The gospel for this day’s lectionary tells a familiar story (MT 8: 1-4). The situation also pops up rather frequently in the gospels, even if is presented in situations that we would call “similar but not matching.” The story today takes place fairly early in Matthew’s gospel and has Jesus coming down from a mountain, one of his favorite places to pray. It would seem, therefore, that he is feeling strong in God’s grace as crowds gather around him and a leper who is ready for him steps forward. Different from most, this person does not ask Jesus to heal him; rather he uses a declarative that indicates his belief – or maybe a challenge. “If you want to,” he says, “you can make me clean.” It is likely that Jesus appreciates this man’s ingenious approach—or else Jesus is just still swimming in the divine light that his sojourn on the mountain afforded him. Whatever the reason, his response to the leper is enthusiastic. “I will do it! Be made clean,” the gospel says, or in my favorite translation: “Of course I want to! Be clean!”)
I know that a different choice of word can impact a situation, as can intonation, cadence, body language…I see Jesus on his way down that mountain, ready for a crowd but maybe not for this one person who challenges rather than pleads. I see a fresh and sunny morning with a tender, refreshing breeze—like today at my home. I can feel the enthusiasm of whatever was the content of the conversation between God and Jesus up on that mountain, allowing Jesus to be about his mission.
It’s a great story of healing, reminding us that we might wish sometimes to be a little more up-front with God in our asking. Our confidence in the “ask” and our willingness to believe that God knows what is best for us at all times might make the outcome the perfect answer—even if it isn’t the one we were expecting!