Over the last several weeks Jesus has been burning through Galilee stepping all over all the boundaries, healing on the Sabbath, challenging the scribes in the synagogue, as well as the priests in today’s lesson the cleansing of the leper.
Lev. 13:45 “The person with leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and unkempt hair. He shall cry out unclean, unclean. He shall live alone, outside the community.
This leper pleads for help to cross the ritual boundary, saying If you choose you can declare me to be clean. That was a priest’s job.
The leper approaches Jesus as a priest. His primary concern is re-entering society. A pagan would have said, make me well. This Jew says restore me.
Faith is a determination that will not let rules, customs, national interest, social custom or propriety get in the way of getting to Jesus. The leper comes to Jesus and recognizes who he is. Maybe this guy had already been to the priests and was rejected.
Jesus touch was all that is needed. Neither Jesus or the leper undergoes ritual cleansing. Jesus is the in breaking of God’s kingdom. Rules about Sabbath, clean and unclean are obsolete. This guy did not do as asked and so he became an obstacle to Jesus who had to leave town. This man bore witness about the wrong thing in the wrong way and so the results of his witness was wrong.
Do we try to control Jesus? Do we make silly rules to keep us in and some out. The man was called to witness by his actions not his words.
I think each of us has gone through times when we wanted to re-write the story of our life in some way.
I wonder if Jesus and the Leper might also have made different choices if they knew what was going to happen.? The leper approached Jesus and said: “If you choose you can declare me to be clean. Then after the cleansing the Leper is the one with the choices. Jesus asked him to do a few things: To follow the purity rituals, and show himself to a priest and NOT to tell that it was Jesus who cleansed him.
The leper ignored both of these requests. I also wonder about Jesus, if he could have seen the future would he have refused the request. Since he had to leave the area where he was working.
Each of us would love a look into the future so we could make better choices in the present. But like us, Jesus and the leper took their opportunities as they came.
First the leper said to Jesus, “if you choose.” The leper did not try to control Jesus so it was a good prayer. He was admiring God’s compassion and not forcing his will on God. Prayer is about letting God write your story instead of yourself. Jesus own prayer in Gethsemane closely follows this. Father if it is possible remove this cup from me, but not what desire, but what you desire.
Jesus had confidence in His Father. He knew that even if his course was to suffer and die, that in the end his Father would heal and raise him. Even abandoned to the consequences of our sin, His Father would be there with him to see him through to life.
So why the disease on the one hand and the suffering on the other? It is the nature of love that it never forces itself. Love must offer itself, with the choice of making a return. It wouldn’t be love if God made us love him.
So as with the leper God says to us, ‘if you choose.”
You and I have a choice. Each day we have the choice of trying to write our stories ourselves. That is a choice that points away from Jesus and drives him out. That is the bad choice that the leper made after he was cleansed and the bad choice Jesus resisted as he hung on the cross. God raised Jesus because Jesus made the choice to let His Father write his story. That is the other choice we have too. To let God help us to write our stories, stories that take place in God’s power of life and healing. We come to Jesus as did that leper. “If you choose, make me clean, make me whole, make me your reflection of love to the world.