“If Only You Will, You Can Cleanse Me”
Luke’s Gospel is the gospel of the lowly, the sick, the dispossessed. In today’s passage he describes Jesus’s encounter with one of the most despised in society, a man afflicted with leprosy.
The man was probably a beggar by the roadside, shunned by all who passed by. His prayer is piteous: “Sir, if only you will, you can cleanse me.” And Jesus replies, “Indeed I will. Be clean again.” Even more, Jesus does the unthinkable: he reaches out and touches him, and the healing takes place immediately.
In these three words – “Indeed, I will” -- Jesus summarises his attitude to illness and possession. He has come to free us from whatever diminishes our bodies and binds our souls. He wants us to be free, he helps us to be free. He knows all too well that sickness is a metaphor for bondage, the sick person is tied to his past, his failings, his sins -- or is the victim of the sins of others. Sickness eats away our self-respect and makes us bitter and self-centred. This is why first of all, we need to be healed.
There is no recorded instance that Jesus ever turned anyone away who asked for healing, no matter how imperfect their dispositions were. He deliberately seeks out the maimed and the crippled, the blind, lepers, and says “I’ve come not to call the healthy but the sick”. By curing the sick, Jesus opens their hearts to thanksgiving and praise, opens their ears to the challenge of the ‘good news’, opens their lives to discipleship.
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