Mark 1:40-45 tells of a leper falling to his knees before Jesus, begging Him to cleanse his leprosy. Did Jesus shun the leper as was typical of the good religious folks? Did He flee from the ostracized leper so as not to become ceremonially unclean?
No! Jesus, in His compassion, not only dealt directly with the leper’s plea, but He even reached out to touch the man’s scaly flesh.
We typically hear this passage preached topically, stressing the leper’s faith and Jesus’ compassion, which are important lessons for us to grasp. Along with the leper’s faith, though, we need to recognize the attitude he displayed in begging for Jesus’ healing touch. While the unclean man obviously believed that Jesus could heal him, he didn’t demand it, or even expect it. Instead, he humbly yielded to Jesus’ sovereign choice of whether or not to honor his faith.
How does this teaching align with today’s “Word of Faith” and “positive confession” doctrines? According to those, the leper should have demanded the healing, certain that it was Jesus’ will. Maybe he should have not even bothered Jesus, but rather affirmed that he wasn’t sick at all.
I realize the Word of Faith teaching isn’t quite that simplistic, that Jesus’ Holy Spirit gives us His authority over sickness and other misfortunes of life. Yet, how can we presume to speak His will to such matters, simply because we have faith? 2 Corinthians 12:7 seems to indicate that God, in His perfect sovereignty, does not always answer our prayer of faith to our satisfaction.
(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Even though the leper’s humility models the attitude with which we must approach our Savior God, where is the balance between expecting Him to fulfill His promises, and avoiding the presumption of demanding affirmative answers to prayer? Therein lies my personal struggle with prayer; though I believe with certainty that God can grant my pleas, I’m never sure that my will aligns with His.
One of my greatest fears is presuming upon God’s will, and thus bringing a reproach upon His holy Name. How often have I heard well-meaning brethren speak with a certainty that God will heal, or otherwise answer prayer according to their demands? And does such presumption escape the notice of unsaved observers? We often express dismay at most people’s gospel-resistance, but in view of so many believers’ religious antics, how can we expect otherwise?
If we simply know God’s Word and honestly proclaim Jesus’ gospel of grace, not what we want it to say, but only what it actually says, we can overcome much of the world’s hateful prejudice. But that requires that we love sinners more than our pet doctrines.
Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make us clean of our putrid attitudes.