask God to do something in their life, and I walk away hopeful.

Jesus expected and inspected. He ministered in whatever way He saw the Father ministering, and then checked it out with a call to action.

Rise, take up your bed, and go home.

One time in our home group, during a time of prayer we prayed for the shoulder of one of our members. We laid our hands on her, and then we just went on with the meeting. Later that evening she was talking and pointed up in the air for some reason, I don’t remember that part, but what I will never forget is the look on her face when she realized all the pain in her shoulder was gone.

We laughed and rejoiced, but I realized that we should have inspected right away to see what the Lord had done, so we could have given Him the glory due Him sooner.

When you pray for someone to be healed, I encourage you to ask them to do what they could not do before.

There is an account in Jesus ministry where He ministered to a man who was blind, and when He asked Him if He could see, the once blind man said:

I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about. ~ Mark 8:24

Then check out what happens next:

Then again He (Jesus) laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. ~ Mark 8:25

The Son of God, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, needed to touch this man twice in order to fully heal him.

If He (Jesus) had prayed or ministered once and walked away, the man would have been better off than before, but still impaired. Jesus stuck with Him and saw it through.

So perhaps, though I only promised two observations, we have a bonus observation before us.

Don’t quit!

Let’s recap.

  1.  See what the Father is doing. Let your prayer be, for your own sight, and partnership with the Father’s hand.
  2. Check for results
  3. Don’t just move on, if your first attempt at ministry is unsuccessful or does not bring the results you were looking for.

One last caveat, if in the end your ministry does not change the circumstance, realize there are many factors at play, way more than we can understand. Be sure the person you are praying for has been loved, and is not left feeling condemned or worse off than you found them. Does that make sense?

Ben NelsonHey, thanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

By the way, if you missed the first hand account of this day in Jesus life, you should check out "Arise, Take up your bed and walk"

4

Here we are back that the pool of Bethesda and we hear one of the saddest statements.

Sir, I have no man… ~ John 5:7

My first reaction is “get hold of your self man,” “suck it up,” “quit your whining.”

Then I remember how David prayed in the cave.

(Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.)

I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD;
I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Thou didst know my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.

Psalm 142:1-3

David was honest about how he felt when he prayed, and this did not offend God. God commands that we love Him. He does not command that we feel good about everything that passes through our life, nor that we keep it all to our selves.

God has no problem when we cry out to Him with what feels like hopelessness.

Back in Bethesda, this is not our friend’s first visit to the pool. It sounds like he has been coming, perhaps for years, perhaps for decades. I don’t know how long he had been alone, but he is alone now.

I have no man.

No man cares for my soul

There is no one who regards me

It reminds me of another man:

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus get’s it.

Jesus steps in.

Jesus heals him.

Jesus restores his dignity.

Man I love Jesus!

Ben NelsonSee you again soon

Ben

10

Today, let’s look at this encounter at the pool of Bethesda.

When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” ~ John 5:6-7

This is another wonderful story of Jesus and His ministry. And it certainly turned out to be a red letter day for the man at the pool, but I want to make an observation about how we guard our hearts, and can miss what the Lord is holding out to us.

Jesus asks a simple question. “Do you want to be made well?”

I wonder whether this man had not yet heard any of the stories of Jesus healing those who came to Him. Otherwise, why would he keep coming to this pool where his chances were slim.

In any case, observe with me how he answers Jesus.

  • He does not say, “If You are willing,” like the leper.
  • He does not say, “If you are able,” like the man at the bottom of the mount of Transfiguration.
  • He does not say, “If I can just touch His clothes,” like the woman with the issue of blood.
  • He does not say, “Just the crumbs from the table would do the trick,” like they Greek woman.
  • He does not say, “Yes Please,” my personal favorite.

He just begins to lay out reasons that it will never happen.

This is a defense mechanism many who have been struggling with the same issue for decades use. This man has probably been carried to every place miracles were reported.

After 38 years of infirmity, you might get tired of trying. You might still go to the pool, but you are not really expecting anything from the Lord.

You have done it all.

  • You have gone to the meetings when the healers came through town.
  • You have read every book on the subject of divine healing.
  • You have put your hand on the TV when the Televangelist prayed for the sick.
  • You sent your money in and received the “blessed” handkerchief in the mail.

So when Jesus shows up, rather than saying, “Yes Lord,” you begin to brace yourself for another disappointment.

I love that none of that stopped Jesus from breaking the power of the 38-year-old sickness.

I pray today that you have not given up. I pray you, yes I am talking to you, will hear the voice of Jesus asking, “Do you want to be made well?” And I pray you will not be afraid to simply say, “Yes Lord.”

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Have a Red Letter day.

Ben

 

Related article: Spiritual Healing by Keri Wyatt Kent

 

Stack of BiblesAfter telling of the healing and deliverance of all the sick in the town of Capernaum, Matthew gives us a tiny little Messianic Bible Study.

He takes the events of the day, and applies them to what we know as Isaiah 53:4.

And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES, AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” ~ Matthew 8:16-17

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted. ~ Isaiah 53:4

Allow me just a little bit of word study: (feel free to skip this part if you really don’t want the details.)

The Hebrew word that is translated griefs here in the NASB (khol·ē' – pretty much pronounced ‘holy’ only with that gruff throat noise at the beginning) shows up about 24 times in the bible, and 19 times it is translated either sickness or disease. In the lexicon used in BlueLetterBible.org the only offering for translation is ‘sickness.’

The Hebrew word that is translated sorrows here in the NASB (mak·ōve' – pronounced like mac, as in Big Mac or mac and cheese, and ov, as in over – only again you need that guttural kind of chuffing on the c in mac) (do you even care?) This one is most often translated sorrows, but all the definitions relate to pain, though this pain can be physical or mental.

Thanks – now back to the post:

What fascinates me, is that, in my evangelical upbringing, I was taught on a regular basis that what Jesus did on the cross, and what was prophesied here by Isaiah was about my spiritual well being.

And yet, when Matthew, the great pointer outer of fulfilled prophecies, points out this one, he is applying it to physical healings and the casting out of demons.

Why make a fuss about this? Well, I have to say that when my understanding of this scripture, and others, turned from a strictly spiritual interpretation, to a ‘whole man,’ spirit soul and body interpretations, my prayers changed, and the results changed.

When I began to believe that the price Jesus paid and the salvation Jesus purchased was for the whole man, was not simply a path to eventual restoration of health and wholeness someday when we die, but could be pursued here and now, it changed my life.

Hey – there is plenty I don’t understand, and many times I see saints suffer and die in sickness and disease, and please hear me, that is not a reflection on them, or on their community of faith. There is so much more to our world than what we currently see or perceive.

I do understand this – everyone they brought to Jesus, was healed. Every account recorded in scripture of people coming to Jesus while he walked the earth ended with a person made whole. [Tweet This] Not every sick person in all of Judea, but at least every sick person in Capernaum.

This story blows my mind. I really want to be like Jesus. Don’t you?

Lord, today I want to be more like You. I want to walk like You walked, and do the works that You did, and the greater works You promised.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES, AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” ~ Matthew 8:16-17

Let me recap:

It’s is the Sabbath (we know this from Luke 4.) I said the other day that it was the same day He made His declaration, but I must correct that. This was actually the day He cast out a demon in Church (OK Synagogue.)

He and some of the boys headed over to Peter and Andrew’s house and Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

Next we see this:

When evening had come

Or as Luke puts it in

While the sun was setting ~ Luke 4:40

The folks in these good Jewish communities waited till the sun was setting, until the Sabbath was over and then they got to Jesus just as quick as they could.

Luke tells us:

all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him ~ Luke 4:40

So in the town of Capernaum when Jesus left, if I am doing the math right, there was no one left in the city either sick or demon possessed! They brought them all to Jesus, and He healed them all.

Do you have someone to bring to Jesus today?

Don’t wait for the sun to set – let’s carry them to Jesus now!

Lord, I am so glad that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. We bring our sick, our broken, our lost to You today, and ask that You touch, You speak the word, You do what You do!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming today.

See you soon

Ben

a Roman Legion

Yesterday in my narrative stemming from the encounter Jesus had with the centurion actually focuses more on Luke's account of the meeting in Luke 7 starting in verse 2 than from the Matthew 8 account.

The big difference in the accounts is that in Matthew’s telling Jesus meets the centurion, and in Luke, He meets the centurions friends.

You know what – I really don’t let that kind of stuff bug me. I don’t try to hide it, but by the same token it just does not bug me. I guess it could, but it doesn’t. So, blatantly ignoring that fact, I move on.

Let’s take a little time contrasting these three types of relationships the centurion is maintaining.

He has soldiers under his command.

He has servants or slaves (at least one) at his beck and call.

He has friends who will drop their agenda and help when he is in need.

It is interesting to me that these are all types of the Christian in relation to Christ as well.

I know I get over on this a bunch, but our identity in Christ is really important. If we see ourselves in an unhealthy light, we can not help but get our signals crossed in how we relate to our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Some believe it can only be one way – for example, there are many in Christ who believe the only way we can ever relate to Jesus is as slave to master. If you have followed me for any length of time, you may have picked up the fact that I endorse the idea of walking as the servant of Christ. This is an identity carried by almost every writer in the New Testament. I have written extensively about this, so I won’t take the time to elaborate further today – though you might like to check out one of these articles:

Servanthood

Jesus, What Are You Doing?

By the same token there are those who demand that we leave the life of the servant behind and live the life of friend, or better bride! I take up, on a weekly basis, in my Song of Songs teaching series this part.

I don't believe that we must leave one to have the other.

I believe Jesus chooses to reveal our identity to us line upon line, precept upon precept.

We enter the kingdom as servants, but we are not supposed to stay there. The life of the growing Christian is one that progresses from the fundamentals of servant hood, becoming a soldier of the cross, to friend, then son, and even bride. But these are not total transformations like caterpillar to butterfly, but rather greater levels of intimacy and proficiency.

Think of any sport, or any activity you might apprentice for. You start with the most basic practices. In baseball for example, it is throwing and catching. Long before you learn strategy, you learn how to throw with accuracy and catch anything close.

You progress to the basic rules of the game. Next, how to react in situations so as to best use the rules to your advantage. The rules protect you from unfair play, and limit you from taking unfair advantage.

Soon you’re learning “plays.” These plays combine the fundamentals of throwing and catching with logical application of the rules.

You learn to throw a double play because 1) you know how to throw and catch,  2) you know the rules and what must happen in case of a hit with a runner on first base.

Later in your career you may come to a time when you can coach or manage a team. You begin to use strategy to choose which players should play which positions. You are having a huge impact on the game with out even stepping on the field.

This does not mean you no longer can throw or catch.

So it is with us. We never leave off servant hood, but we grow in trust and intimacy.

Back to our centurion. I love that he is so devoted to his servant that he involves his friends to rescue this one.

In this encounter, I find the centurion is actually acting as a type of Christ. Christ leaving his 99 soldiers who are safe and warm in the barracks and recruiting His friends to help Him save the one slave that is in trouble.

Great picture isn’t it?

BenSee you tomorrow

Ben

 

Oh yeah, don't forget to leave your questions about the Bible or Christian life here:

Another Red Letter Day Q&A