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TEXT: Luke 5:12-15
SUBJECT: Luke #13: The Willing Christ
Today, with God's help, we'll move on in our study of Luke Gospel. The man wrote his book to confirm the faith of his friend, Theophilus. What it did for Luke's friend long ago, it will do for you. But not by sitting on your nightstand gathering dust; it only builds confidence in you if you read it, often, carefully, and with prayer.
That's what our story is designed to do; it's there to strengthen your faith in Christ. In His power, of course, but mostly, in His grace. That grace is on wonderful display in today's short narrative.
The story takes place "in a certain city". Luke doesn't tell us which one, but judging from the context, it must be a town in Galilee.
One day, a man comes to the Lord "full of leprosy". This is not the usual way of describing a leper. Luke wants us to know how bad-off the man was. He was near death, is seems.
He falls down before Christ in humble reverence, saying, "Lord, if You want to, You can make me clean".
This says a good deal about the man's knowledge and faith. He had heard the stories coming out of Capernaum-how the Lord had cast out demons and healed the sick. He knew that, if Christ could help others, He could also help him.
Not even the most feared disease in the Ancient World was beyond His almighty power. The leper believes in the power of Jesus Christ!
What he's not so sure about is the Lord's willingness. He knows He could do it if He wants to. But does He want to? That's the man's struggle.
This is a big mistake: the attributes of God are all equal. It's not that He is really powerful and somewhat loving. No! He is infinitely everything-holy, just, merciful, loving, patient, jealous, powerful, wise, and so on .
He proves it in the story. No sooner does the leper ask for healing but He grants it. There is no internal debate; Christ does not weigh the pros and cons of healing the man. He simply does it-right then.
"Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean". "I am willing, be clean".
The disease left him immediately. The man didn't get better, he got well-by the almighty and all loving Word of Christ.
With the healing word comes a command, two in fact.
"Tell no one, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded".
Whether he obeyed the second command, we don't know. But we know he did not obey the first command. Luke hints at it, while Mark makes it plain,
"He went out to publish it much, and to blaze it abroad".
We understand the man's enthusiasm, but we cannot condone his disobedience. The Lord is to be worshiped and served His way. Sincerity is good, but it's not enough!
"To obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams".
The leper's witnessing hurt the Lord Jesus Christ. It made Him such a celebrity, that He was mobbed wherever He went. Before long, it got so bad that He had to sneak off and hide.
That's the story.
Why is it there? It is certainly not filler, padding Luke's story. No, the Lord did so much that if Luke had put it all down on paper
"The world itself could not contain the books".
It's there for two reasons: the first is to admire the willingness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Important men don't have time for little people. Call the White House and see if the President comes to the phone!
Yet here we have the Most Important Man of All-the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Son of God and the Savior of the world-noticing a nobody and taking time to help him.
Remember, this occurred during His state of humiliation, when He had all the limitations that you have! He had a lot to do with very little time to do it! Yet, there He is, stopping to help a disgusting leper!
The act was not out of character. Everyone has a generous moment now and then. But the Lord lived this way.
This should not surprise you. According to John 5:19,
"The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for whatever He does the Son does also".
This is how God described Himself-as merciful, kind, condescending, generous. When He joined the human race, that's exactly the kind of man He was! John said,
"We beheld His glory, the glory of the only- begotten of the Father-full of grace and Truth".
"Full of grace". A perfect way of describing the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn't come into the world to damn men-we are already damned! He came to save. The Offended comes to the offender offering forgiveness-at the cost of His own life.
"Majestic sweetness sits enthroned upon the Savior's brow; His head with radiant glories crowned, His lips with grace o'erflow".
Do you admire the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you love His willingness to help the needy and sinful? You ought to-that's why Luke told you the story!
There's a second reason it's there: To make you pray with confidence.
We pray to the same Lord the leper did. We don't see Him with our eyes, as he did-but so what? A man can hear as well in the dark as he can with the light on. And Jesus Christ hears us as well from heaven as He heard that man six inches away from Him. He speaks every language-including the language of groaning! At God's Right Hand, He can hear everyone all at once, whenever they call on Him.
You can come to Christ as much as the leper did. You can set your request before Him as well as the sick man did way back then.
When you do, it is this same Jesus you're talking to. Not another Christ-distant and unconcerned. But this Christ! The Christ of the Gospel stories, the One "moved with compassion", the Man who wept at the tomb of Lazarus and cared for lepers and other needy persons.
This is Who you're talking to when you pray!
This means you can pray with confidence. Jesus Christ has both the power and the love to give you what you ask for.
The leper doubted His love, "Lord, if You are willing."
The demoniac's father doubted His power, "Lord, if you can do anything."
But both men were as wrong-headed as they could be. There is no lack of power in Christ-and no lack of mercy. He is not a stingy old man whose arm you've got to twist to get anything out of Him. No, He is kind and generous-not only answering our prayers, but often, doing, "Exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think".
If you believe that Christ is both almighty and all loving, you'll pray more often than you do-and a whole lot better. As the Lord's brother once said, you'll "Ask in faith, nothing wavering".
This brings up a problem-and it's a big one. How do you explain the fact of unanswered prayers? Underline the word, "fact". Not every prayer is answered. You know this from your own experience-and the Bible teaches it. Moses was the greatest man in the world; yet when he prayed to enter the Promised Land, God said, "I will hear no more of it!"
The coming of the New Covenant did not change this fact. Three times Paul prayed his heart out for healing, but he got no relief.
How do we account for this? How can we praise the power and love of Christ and at the same time admit that He often does not answer our prayers? Many lepers have read the story, prayed for healing--and only got worse.
How do we explain this? I cannot give a full answer, of course, but the partial answer I can give is true-it's not complete, but it's true as far as it goes.
Sometimes, we pray for things and don't get them because they're bad things we pray for-we may think they're good things, but they're not. James 4:3 says
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts".
We ought to thank the Lord that He does not answer these foolish prayers. If He did, we'd be in trouble. When Israel demanded a king, "He gave them a king in His wrath and took him away in His anger".
That was King Saul, of course, a man who did much to corrupt the nation.
Or, we may ask for things that are good, but we don't ask for them in the right way. We don't ask in faith or with humility. Or, we ask for them while living in known sin. These prayers are often turned down, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me".
For example, Peter says when husbands ignore their wives or treat them like dirt, their "Prayers are hindered".
We ought to be thankful for this, too. Unanswered prayers can stir us to self-examination, confession, and repentance.
At other times, the Lord's "No" is really a "Yes, but not now". We pray hard for something and it's not given. It's going to be, but only when we
"Keep on asking,
keep on seeking,
keep on knocking".
These are some reasons our prayers are not answered. But I'm skirting the issue. So far, I've not done much better than the Three Friends of Job.
What if we pray for a good thing, pray in faith, pray with a good conscience, and for a long time-only to not get what we're asking for? Let's be concrete: Several years ago, I preached on prayer, and a woman came up to me and called me a liar! She went on to say that she had prayed her heart out for her grandfather-that God would save him. But He didn't; the man's health got worse, his heart got harder, he died, and he went to hell!
How would you answer that one?
You could bawl out the woman for not praying in faith, etc. Or, you could say she was not praying for a good thing. Or, you could say the Lord wanted to save him, but couldn't.
Would any of these satisfy you?
What do you say then?
Here's what I said: "I don't know why the Lord didn't save your grandpa. But whatever the reason, it does not contradict His power or His willingness to save".
Whether the Lord answers our prayers or not, we must believe that He is both able and willing to do it.
In a great sermon on I Timothy 2:3-4, Charles Spurgeon addressed the question as he has to: as a Christian and not a philosopher. Here's part of what he said,
"It is quite certain that when we read that God would have all men to be saved, it does not mean that He wills it with the force of a decree, for if He did, then all men would be saved.Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved? As it is my wish and your wish that all men should be saved, so it is God's wish, for surely, He is not less benevolent than we are. But then comes the question: `But if He wishes it to be so, when does He not make it so?' I cannot tell you why God permits moral evil, neither can the ablest philosopher on earth Or the highest angel in heaven. This is one of those things we do not need to know. Have You ever noticed that some ill person who are Ordered to take bitter pills are foolish enough To chew them? This is a very nauseating thing to do. The right way to take bitter medicine is to swallow it all at once. In the same way, there are some things in the Word of God that have to. Be swallowed by faith, and not chewed by perpetual questioning. You will have bitterness in your soul if you must know the unknowable, and have reasons and explanations for the sublime and the mysterious. Let the difficult doctrines go down whole into your very soul, by a grand exercise of faith. I thank God for a thousand things I cannot understand. I say to myself, `Why should I know the reason why? Who am I and what am I that I should demand explanations of my God. I am a most unreasonable being when I am most reasonable, and when my Judgment is most accurate, I dare not trust it. I had rather trust my God. I am a poor, silly child, at my very best, but my Father must know better than I".
In short, we can trust Him. Unanswered prayers are no proof against His power and love. Jesus Christ is willing to answer your prayers-more willing to give you what you ask for than you are to ask for it.
Thus, you can pray with confidence! Jesus Christ is powerful and loving enough to give you anything you ask for: if it's right for you to have it.
Quit that stupid, God dishonoring, half-skeptical praying you do every day. And start praying with confidence. Not confidence in your prayers, but in your Savior.
That's the meaning of our story. Now go out and do it. And the love of God be with you. Amen.
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