beat me at the limbo contest at our Hawaiian Luau next week? Would you be willing to do one of these things for a Klondike bar? That’s really a great slogan isn’t it? You invite someone to think to themselves,“Hmm..would I do that for that treat?”
How important is it to me to get it. Am I willing to risk embarrassment as I work my way through the New Testament books or to belt out that hymn verse? Am I willing to risk injury to humble pastor and beat him at the limbo? It shows you just how valuable that treat is to you. Today, Mark’s gospel gets us thinking about what God is willing to do, and it’s not about what God is willing to do for an ice cream bar. What is God willing to do for you?
The man in our verses this morning knew exactly what he wanted Jesus to do for him. “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” There is a lot said in this statement. First of all, it shows that this man understands who Jesus was. Saying to him, “If you are willing you can heal me of leprosy,” is not the same as going to someone and saying to him, “If you are willing you can do ten jumping jacks. He was asking Jesus to do something that no one else could. Leprosy was a disease that sentenced the one who contracted it to a life of separation and hopelessness.
There was no cure for it. The people who had it were commanded by the law to stay away from people who were uninfected so it wouldn’t spread. Whenever someone came near to them they were commanded to cry out in a loud voice, “Unclean, Unclean!” so everyone was aware of their situation. No, leprosy was not something that was pretty, and it wasn’t something that any man could simply take care of. When this man said to Jesus, hey, if you are willing you could cleanse me, he is saying loud and clear, Jesus, I know you are the Holy One and I know that you have divine power to help me. You can do this.
But notice what else this man recognizes. It is a matter of whether or not Jesus wills to do this. He is acknowledging that Jesus could decide to do it or not, and it has nothing to do with his ability or power to accomplish it. I mean, we have read these verses once already and we will look at them some more, so we know what happens. We know the next verse says, “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.” But this man didn’t know what would happen next. We might wonder how he would have reacted, but that man definitely knew Jesus could have not healed him and it would have only been a matter of will. This man comes to Jesus and says, “I know who you are. I don’t know what your will is in this case, but if you wanted to, you could heal me.”
Does such an attitude exist in your heart toward your God? Do we bring our problems to him humbly and eagerly and say Lord, if you are willing you can help me with this. If you are willing, you can give me my health back. If you are willing, you can give me a few good friends. If you are willing, you can help me find more work or better work. If you are willing, you can grant success to this undertaking. If you are willing, you could give me this blessing that I have been waiting for so long for. Lord, I know you have the ability to do any of these things for me. It’s simply a matter of whether or not you are willing to do it.
Sometimes we do pretty well at that right? We know who we are talking to in our prayers. We know what he can do, which is everything. We know he is going to listen. But don’t we run into a sinful snag often in what we are willing to do in this regard?
Sometimes we aren’t very quick to kneel down next to the leper. We aren’t in a hurry to rush to God and drop a problem in front of him and say, Lord, if you wanted to you could take care of this. Instead, what do we so often do? Well we try to take care of it. If we want to get healthy, we are going to try every medical means offered. If we want new friends, maybe we try some new ways of social networking. If we want a different job we start floating our name around. If we want success we do everything we can to bring it about. None of those things are wrong. But do they ever hide something more sinful than we would want to admit.
You see, it’s not that we don’t think God could use his power and help us. It’s just that you and me, we have sorta gotten tired of God saying he’s not willing. If every problem we brought before God he answered the way Jesus answered this leper, yup I’m willing, we would never stop bringing our problems to him would we? But because there are times when God’s answer to our request is, no, I’m not willing, what have we done? Don’t we judge which of our problems God might actually help us with? Rather than bringing all of our cares to him, we have a feel worked out. Ok, this is something God might actually do something about, I better pray about it. This is something that I will just have to do. Or there are things that whenever we pray about them we tack on that phrase, in accordance with your will. Nothing wrong with that. It is good to pray for God’s will to be done. But do we sometimes sneak that in there as God’s out? That we ar convinced that God isn’t going to do anything about this problem, that he isn’ willing, and we don’t want it to look like he blew it. Is the reason that we don’t act more like this leper, and bring our problems to God and dump them there and say, God if you are willing to take care of these, because deep down we have doubts that there is even a chance he is going to say, yes I am willing?
But why do you doubt what God is willing to do for you? Is it because you don’t get the chance the leper did? You don’t get to throw yourself down at Jesus feet and say, Lord if you are willing? But dear Christian, you do get that opportunity. And before we look at that, isn’t it amazing to think about that God has told you what he is willing to do for you? Before you and I could say anything to God about what he wills to do or not, he revealed his will to the world. He revealed that he was willing to provide an answer to the problem of sin. He revealed that he was willing to send his Son to stand in front of a leprous man, more than that to touch and cleanse him. Why? Because his will was for people to take notice of who this was. His will was for you and me to see the Son of God revealed for our certainty. His will was for his Son to show himself as the Lamb of God and then to die as that Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. God willed that his glory and grace be revealed to all through Christ. And his will was done.
And now God has a more detailed will for you. What God is willing to do is to listen to your every need. To be the one that you can cast all your anxieties on. Yes, your big life shaping problems, but also your daily cares and concerns. Your daily challenges that the hardest part sometimes is simply getting up for them. God is willing to do anything for you. He is willing to even say no to you. Notice the emotion Jesus shows here. He is overwhelmed with pity for this poor man. He knows the life that he has had to live and the shame of it. When you come and present your problems to God, know that he cares. He is seized by his love and compassion for you. If you doubt it, look at what he was willing to do for you through Christ. And because of that great love he has for you, he may say to you, “I am not willing.” What you are asking to be resolved is serving a good purpose for you. You can’t see it now, but I do. I know it is what’s best for you. Trust me. God sometimes says I am not willing, even though he knows it opens the door for us to sinfully doubt him and his power. But see his great mercy. He is still willing to forgive us for such doubts. He is still willing to forgive us for struggling with our selfish doubts and fears. He is still willing to
cleanse us again from our sins, a much more miraculous work than healing a leper.
What God is willing to do for you is everything. Trust his power and his wisdom. And as you see him carry out his will for you that centers on the forgiveness Christ won, go and tell others about what God wills for them. The leper was supposed to offer the sacrifices and show himself to the priest, that would have been the powerful testimony Jesus wanted him to give. Instead he talked up the miraculous healing and it made Jesus’ ministry adjust. God is willing to cleanse sinners like you and me. He is willing to wash us of the sins that we continue to struggle with. He is willing to rinse us and make us holy. He has the same will for the other people in your life, those who like us have problems and sins. We don’t need to wonder, “God are you willing to forgive me? Are you willing to forgive this person?” God’s answer is a resounding yes. May God help us to go and give our testimony to the world around us of what our God was willing to do for us. And may we continue to place all things before God and say, “Lord, whatever your will is for me, do it. And to you be praise.” Amen.