As I read the Scriptures, I tend to latch onto a few verses at a time and gnaw on them for a while. Sometimes days at a time. I don't think it has anything to do with "maturity" or godliness; I'm just slow, thick headed.
So, I'm reading through Matthew's account of the story of Jesus again. In chapter 8 Matthew tells the story of this untouchable, ostracized leper who approaches Jesus for healing.
Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, "Master, if you want to, you can heal my body." Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. (verses 1-3, MSG)
If I've heard one discussion about this request, I've heard dozens. "If Jesus was willing to heal this man, why isn't he willing to heal me?" It seems to me that our "take away" from this story stops right there. Some end up thinking, "He just doesn't want to help me." while others conclude "I found favor with God - he was willing."
We tend to talk about this story from a consumer mindset. "I'm the consumer, I'm the customer. I have a need. You've made a promise. You should deliver." Right...
But there's more to this passage. Jesus gives this man some instruction. Precise instruction.
Jesus said, "Don't talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done." (verse 4, MSG)
I've not heard nearly as many conversations about Jesus instructions to this man. There are plenty of speculations about why Jesus asked this man to keep it under wraps.
- Jesus wasn't ready for wide-spread popularity yet.
- He didn't want conflict with the Jewish high priest or Pharisees.
- He was a Jewish Rabbi - of course, he'd honor the ceremonial expectations regarding an "unclean" condition like leprosy.
But, maybe there's something more here. Maybe as Eugene Peterson infers, Jesus was challenging this man to live life with gratitude. Maybe Jesus was reading the human heart and wanted to guide him away from our tendency:
- ...to expect more
- ...to give others the "formula" we followed for our answered prayer
- ...to turn our God moment into a universal doctrine to "prove" - not God's holiness, but our proper steps - to figure out God
- ...to talk about a well-understood experience from 6 months ago, 16 years ago... rather than live out gratitude inside an on-going relationship of wonder and mystery
Satisfied customers. Hardly the language we want to use to describe those whose lives were touched by the risen Christ. And yet, maybe, just maybe there's something here for us to consider.
You see, some time ago when I was on the search for the "right" cell phone and the "right" carrier with the "right" plan, I wanted "proof" from satisfied customers - people who are happy and grateful for the service/phone plan they use. I really didn't care about what process they used to secure their contract. I didn't care about what language they used to negotiate their deal. I wasn't looking for what they did "right". I was looking for satisfied people.
Maybe the bigger point of this story in Matthew 8 isn't how, when or who Jesus chooses to heal. Maybe the bigger point is that Jesus invites us to live our lives gratefully. Let people see our joy, our gratitude... our satisfaction. Maybe, too often, when we open our mouths to state the truth, argue our case or validate our choice to follow Jesus, we end up talking too much about us. About me.
Maybe Jesus knows that if people see us live our lives grateful for Him, grateful for his grace, that people will look at us and know it's not about us... There must be something, Someone else at work in our lives.