The text for this week’s sermon is about Jesus healing someone whose body was covered in leprosy. This prompted me to think about how concerned people are these days about the possibility of getting sick. I understand that it is no fun for your body to be breaking down. Worse, when you have a chronic incurable disease that causes you pain every day. Even worse is if you were diagnosed with a terminal condition that will doubtless, end your life. The year of Covid has exacerbated fear that by getting sick, you could die. Up until a year ago, it was only on the rare occasion that people were afraid of getting sick because they thought they would die from getting sick. Even still, our culture is sensitized to someone coughing or sneezing in public believing that their life is being put at risk by the spread of germs. I want to be quick to qualify that I understand people have contracted Covid and died from this and have lost loved ones from this virus. I also am of the opinion that Covid is very contagious. So, my goal here is not to address what is real or just hype regarding Covid or political agendas for that matter. What I want to address is how people’s fear of death has been exposed to new, dramatic, and severe levels.
I remember when HIV in the ’80s was what haunted us. We were told AIDs could not be contracted by casual contact (a sexually transmitted disease) but what constituted non-casual really? Was it still safe to use the public bathroom? We were all on eggshells during my 9th-grade year, but this seemed to pass when people did not suddenly drop dead all around us. I imagine people’s fear levels may likewise taper in time but while the threat of contracting Covid is still fresh, I do not want you to miss its hidden lesson. People are not afraid of getting sick as much as being afraid of dying from sickness. What frightens people the most in life is what they think can or will kill them.
Jesus healed a lot of people when he was here on earth. But does he continue to heal while he sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father in Heaven? My assumption, knowing Jesus is the same now as he was then (Heb. 13:8), is that he heals people supernaturally and providentially (through natural and medical means) all the time. Jesus is sustaining the life and breath of everyone down here and does so on an atomic and molecular level (Col. 1:17), so of course, he is involved in overriding disease if and when he wills. That said, Jesus’ main concern is not whether he heals someone’s physical body, his first concern is someone’s soul. In fact, people who are enduring affliction caused by disease represent what is wrong with the world in which we live. Our world and by default, the harmful disease-causing elements we ingest into our bodies are all effects caused by man’s original sin. I believe Jesus has compassion for mankind and for us in particular for our physical afflictions (Mark 5:19, 34) but I believe Jesus is far more concerned over the state of someone’s soul. I would make the case that Jesus healed people physically to pave the way for people to see him for who he truly was, the Messiah. Our Savior.
I want to finish this blog post by highlighting the “leper” from Matthew 8:1-4 who was supernaturally healed. What you need to see is that what stands out is less about the miracle healing and more about this man’s attitude as he approached being healed. And Jesus’ attitude toward the man who was healed. Let me list a few points:
1. The leper came and knelt before Jesus, recognizing he was Lord, saying “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
2. Jesus broke Old Testament law, doing what was forbidden, physically touching the diseased man, responding by saying, “I will; be clean” (v. 3).
3. After this man was healed (immediately and comprehensively), he told him not to tell anyone what happened.
4. But, to “…go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (v. 4).
Here is what I infer from these points.
Healing is something only God can do and if he chooses to do so, that said, God willed it to be so. This man yielded himself to this fact and likewise every true believer, in essence, does the same, gaining this same promise to be healed from every disease in this life or in the next. Scripture promises ultimate healing will be found in heaven, so we know this is God’s will.
Finally, when Jesus tells him to keep the fact that he was healed, private. Which according to Mark 1, he didn’t! Why keep this a secret? Jesus is making a statement that he is not a walking convenience store where people can come for a quick fix for ailments. Jesus did not work like that then and does not work like that now. Jesus always has higher purposes for our lives than whether he heals supernaturally, or providentially (naturally) or not at all, during our lifetime.
Every believer should have some respect for God’s higher purposes. For instance, if you had the choice between having perfect health or compromised health and that by having compromised health, your son or daughter would awaken to Jesus, you would choose worse health! If you could make the choice between suffering or not, whereby undergoing physical suffering you would redirect your child away from a destructive path toward Hell, you would choose to suffer. I believe that sometimes God makes the choice for us to suffer and/or healing as an influence over where our loved ones spend eternity. God in his providence is constantly weaving together millions of invisible and unknowable variables to bring about his purposes.
After Jesus healed this man, he directs him to follow the normal protocols through the law of Moses to be cleared from mandated quarantine (I had to throw that in…) and for him to offer a sacrifice to give glory to God. This protocol was more than offering a religious sacrifice in that it was part of Jewish governance. Much like our city mandates. Why did Jesus prescribe this? Probably for several reasons, but the one that comes to mind is that Jesus wants the natural hype associated with a supernatural event to be sublimated. Why? Because to put Jesus’ higher purpose in the forefront. Jesus being our Savior from our sins.
Right now, someone in our flock is days, maybe hours from death. I just talked with him a few days ago, and I left certain of one thing. What matters most of all to him and everyone else now, is the state of this man’s soul and this man’s soul is secure. Perhaps the greatest fruit of being a Christian is knowing heaven is secure. A sure thing. Uncertainty of death makes people so afraid of getting sick. In our world, catching a catchy virus that we do not know a lot about terrifies people. This kind of fear is understandable when you do not know anything certain about what happens to you when you die. Certainty about heaven is what we need to spread by spreading Jesus.