Tired Jesus, Kneeling Leper

It’s easy to read the story told in Matthew 8.1-4 and take in nothing. After all, this one man with a skin disease represents one of hundreds that Jesus healed.

Why should we pay attention to him?

As he was fond of doing, Jesus withdraws to “the mountain.” One gets the idea that this time spent alone in the divine silence is manna in the desert for Jesus. He hungers for the still, small Voice—a single tongue of flame guttering in the dark. After the crowds of followers, skeptics, and spectacle-seekers sap his strength, he withdraws to the mountain to replenish his spirit with prayer and solitude. Prayer is protein. It rebuilds those broken-down muscles of compassion, patience, and gentleness.

Too often we forget that Jesus was fully human. He had limitations. At times his mind and body experienced deep fatigue. He probably felt anti-social at times, tired of the crush of the masses, weary of the motion and noise. Imagine the overwhelming burden of need that came with the crowds: people missing noses, slobbering on themselves, jostling one another to touch him; people freed from demons who later spread lies about him, called him the Messiah only to demand his death, ate a miraculous feast yet went home unchanged; people addicted to sex, people drunk on wine, people too fat with affluence to walk the hard road of discipleship.

Yet, Jesus always comes down from the mountain, always returns, reaches out his hands to touch, and offers his words to cleanse. On this particular occasion, the need comes in the form of a leper. Perhaps Matthew remembers this particular sick man because he kneels at Jesus’ feet before saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

If I am on my knees, I can make no demands. I can only ask—beg even—in humility. My posture forces me to be honest about my need. I can’t fix myself. God loves a broken and contrite spirit. Jesus heals a kneeling man.

I wonder if Jesus had circles under his eyes, if he sighed or if he smiled.

Without hesitation, he heals the man and charges him to hold his tongue and make his offering to the priests: “Don’t talk about what happened here today and do what Mosaic law requires. No fanfare and no aplomb, please. No celebrity and no primetime interview.”

Jesus prefers to work behind the scenes, out of the spotlight. He loves the quiet, and that’s where we most often encounter him. He waits for us up on the mountain the same way the Father waited for him.

Jesus is a genius at healing.

In the quiet hours before the day’s busy-ness begins, we get on our knees and ask our questions:

How shall I praise you with my life today?

What does loving my neighbor look like today?

Lord, how do you want to make me clean today?

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