Summary: Beyond healing is Wholeness. Beyond the cure is our redemption.
Well, how are you all this morning. Fine, everyone is fine. Any one here care to admit it they are not so fine? Boy we must have the finest church in Connecticut. Now don’t feel too bad, the social norm of polite society is “to be fine”. And it’s a hard habit to shake. Even when I was a hospital chaplain, I would ask patients “How are you” and they would automatically say “fine”. Of course, I then would have to point out that they were laying in a hospital bed. Only then did they begin to admit all was not so fine.
TO BE WELL
Some times it takes a lot for us to admit, to ourselves and others, that we are in need. Sometimes it is only in crisis that we can break through the barriers that keep us from asking for help. Sometimes it is not until we are desperate that we are willing to do what it takes to find restoration. Today in the Scriptures we hear about desperate men who were willing to go to any extreme to be healed. Naaman, a Syrian army commander, a foreigner to Israel, and 10 lepers, outcasts of Israel’s society. All of them were victims of a dreaded disease. All of them were condemned to a life of misery. And all of them turned to God for the only help they could get. The 10 lepers lived on the edge of society. They were ostracized from their communities. They were not allowed into any city or village, They were not allowed any social contact. If someone happened to come near them they had to cry aloud “Unclean, Unclean”. But all this went beyond a medical isolation. Their society not only considered them ill, but damned, because only the worst of sinners would ever be punished by God so severely. Good people needed to be kept from spiritual contamination.
These were desperate men, so it is no wonder that when they saw Jesus out in the middle of nowhere, close to the edge of life they inhabited that they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” What a plaintive cry that must have been. What sense of desperation, What sense of forlorn hope. Jesus, Master have mercy on us. But Jesus didn’t touch them. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. But Jesus didn’t wash them. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. But he didn’t even pray for them. Finally, after what must have seemed an eternity, Jesus says to them “Go show yourselves to the priest.” Can you imagine their reaction? “Say what!”. They looked at their hands, They looked in each others faces Yet nothing had changed. They were still lepers. But Jesus was telling them to go get a certificate of health. It made no sense, shouldn’t you be cured first. Only when you are well do you get a clean bill of health.
But they must have been desperate enough to act. Like Naaman, they expected the work of a miracle, but what they got was an invitation to act on faith. Naaman, also a leper, came to Elisha traveling a thousand miles on a stinking camel, and was told: “go take a bath, in fact take a lot of bath’s, and don’t forget the soap.” Boy what a kick in the pants. He expected a light and magic show, what he got was good hygiene practices. But desperate people will do desperate things. So he took a bath. And the 10 lepers headed for Jerusalem to find a priest. They acted on hope, they acted on faith that somehow this time it would work. This time they would be restored. And it happened. In the waters of the Jordan Naaman’s skin became like a baby’s bottom. On the way to the city, 10 lepers were cured. Is it any wonder that God calls us to live by faith, to act on our faith. How many times did Jesus say to someone “Take up your bed and go home”, or “Go wash in the pool of Siloam, or “Little girl, I say to you arise.” And how many times has he said “your faith has made you well” and we don’t get it. Have you ever prayed “God I need a job” but didn’t send out your resume. Have you ever said “God I feel misserable” but not even bother to take an aspirin. Well, what do you expect? A miracle or magic? See, magic does not require faith. Faith means stepping out, anticipating that what God has promised,
God will deliver. But it also means I have a part to play in realizing God’s promise. It is not going to happen, my life is not going to change, if I just sit still. It is going to happen only if, in trust, I get up and live as if it has already happened. That is what faith is, I trust God to act, and act in trust toward him. But faith is even more than that. Faith sees beyond the obvious to the real. The 10 lepers came seeking a cure from their disease. They wanted to be healthy. They wanted to return to society. They wanted to go home, embrace their spouses and children and let life get back to normal. But one of them noticed that life was no longer normal. Something wonderful had happened, and it was more than the miracle of antibiotics. One of them stopped dead in his tracks on the way to the priest, did an about face and ran for Jesus. He ran to say thank you, to praise God for the wonder of his grace. Of the 10 lepers only this one saw beyond the miracle cure to the one who was a miracle. Like Naaman he returned and acknowledge “I know now that the Lord alone is God.” His thanksgiving was a profound expression of faith. His humble thank you for health was a confession of praise to the one who gives life.