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Friday, April 24, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 5:12–26

Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.” But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralyzed—”I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.” (NRSV)

In Luke 5:12-26 the themes of compassion versus indifference and hope versus resignation stand out. The first healing event is the encounter between Jesus and the man with leprosy, one of the most dreaded and despised diseases of that day. An individual with leprosy faced total isolation.

Jesus and this man appear to be alone. It could be that, as the man approached Jesus, those around him drew away to a safe distance. The man said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me whole.” Surely this man had heard the news of Jesus’ healing power and compassion. Yet I can relate to his request. It is one thing to believe in God’s power and love. But it is quite another to have faith that God wants and is willing to heal us in our own intractable conditions.

Jesus not only expresses his willingness but reaches out and touches the one who is untouchable to everyone else. Can you imagine the confusion and astonishment of those witnessing this healing?

The man who is paralyzed is not isolated and left alone to cope with his disability. It is his friends who are the heroes of this vignette. Without his friends, his encounter with Jesus would not have been possible. As I’ve thought about my own healing, I can see how so many key people in my life have been real means of grace.

Healing doesn’t always happen in an isolated meeting with Jesus and without cost. These friends risked being ostracized by their religious leaders and congregations. Their love for their friend overcame any fear they might have had regarding the consequences of their actions.

The man who had leprosy, the man who was paralyzed, the community without hope, the migrant children from a disenfranchised community who rise above their circumstances in the film McFarland USA—these are God’s stories for us. They call us to hope and to faith in a world that believes in so little.

Good Lord, may you give us courage, hope, and faith so we can believe that you are with us and for us in all the challenges of our lives. Amen.

Written by Susan Cornelius,
Psychotherapist, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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