“Lord, If you want to, you can make me clean”
In last week’s “Words from the Rector” we wrote about how there are no wasted words in Scripture. We looked at a short phrase, ‘On the Third day’, and the wonderfully rich theology behind it (https://marinerschurchofdetroit.org/blog/what-did-he-mean-by-that/).
Today we are looking at two other short phrases in the book of Matthew 8:1-13. Phrases full of richness and meaning showing how each word of Scripture is full of power, meaning, and layers of interpretation.
“Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” – Matt. 8:2
This is the sentence a leper says to Jesus as he approaches Him. He is beyond the end of his rope. According to the Law he’s considered ‘unclean’, and therefore ostracized from society. But, the One who embodies the Law, the Holy One, the Healer, reaches out with a loving touch.
Somehow this man knew Jesus could heal him, but he doesn’t demand anything. He comes to Jesus with reverence and hope. He says at least three things in this one sentence that speaks to his view of Jesus; one that we should emulate.
This one word shows how he properly positions himself before Jesus. This is no ordinary use of ‘Lord’ as addressing someone at a higher position than he. Somehow, this unnamed man knows that this carpenter of no social status, from Nazareth, is THE LORD.
Then he said:
“If you want to…”
The beauty of our God, the Creator of all things, the one we call “LORD”, is that He looks at us with love. He desires to redeem and heal us. He desires to set things right, and be One with us. We don’t ever have to worry or wonder if His heart is good toward us. It is!
His love for us is not about empty words. On the cross, He displayed His love in action. At the resurrection, we were made aware of His power. He is the Lord from eternity to eternity. Somehow, this leper saw this in Jesus long before he was crucified.
Too often, we can seek God’s blessing, but miss the reverence and faith the leper displays. There is not an ounce of entitlement in this man, beaten down by his condition and his society.
It makes me think of the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5: 3)
As one theologian put it, “We can neither presume to make God heal nor heel.” (Bruener, The Christbook, pg. 374). We are not the Lord, He is. We must come to Him knowing he has our best interest in mind. Saying “If you want to” is not a license to doubt. It’s not an excuse for God, in case nothing happens. We say it with the assurance that He will do what He knows to be in our best interest.
We absolutely should pursue God’s touch and provision with an untethered pursuit. (Matt 7:7) “If you want to” is meant to take us off of the ‘throne’ of our lives. We submit to God, and acknowledge that He knows best. He is Lord. We shouldn’t let our desires become entitlement or even idolatry.
“You can make me clean.”
The last thing, he shows in this one declaration, is that he believes Jesus CAN do it. There is no doubt. He comes out from his place of hiding. He crosses the street and steps into the center of the crowd despite his condition. That’s how much he believed Jesus could heal him.
How different would your relationship to Jesus be if you believed like this leper? What lengths would you go if you trusted Him without a doubt? The very nature of God’s goodness and kindness is what leads us to repent and follow him in faith. (Rom. 2:4). His power and healing is not something only available then, but is available now.
Right now, say a one sentence as a prayer to our Triune God. Maybe it could be: “Lord, may your Spirit hover over this city, and create something new and beautiful.” Believe that his heart is good toward you and that, no matter your circumstances, He is there loving you. Maybe you could make the leper’s words your prayer today and allow His love and healing fill your life.
“Lord, if you want, you can make me …”
Blessings and peace,
Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane