This piece first appeared in the “Pastor’s Perspective” column of the Owatonna People’s Press; September 17, 2016
“A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’” – Mark 1:40-41 (NRSV)
How many times have we felt like something is wrong? It might be our health, or it could be our spirit, our relationships, or our families. There are times when the problems and issues that we face can feel overwhelming and we just don’t know what to do.
At these times, people of faith pray; we come to God seeking help, comfort and healing. But I think there’s something interesting that we can learn from the leper in Mark’s Gospel. He begins his exchange with Jesus by saying “if you choose…you can make me clean.” He was acknowledging that Jesus has the power. Jesus can choose to heal, or Jesus can choose not to heal.
Often, we approach God like one might approach a vending machine. We “insert” a prayer and expect to get out of it what we want. We approach God to ask for help, or healing, but we want God to work on our terms.
But that’s not how the leper prayed. He approached Jesus and the first thing he did was to acknowledge that being healed was on Jesus’ terms, not his own. In that sense, his words “if you choose…” is a confession of faith. It is an acknowledgement that Jesus is God, and is fully in control.
And Jesus reply brings comfort. He says, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Jesus has the power to choose, and Jesus is telling this leper, who occupies the bottom rung on the socio-economic ladder that “I choose you.”
I choose you.
Jesus chooses each of us. And because of that, Jesus does make us whole. Jesus brings the healing that we hope for; the healing that we need.
What would happen if we began all of our prayers by acknowledging God’s sovereignty and power. “God, if you choose…” I don’t think it will change what Jesus does for us. Jesus’ love isn’t dependent on what we say or do. But I do think that it might change our spirits. It will change the way we approach God. It will give us humble hearts, and remind us of the love of God, on which we all depend.