Reading: Luke 5: 12-26
Two stories of healing, one with leprosy, one with paralysis. One was on his own and alone because of the fear of the contagion of his disease in anyone who saw him, the other with friends who were willing to literally raise the roof to get him the help he needed. In both cases, Jesus chose to intervene in their lives and change what was a cruel fate with which each of them had to deal.
In the first story, the leprous man asked Jesus to make a choice, risking rejection but hoping that Jesus would actually say yes. He asked, but he left the outcome in Jesus' hands. The second story is more convoluted, involving not just a paralyzed man and his friends, but critics of Jesus as well as those who believed and came to hear what Jesus had to teach them. This time there is no report of the young man asking Jesus to choose, only Jesus stating that his sins were forgiven. Of course, the Pharisees pounced on that like a hound dog on a juicy bone. It was GOD who forgave sins, so how dare Jesus tell this young man that his sins were forgiven? And was it a sin that had caused his paralysis? It didn't matter to Jesus. He simply told the young man to get up and walk and the boy did. Did that convince the Pharisees? It's dubious, but the passage does tell us that "Amazement seized all of them." Who knows? Maybe one or two of them changed their mind - or at least were more willing to be convinced of Jesus' veracity.
Both men exhibited something, though, that was apparent but unstated. Both believed that Jesus had the power to heal and cure them. They weren't afraid to ask, or have someone ask on their behalf. They took a risk and the risk paid off. Never mind the Pharisees, never mind the crowds, never mind the friends or lack of them, at that moment it was just the sick and crippled and Jesus. Just the two of them with a world of faith between them. And it paid off.
Having been undergoing my own dis-ease and trouble, I have depended on the prayers and support of friends as well as my own asking Jesus to, in effect, make a choice in my life. I have stated what I would wish for, but even if I never said it, I think Jesus knew that I would accept whichever way the outcome came and deal with it. I didn't feel I could ask Jesus to heal me -- that shouldn't be my choice or demand to make. All I really felt I could do was to put it in God's hands, Jesus' hands, again and again. There were times I took it back and worried about the outcome, but again and again I put it in their hands to choose whether I would have a good outcome or a not-so-good one. I felt buoyed by the friends who, in essence, let me down through the roof tiles, and also in the sight of a healer passing by the road where I sat in the dust of my hope and fear.
With the pronouncement of one of my team of doctors, I can feel that the prayers worked, that the choice had been made, and the faith that I had was enough. I didn't deserve good news, I didn't earn it, and I am sure there are ever so many who are much better people than I who deserve the report I got more than I. Still, what it has done for me is to make me realize that even a sometimes timid faith, a fear of asking for what I need or want, and a feeling of not being good enough is perhaps enough for God, enough for Jesus, and for the Spirit too gives God the chance to act and even if the choice was "Not this time," it would have been for God's purpose and reasons. I can go on my way, praising God and rejoicing, feeling ineffably thankful for not just the good report but also for the whole experience. I didn't have to have perfect faith, just faith enough to leave the choice and accept the waiting -- and the choice itself. I can redouble my prayers for others who are in similar straits, not always asking for them to be cured but for them to be healed of the anxiety and fear and to obtain trust and faith that all will be well, in whatever way God chooses.
There will always be Pharisees trying to poke holes in faith and in what Jesus can do through God's grace. There will be those who are angry that someone's sins can actually be forgiven and a healing, whether physical or spiritual, can be made despite their assessment of the unworthiness of the recipient. For those, though, who have even a grain of faith, their choice to ask to be chosen can be enough. I have a feeling that the timid asking to be chosen are more welcome, in a sense, than those who demand to be chosen with breast-beating and loud wailing.
Quiet miracles are still miracles. And accepting the choice of God can change lives. I can testify. Amen.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul
on Episcopal Café Tuesday, October 2, 2012.