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On your Mark

The yes and not yet of healing

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (Mark 1:40-42, NIV)

I am a missionary kid from northwest China and Tibet. One of my earliest memories is of beggars on the street — toes, fingers and noses eaten away by the dread disease of leprosy. I never saw any of them healed, although I have witnessed other types of healing.

This leper who came to Jesus had a double whammy: the illness itself and the isolation caused by the illness. His disease reduced him to the position of outcast and separated him from friends, family and community. Luke, the doctor, notes this man was “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12, KJV), a diagnosis that put him in the latter stages of deterioration.

If he had a wife, had she remarried? If a father, were his children calling someone else “Daddy”? Or, if he had a family, were they still hoping against hope for some miracle of disease arrest?

For sure, Jesus was the leper’s last hope. Without healing, his disease inevitably led to a lonely death. He only asked Jesus to make him “clean.” He asked not for a restorative miracle of lost body parts, but for a complete end to the progression of the disease so that a priest, functioning by Old Testament law, could declare him able again to return to society.

Here’s the mystery for us. Individuals we know have also come to Jesus for healing and have not yet been cured. How is it that the Lord has compassion for this leper, but others are not healed? Why doesn’t the Lord say to all, “I am willing”?

Kathryn Kuhlman once said that is the first question she will ask the Lord on the other side.

Perhaps if the Lord healed all, there would be nothing left for us to do. Would we be motivated to care for the poor, the sick and the dying? Although Jesus is full of compassion, would our compassion be empty?

I certainly do not understand the mysteries here. Maybe our problem is that we are too quick to universalize the experience of one; to say, “Well, Lord, if You did it for one then You should do the same for all.” That attitude keeps us from rejoicing for the one who has been healed.

I was in a Kathryn Kuhlman meeting once when a student of mine was healed of a broken toe and another young friend of mine with a fatal illness was not healed. I found it hard to rejoice with the one who had been healed.

While we don’t understand why some are healed now and others are not, we do know as believers that in a short time the hand of Jesus will touch us all with life immortal. Let’s rejoice in the healing grace given to some now, and rejoice also that a complete healing lies ahead for all who put their faith in Christ.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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