The following words aren’t meant to be a definitive theological treatise or anything. I just wanted to talk about a little crisis of faith.
My Bible fell open to Matthew 8 today and what I saw astonished me. After he finishes the Beatitudes, no sooner does Jesus come down from the mountain than he starts to heal, beginning with a leper: “I am willing. Be clean!”
Wow, where’s my Staples button? That was easy.
And it’s not just one. He doesn’t stop after the leper, going “Okay, that’s enough for now, I don’t want you to get carried away” with a knowing wink. He keeps at it. The stories pile up. The centurion’s servant. Peter’s mother-in-law. The two demoniacs in the Gadarenes. The paralytic on the mat. Jairus’ daughter. The bleeding victim. The two blind men. The demon-possessed mute.
All our well-practiced talk of “all the people in Israel God didn’t heal” seems odd when you read Matthew 8:16,
When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick…
It all seems radically opposed to our own experience. When WILL our longings happen to coincide with God’s plan?
And already I sense our discomfort. Is this headed in the health-and-wealth direction? We can’t even talk about this without our hackles getting up.
The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to reveal and confirm his identity as the Son of God. But Jesus – and his Father before him – could have chosen any class of sign for the unveiling. It would have fit perfectly within the Jews’ expectations for Jesus to use signs from heaven, as we see in Chapter 16. Yet he – and his Father before him – chose signs that helped people, even when it made the kingless people impatient.
It isn’t ultimately about the blessings. It’s about knowing the heart of God.
It’s a challenge to see God as willing. It’s something God’s been talking to me about lately. Does the phrase “willing God” trigger something deep discomfort, like a radar pinging? I can’t be the only one. Hear “God is not a vending machine” often enough, by itself, and you’ll just lose your view of his generosity.
When God doesn’t heal, the first instinct of the mature believer is to question whether God’s plan – wise, sovereign, and in our best interests – included the healing. I think that’s a very good place to go. I also think it can make a neat disguise for simple unbelief, as it often has in my own heart. I find myself doubting whether God’s plan will include my requests – before the request is even out of my mouth.
Because of that, I sometimes don’t often even pray, or pray with any fervor. It’s difficult to pray enthusiastically and confidently to a cosmic IRS agent or a byzantine computer program that needs to be coded and reverse-engineered.
Seeing God as willing changes the game entirely. It changed our very posture.
His willingness may manifest itself in a way or time I wasn’t expecting – or he may be unwilling to grant a request that would harm me in the long run. But it’s still a willing heart. And it’s a far cry from the IRS agent or fourth-dimensional Rubik’s cube. It’s a heart I can approach, beseech, and trust. And it’s also an easy heart to trust a difficult answer with.
Do you see the difference?
…so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
He Himself took our weaknesses
and carried our diseases.
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!