Today’s chapter from the Gospel of Matthew reads like a collection of short stories. We hear about five separate miracles performed by Jesus. I must admit, I never like to read collections of short stories. Mostly because I’m always left wanting more. It feels as if I’m just getting to know the characters and understand their circumstance and then the story ends. But, like all good novels, the Bible doesn’t disappoint. When we consider these miracles collectively we see the common thread: Jesus the Messiah. Of course, this is Matthew’s purpose, to show the Jews that He is the eternal King.
The first story we hear is about Jesus healing a man with leprosy. When I first read it, I breezed through the text. It’s a familiar tale, one we have all heard as children in Sunday school. Often, we use it to teach children not to judge by outward appearance. It’s so convicting when Jesus reaches out and touches the leper in verse three of chapter eight. But what surprised me was the leper says in verse two,
“Lord if you will you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2
The title of the chapter is, “Jesus Heals a Leper” and yet, what we hear is the leper asking to be made clean. I checked several other translations and found that each time, the request is the same, “Lord make me clean.” Yes, the man wants to be healed. He wants to be cured. Just like leprosy, sin is an incurable disease. Only the hand of Jesus can cure it. Only the love of Jesus can truly clean our soul. So is there a difference between being clean and being cured? I’m not sure. The leper had to be inspected by a priest and be declared clean before Jesus’ miracle could be authenticated. The HSCB translation notes that Jesus performed many of his miracles through touch but he certainly had the power to heal by command and a great distance from the sufferer. Touching the leper was an expression of deep compassion since doing so put Jesus at great risk.
All of this leads me to ask, how can I ask to be made clean? I’ve prayed fervently for healing over the years. All three of our children have faced significant health challenges. But maybe, I’ve placed my focus on the wrong outcome. Perhaps by boldly asking for Jesus to reach out and touch our broken lives, we can be made clean. What are the sins in my life that need to be wiped away? How can I accept my ragged edges, my incomplete spiritual self and become content with the slow process of being made clean? Our Psalm today echo’s the idea of God’s goodness in our waywardness,
“I remove the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud.” Psalm 81: 6-7
He answers us out of our thunderclouds. He can wipe us clean and in doing so, heal not only our physical wounds but our hearts as well. Boldly ask Him and as His word says, He will answer.