“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.
14 Then Jesus ordered him, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5: 12-15)
Lots of things to think about here.
Is my healing based on God’s desire or my desire? That is to say: does my present sickness fit some obscure divine strategy? Andrew Wommack replied with a powerful challenge: “God wants me well.”
Stated thus, in all its boldness, the statement can be critiqued for its over-simplification of a complex issue. For myself, I always feel stirred by the two opposite perspectives of this way of talking. The first, represented by Andrew and many others, I have personally witnessed as a powerful stimulus to healing. Time and again, Jesus attributed people’s own faith to the fact of their being healed. If you believe it, you receive it.
But the opposite perspective is represented (for me, at least), by, say, Joni Eareckson Tada who manages to combine immense faith and courageous social action with crippling disability.
Which is to say: what about when you believe but don’t receive?
We have to have a theology big enough to have room for a God who sometimes does surprising things that we don’t understand! As Rob Bell put it: “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
And so we come to this passage, and must allow it its place in this wider dicussion. And the question that is raised is this: What is God’s perspective on my sickness? Do you want me well, Lord? ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’
And Jesus replies, on the spot, ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And the man is healed.
So, based on this Scripture, there is absolutely no doubt of the vallidity of Andrew Wommack’s strong claim.
The following three verses do provide something of a codicil to the healing which is sometimes missed, however.
“Then Jesus ordered him, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’
Why did Jesus make this request? Part of the reason was no doubt a respect for the customs and traditions of the day (which was why we find him in the synagogue, or standing in line to be baptised). Another part of the reason was a desire to avoid the wrong kind of notoriety, the fake celebrity of the wrong kind of messiahship – when He was heading in a different direction entirely.
Even healing could be a distraction.
And I wonder if that could be the case for us too. Even healing the sick -it seems almost blasphemous to say it, but please just reflect on this – is a temporary solution to an eternal problem. The state of your “earth-suit” (as Creflo Dollar used to call it!) is secondary to the state of your relationship with God.
Well, that sense of distraction is borne out somewhat by the following verse:
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
The passage closes with a reminder that for Jesus the display of His power was secondary to His need for a close and intimate relationship with His Father. As the crowds gather and the news spreads, He withdraws more and more. A Prayer-centre is vital.
Once He even rebuked the crowds, after the miracle of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” saying that they only kept turning up in the hope of another free meal. Could the same be said of healing? Is it a matter of seeking the gift and (possibly) rejecting the Giver?
Lord, I believe that You are powerful and able to forgive all my sin and to heal all my diseases. You are God! There is nothing that You cannot do!
But enable me to think deeply about this. Renew my mind so that “Me and my needs” don’t take centre stage in my life, and when the clamour of those needs gets too great, help me to withdraw from them and to find a “lonely place” and spend time just with You.