Sunday, June 3, 2018

Transformers indeed

Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, "Master, if you want to, you can heal my body." Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. Jesus said, "Don't talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done." 
(Matthew 8:1-4)

I have often wondered why Jesus asked this leper to NOT go all over the place, proclaiming the tremendous miracle that had happened in his body.  The natural result of being so totally healed would have been to jump for joy - maybe even shout aloud - running through the streets telling everyone willing to listen the story of one's healing.  Yet, Jesus asks him to be quiet - to just simply allow his cleansed and grateful life to be a witness to what he had done. It isn't the verbal testimony as much as the 'living testimony' of a changed life that often speaks the loudest, isn't it? Does Jesus need us to 'tout' his redemptive work in our lives with all manner of words? Not really - because a living testimony of a transformed life is sufficient to testify of the magnitude of grace and the magnificence of restorative power he provides!

I remember coming to Christ in the early 70's - the Jesus Movement was well underway and people who came to Christ as a result of that "movement" were quite "vocal" in their testimony.  As a matter of fact, we were taught that we needed to have a prepared testimony to give so that when conversation came about that would allow us to share about Jesus, we'd be able to relate what God had done in our lives. My prepared testimony could have filled a three-ring notebook with spillage to perhaps two or three more!  The things God changed in my spirit, my mind, and my actions were astronomically huge!  That may be why I struggled so much with having a "prepared" testimony that I could "tell" people. Is it really necessary to have one "prepared" for the curious or questioning? If there is a real life transformation, I think the words follow the actions - not the other way around!

This leper was likely in his condition for a while.  He probably did not smell too good, his clothing was in disrepair, his general health declining - not to mention that he had been out of mainstream life for probably a long while since lepers lived in their own colonies, enduring the misery of their disease with others of similar misfortune, and were looked upon by all of society as "less than" whole. They were deemed 'unclean' and as a result, they were ostracized. Now that I see his life described that way, the description of this leper's plight could probably have been our "testimony" as well!  We were consumed in all kinds of stuff (attitudes, actions, beliefs) that didn't make us "smell too good" in the sense of living in such a way that our life is a sweet-smelling fragrance raised to our Lord.  We were not adorned in the best of garments (spiritually speaking) - our filthy rags of sinful deeds just made us look pretty doggone shabby.  We were in a crowd of people all doing and saying the things we said - pursuing the similar things we were pursuing (our leper colony of sorts).

Then one day, we came face-to-face with Jesus and made our impassioned plea, "Master, if you want to, you can heal me!" The miracle that occurred that day over-shadowed all our faults, failures, and fears. We were transformed, made completely whole, and clothed in the splendor of his holiness. Like the leper, we probably wanted to go tell everyone we met that Jesus had transformed our lives.  Why did Jesus ask this leper to be quiet and just simply allow his life to be a testimony?  In the context of the ministry of Jesus, this healing was one of his first (in the first part of his earthly ministry).  He directs the man to make the appropriate presentation to the priest - the only "man" who could proclaim him "clean" so that he could be restored to his family, re-entering mainstream society once again as a "clean" man.  We are not really told why Jesus didn't want the public "fan-fare" of this man's testimony all over town.  What we do know is that Jesus says there is a testimony that is even more powerful than our words - it is a transformed life.

The next time you don't think you have much of a testimony to share - or that you really cannot put into words all the tremendous things Jesus has done in your life - don't fret.  Your grateful and transformed life speaks volumes more than your words ever will!  Yes, there will be times when you will feel moved to share a portion of what Jesus has done - with another who may be hurting in just the same way you were when he delivered you from your 'leprous' state.  We don't need "written down" testimonies, prepared well in advance of needing to share them.  What we need is transformed lives, grateful hearts, and an open spirit.  God does the rest! Just sayin!