Weekly Reading for Shabbat- 4/2/11
Coming Out of a Split Decision…Whol”e”!
God wants so much more for us than we could ever dare to imagine. If we were to design our own lives, our design would come short of what God had in mind. Accepting that is the hard part– trusting God to design a life in which we are not the controller; to follow a plan that we did not conjure, and to plunge into a river that is not of our choosing– simply because the prophet said that that river was the one that would do the job. That river (no other would do) was the one that would restore us to health.
The text tells us that a leper approached Jesus and said, “If you are willing, I can be made clean.” To which Jesus responded, “I am willing.” Jesus then cleansed the leper, but something peculiar happened immediately following.
Jesus gave the “clean” leper an unusual instruction. He told him to go back to the temple that he used to be a part of and offer the priest a gift. He told the leper to demonstrate to the community that he was clean by what he was bringing to the table– by his action. This was unusual because it should have been obvious that the leper was clean, so why should he have to present himself in order to prove it? What was Jesus really doing? What was Jesus really healing? Jesus was healing the leper, wholly.
Sometimes We Birth A Son– A Condition
When the leper was cleansed, he birthed a new condition. He went from being unclean to being clean. He was like Namaan. But all Namaan had to do was to dunk seven times in the Jordan river. The difficult part was in traveling to see the prophet. When he got there, the challenge was over. It was almost so easy that Namaan couldn’t accept the healing.
When Namaan accepted the assignment, as easy as it was, he was healed. I have a feeling that Namaan’s leprosy was caused by his inability to follow directions. Namaan probably struggled with over-analyzing things that needed his attention. Instead of just doing what he was told to do, Namaan did what he felt should have been done. As a result, Namaan developed a disorder (dysfunction) that erupted in his life. Namaan made too many decisions based on how he “felt”. He allowed too many “eruptions of affection” until they affected his judgment. Namaan began to make emotional judgments, in so much that Namaan couldn’t accept another person’s counsel if he didn’t “feel” like it.
However, the change occurred before Namaan even went under the water. Namaan listened and heeded to the counsel of his Israelite servant. And he did this twice. And suddenly something new was born. Namaan was able to hear the truth despite how he felt about who presented it to him. Namaan began to be “no respector of persons” but to respect the actual counsel for what it was worth. This was a new condition, and it caused Namaan to be a new man– a man who recognized the truth, regardless of his feelings.
Sometimes We Birth A Daughter–A Position
Because Namaan did not live in Israel, he had to ask God for an exception. He asked the prophet to excuse him for remaining in the same position (being the right-hand man to a King who wasn’t a worshipper of Israel’s God). Though his condition had been restored to God’s original plan, his position hadn’t changed. But the leper who sought Jesus was different. Not only was Christ going to restore his condition, Christ was going to clean his position. Wow is all I can say.
What Christ was offering was above expectations. It was above what was reasonable. It was miraculous! He could have simply restored the man to his ideal condition. Who wouldn’t be thankful for that? But he didn’t. He could have taken his disorder (dysfunction) and erased it so that it would not hinder him anymore. But Christ did something so crazy, so supernatural, that it is worth reviewing.
The man was a leper because he had a disorder. His disorder wasn’t able to be dealt with by the high priest because the high priest himself was disqualified from making judgments that had to come from the supreme court. That is why Jesus came in the first place. Jesus came to bring the supreme court judgment to earth! So the man’s disorder was not just a shame to himself, but also to the high priest and the community that couldn’t heal him. The fact is, the leper was so bad off that nothing could be done for him. He was banished. Now, I believe that the man’s disorder was a classic case of “catch 22”. He became dysfunctional because something/someone hindered his ability to offer his gift, and his inability to offer his gift kept him locked in dysfunction. Man, what a horrible place to be!
Perhaps, just perhaps, the leper could have been a priest himself. A priest who was out of position because of his condition. But we only speculate.
Fraternal Twins- A Son & A Daughter
Suddenly, there he was before Jesus, offering his gift. And do you know what it was? The dysfunctional man had erupted affection for Jesus. Plainly put, he couldn’t control himself in Jesus’ presence. He bubbled over exposing something he never wanted any high priest to know. He was helpless about his own healing, though he wanted it so bad. And so there it was in plain sight. The man, unable to bring himself before a priest who could help him, caused himself the leprosy. In fact, the leprosy may have erupted from his split decision about the priesthood and its ability to deal with issues as severe as his. Yet, bringing himself before Jesus is what caused the leprosy to disappear. Jesus was willing. Jesus was willing to help his helplessness.
And this is how Jesus healed him. Jesus identified the problem. The man was trapped in his own will, and he knew it. That is why he said to the Lord, “If YOU are willing…”. He was pleading with Jesus to override his own will because it had him locked out of life. Jesus sent the man back to do what should have been done in the first place. He sent him back to present himself to the priest– the same priest who said that nothing could be done for him. Jesus sent him back against his will. But you know what? He went! And that was HIS choice! When he went, the curse was broken! Unlike Namaan, this man wasn’t focusing on how he felt. He was focusing on what he knew! However, this time, the man’s gift would cause the priest to produce the unknown— the miraculous. He allowed himself to be examined by the priest, even though he knew that the priest was powerless to help him, but he did it anyway! And when he allowed the priest to see him clearly, God’s judgment was changed! And the priest saw that God had changed his mind! That was the leper’s gift to the priest. God can change his judgment, should he so choose. God can change his judgment, should it be his will!
Jesus gave him something that he couldn’t give himself before he went. He told the man that when the priest examines him, He will find nothing; Not because the priest wasn’t doing his job the first time, but because there was no longer anything there. That was Jesus’ gift to the man: The assurance, that the moment he submitted his will, he was restored. But the man had to choose whether or not to believe Christ.
A son is our stability, and a daughter is our delight, but when God chooses for us to conceive both, it is a good thing! It is something that we birth that exceeds our expectations. It is when there is a split decision on God’s end, concerning us, and the only thing standing in his way of deciding one way or the other is whether or not we will choose to submit our own will under his authority. Then, one decision is about our wretched condition– the decision to restore us to health. while the other decision is about our botched position– the decision to clean out whosoever is standing in our place. Occassionally, not all of the time, God does something we never saw coming. He gives it all back to us. He gives back everything he ever conceived for us, because we want it so bad that we are willing to do whatever it takes.
When this happens, everything is healthy. Everything is good. The system has been purged. The process re-instated. Your holy health plan was conceived ahead of time, but you had to submit your whol”e” will. And that was a choice that no one could make for you…not even the fraternal twins awaiting the judgment to be born.