Today I am talking to you who have messed up lives, those who need better but can’t get it together, those that feel stuck, stuck in a bad relationship, stuck with not enough resources, messed up mind, confused… The first lesson from the leper is that he recognizes his life is a mess… It is significant that the Leper comes the Lord and asks for wholeness. Just like the bedrock principle of AA, which recognizes that nobody will be helped with their alcoholism until they admit they are alcoholics, so the leper is not helped till he asks for help, and you have the very same invitation open to you. there is something about knowing your need. Clearly the man with leprosy knows his life is a mess. I know a thousand people who need to make better choices and instead choose to live chronic messed up lives. And I cannot help but wonder, what I am blind to? What sin am I keeping to myself that I don’t want the Lord to touch? What bad decisions do I still relish and delight in and don’t even know it. Make the first prayer is to ask the Lord to reveal our own weakness and sin.
The leper has already rejected the temptation to accept defeat. For the Christian who believes in Jesus Christ, failure is not an option. The leper, while his life is a mess, imagines wholeness. “If you are willing…” There is nothing presumptuous about what the leper is saying. “If you are willing….” There is a note of confidence in Christ and an implicit belief that God can do anything through Christ. There is a humility in the leper knowing he may not see the bigger picture. “if you are willing, you can make me whole.” May the Lord open my eyes to see the leprosy that is within me… may we be people who are not afraid of the changes that come with healing and wholeness from the Lord. Peter was chosen as one of the 12 disciples who travelled with Jesus and learned from him for the next three years. Why not the leper? Perhaps the leper already understood far more than Peter…
The leper speaks to our expectations. What do you expect of Christianity? Often we have in our mind exactly how God is supposed to treat us and what our lives are supposed to look like. Yet early death disappoints us, unexpected illness, a twist of plans derail our ideas… we get disappointed when we have false expectations of what life will hold for us. The leper is amazing because he obviously did not want to live as a leper, a social outcast removed even from his own family, yet he wasn’t blaming God. Unmet expectations can depress us, disappoint us, compromise us. The best we can do is just what the leper does, he has visions of a healthier life, yet he leaves it up to the Lord. What do you expect? Many people reject the Christian God because they have some narrow expectation of what a loving God is supposed to act like.
Expectations: the disappointment when what you expect is not a reality. Did you hear about the marine biologist who crossed an abalone fish with a crocodile fully expecting to get an abadile. Instead when he crossed that old crocodile with the abalone, he was disappointed when he got a crocabolone. That’s what our life is like when our expectations are not met and we face disappointment ~ now you’ve learned a new word today ~ a crocabolone.
False expectations can be a killer. What if you take too many false assumptions into your marriage? One man concluded after a year of marriage, “Marriage is wonderful, but it doesn’t solve any of your problems.” False expectations. Children can have false expectations of childhood. One person said, “As a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up and have enough money to buy all the ice cream and candy and hot fudge sundaes I ever wanted…Then you grow up and it’s not as important any more – and besides, most of the time I’m weight-watching. I had false expectations.” Expectations. False expectations. What did you expect when you became a Christian?
Our desire and reality may be two different things ~ but God is faithful in both. Nobody expects to get burned at the stake when you become a Christian. Nobody wants to be martyred for the cause. Nobody wants to lose friends when you become a Christian, but that may happen. Maybe, like the leper, less than the best will come, but you’ll still trust and believe in the Lord anyway, and you will discover that less is still be best because Jesus is Lord. The strength of your character is tested when your life is messed up beyond your control….
Like the leper, strip away assumptions and false expectations and simply say to the Lord, “If you are willing…” For me, I don’t know if I will personally live a long life, “but if you are willing Lord, I’ll take it.” Tradition has it that almost all the original 12 disciples died an early martyrs death, but not John, who was probably in his 90’s when he wrote Revelation. I would prefer to be like John, but if I should die young that’s ok … if something should happen he is the same God, the same Lord. I like to think the leper would have remained a faithful servant of the Lord believing in the power of Jesus to heal even if the Lord had not healed him. In God’s unfathomable way he chose to heal the leper.
What are your expectations? If you have false expectations you may be in for disappointment, because the Lord may have other plans for you… you may expect an abadile but end up with a crocabolone.
The leper was realistic, no false assumptions or false expectations, yet he dared to dream what he could imagine as the best. He asked the Lord to bring order into the mess of his life. He wanted clarity of mind, clarity of heart, clarity of body. The Lord will always bring clarity, just believing in the Lord will bring clarity to our life, the exact details may be different from what you expect. Dream your dreams and then let God bring order to the mess of your life in his way.
Jesus heals the leper. If Jesus had stopped and done nothing else, the first part of Luke 5:13 is enough. READ. He touched the leper… a leper is literally untouchable… can you imagine what the leper may have felt as Jesus reached out and touched the leper? Lepers were put away from others in an effort to keep the disease from spreading…. As they walked the streets they were required to shout, Unclean, Unclean as a warning for people to stay away. To be touched by Jesus. This is a promise that will always be kept… Ask the Lord any time, about anything, strip yourself of false expectations, and say to him, “If you are willing…” I guarantee that in some form or another he will touch you at your deepest need. He will bring peace to your soul. He will give confidence to those who fear. He will touch you.
Mark was a friend of mine that was a modern leper. Back in 1988 when Sally and I first went to a church in San Francisco, Mark was the pianist. Wonderful man. I learned he had grown up in the church and only recently had he returned to his roots. After a few months the deep secret was revealed. For years, Mark had lived the life of a homosexual and had contracted AIDS. Mark’s world was rocked! In shock, he returned to his roots; every Sunday he found freedom playing the piano in worship to the Lord. Mark played like an angel. I watched Mark’s faith grow as he accepted his disease. He told Sally and me that his friends would often ask him how come he was happier now that he was living with AIDS than he ever seemed to be when he did not know he had AIDS ~ that gave Mark an opportunity to share the story of his faith in Jesus Christ. In those days the world did not know much about AIDS, and there were still rumors about AIDS being spread by touching common surfaces, not washing hands properly. I am proud of the S.F. Church for embracing Mark, loving Mark, accepting Mark, touching Mark, hugging Mark. Mark died in the mid 90’s after we’d already moved to Nooksack. He was not healed of AIDS on this earth, but he was touched.
I don’t know what God’s going to do exactly with the mess in your life, but I do know he will touch you. The touch of Jesus is enough. Jesus touch is acceptance. I want to always be part of a community that is willing to be the hug of Jesus and touch the untouchable, those that are messy. As long as we are willing to touch the messy people, that gives me confidence I will always be acceptable.
Let Christ bring order to your mess. He will touch you. “I am willing, be clean.” The Lord Jesus Christ will always be willing to bring cleansing to your heart, to accept you, to love you. He will bring order to your mess.
Luke 5:14 is not all that mysterious of a verse: READ. I think Jesus is simply wanting to verify the healing of the leper through the formal processes of the day. In those days it was the priests that declared people healed, today we’d tell somebody to go to the doctor and get the x-ray to declare the bone is healed. The declaration of the priest would add one more layer of acceptance to verify the former leper is now fit to return into society. Let Jesus make order out of your mess. Like the leper, the world will notice when you suddenly discover the peace of Christ, others will want the same thing READ Luke 5:15.
The first step of straightening out the mess is to recognize you have a mess. It’s not easy to ask for help from Jesus because we get stuck in our messy ways. It’s easier to fail than to live in victory. Get rid of false expectations so that you can accept whatever the Lord gives you. Jesus will always touch your deepest need and accept you just as you are. Yet the touch of Jesus alone will change you as you discover the healing power of acceptance. “If you are willing, Jesus, bring order to my mess.” Amen.