By Pastor Glenn Pease
One of the great wars of all time was a war where all men were on the same side. The enemy was the small pox virus. It made all other foes seem puny in comparison. One of the greatest dangers for the Pilgrims and Puritans in coming to America, was this dreaded pox. They died in large numbers from it, and they brought it to the Indians who had no immunity whatever, and tribes of 9,000 were reduced to a few hundred by epidemics. Joel Shurkin in his book The Invisible Fire, traces the awful, but awesome story of this battle.
In 1722, one of worse disasters in the history of Boston hit with a spread of small pox. So many people died that the church bells never stopped ringing day or night. All businesses and public meeting were banned. People were caught in a bind. If they were inoculated for the disease they could get it and die. If they refused it they could get it and die. For decades this was the agonizing decision people had to make in the colonies. Listen to this paragraph from the pen of Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography. "In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen."
Few if any wars in history created more misery than this war with an invisible but powerful enemy. But the marvelous news is, by world wide cooperation, man was able to defeat this foe, and eradicate it from the face of the earth. The last case reported was in 1977. Most of us don't even know what small-pox is, because it is one of the major diseases that man has defeated. This makes it all the more puzzling
that man has not yet been able to eliminate one of the oldest and most dreaded diseases-leprosy.
Leprosy is the only disease which is fully described in the Bible. We know it was common in both the Old Testament and New Testament, but most of us think of it as an ancient disease of no relevance to modern medicine. I have to admit it was a shock to me when a few years back I read a book by the Christian doctor, Dr. Paul Brand, who operated on lepers in the United States. I never dreamed there were leper colonies in the states, but there are, and there are hundreds of people with leprosy in our nation. Most of the world's leprosy victims are in Asia and Africa, but they are also in America.
The polite medical name for this disease is Hansen's disease. It was named after the Scandinavian physician who in 1874 found the rod-shaped bacteria that caused leprosy. This marked the first time a micro-organism was found to be the cause of a specific disease. Obviously we cannot look at the vast history of this disease, but there are some facts we should have in our awareness to get the big picture of this second disease the Great Physician conquers in the Gospel of Mark. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 200 hundred known cases of leprosy in Israel.
We need to see here that Jesus did not buy the age old prejudice that leprosy was a curse of God. There are some Old Testament examples where God did judge people, like Mariam, by giving them leprosy. But this has been blown out of all proportion, so that all lepers have been seen as under the curse of God. This has led to all kinds of unbelievable prejudice and cruelty. Jesus treated them just like any other people with diseases. Death is one of God's judgments too: Are we conclude that all who die are cursed of God, and to be treated as such?
The facts are, leprosy is a disease like all other diseases. It has a known cause, which is bacteria. Jesus did not discriminate against those with this disease. He freely healed lepers when He met them. We have no example of a disease that Jesus refused to heal. He did not pick and chose, or discriminate against anyone on the basis of their disease. Jesus was a general practitioner, and He accepted every patient who came to Him. He never refused a patient, nor did He ever refer one. He handled this leprosy with the same love and swiftness as He did the fever of Peter's mother-in-law. Christlike compassion has no disease discrimination is the point of all this. Show me an exception in the healing ministry of Christ, and then I will be open to arguments of why some diseases should not be healed.
Prejudice and discrimination has led to lepers suffering more from the depravity of man than from their disease. The bacteria that causes leprosy does discriminate, however. It can live in no other creature but man. All attempts to cultivate it in laboratory animals have failed. It also prefers men to women. We see this in the New Testament, where all the victims are men. We want to focus on this man in our text this morning, because even though the account of his healing is so brief, it gives us a glimpse at the three key tools that Jesus used throughout His healing ministry. These three tools for healing are still powerful today, and they work for those who understand them. All of us have these three tools, and so in a very real sense, all of us carry around a doctors bag with those instruments that can bring healing. The first one is,
I. THE WILL.
You will note that the main concern of this leper was not if Jesus could heal him, but whether He was willing to do so or not. "If you are willing you can make me clean," he said to Jesus. As far as he was concerned the whole thing hinge on Christ's will. The implication being, not everybody is willing to help a leper. Who knows what the history of this man had been? How many had rejected him as a patient? We do not know his past, but it is obvious he had learned one thing clearly: There is only hope where there is a will. Where there is a will there is a way, but where there is no will, there is no way.
When Jesus said, "I am willing, be clean," He opened the floodgate for faith, and the man was cured instantly. Willingness was the wonder drug of the Great Physician. Jesus did not hesitate or speculate, or go off to meditate on this case. He just responded with what this man most needed, and revealed it was His will to heal him. Very little happens in the world of healing unless somebody is willing. When the Crusaders brought leprosy back to Europe from the Holy Land, there were people who were willing to care for them. So hospitals were built called Lazarettos, after Lazarus, the New Testament leper. At one time there were 2 thousand Lazarettos in France, and 200 in England. The point is, where there are people willing, there will be help and healing.
The reason anyone can be made whole forever, is because God is not willing that any should parish, but that all come to repentance. Any and every person can be saved, simply because God is willing that it be so. The will is the greatest healing instrument in the world. Wherever there is a willingness there is the potential for healing. Jesus was never unwilling to heal anyone, or any disease. That is why Jesus was the only 100% successful healer in history. I never realized it before I began to study healing, but this is the only area of Jesus's ministry where He never failed.
Jesus was a powerful and persuasive preacher, but He did not win over the Pharisees. He was an excellent teacher, but not everyone who heard Him accepted His teaching. There was nothing that Jesus did that was 100% successful, except His healing. When Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, he summed up the life of his Lord in Acts 10:38 like this, "...He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil." He did not convert everyone who came to Him. The rich young ruler went away, and left Jesus in tears. But nobody ever went away from Jesus saying, "He never healed me." He was willing that all be healed, and so there were none who failed to be healed.
Jesus was willing that people be healed even though their sickness may have been caused by their own sin or folly. We see this in the young man in chapter 2, who was a paralytic. He was the equivalent of an aids patient in our day. His sin put him where he was, but Jesus was willing that he be forgiven and healed. Since we have no example of a case where Jesus was not willing to heal, we are led to the inevitable conclusion that He was always willing that healing take place.
Modern doctors have confirmed that one of the keys to healing is the will. Those who believe God is willing to heal them have a better chance of experiencing a miracle. Those who do not believe that God is willing to heal can die, even when it is not medically necessary. Dr. Bernie Siegal in his book, Love, Medicine & Miracles, has many examples. He specializes in cancer surgery, and has many examples of people who are fatalists about cancer. When they hear that they have it, they lock in on the idea that death is inevitable, and God is not willing to deviate from the statistics.
Irving was a financial adviser, and when he was told he had six months to live with his liver cancer, he refused to think otherwise. He said, "I've spent my whole life making predictions based on statistics. Statistics tell me I am suppose to die. If I don't die, my whole life doesn't make sense." He went home and died on time. 15 to 20% of his cancer patients do this, for they say there is no willingness in the universe that it be otherwise. But Dr. Siegal started a therapy group called, Exceptional Cancer Patients. He discovered there are another 15 to 20% of his patients with the same cancers who refused to believe there is no willingness in God to heal them. In fact, they believe just the opposite. They believe it is His will to heal no matter how bad they are, and how grim the statistics. These people break all the rules, and like the leper in our text, they walk away clean from hopeless situations.
Miracles take place when people are convinced someone is willing to heal them. These exceptional cancer patients refuse to be victims. They are the doctors worse patients. They will not follow the herd and do as they are told. They question everything, and demand answers and explanations for everything, and if it doesn't make sense to them, they won't do it. They are independent, but they are the ones who are most likely to get well. Those who never question, and just go along with the routine, are ideal patients, but they are the ones most likely to die.
There were a lot of lepers around, but only this man was on his knees before Jesus. He was the exception, and he was healed. The passive pass away, but the aggressive fight to stay. This has now been established scientifically. Aggressive bad patients tend to have more killer T cells in their blood. These are white cells that seek and destroy cancer cells. The docile good patients do not produce as many. For all we know, this man with the leprosy had fled from a leper colony resisting the rules, and defying the establishment. We do not know all the details, but he was obviously an aggressive man who knew healing was possible if their was a willingness, and he was determined to find that willingness, or die trying.
A London research group found that 75% of cancer patients who react with a fighting spirit survive for 10 years. Only 22 % survive that long who respond with a stoic spirit of acceptance and helplessness. The bottom line is, all healing is partially psychosomatic. It begins in the mind, and from there it reaches into the body. If this leper had not had it in his mind he could be healed, he never would have come to Jesus in the first place. Would he have been healed had he stayed where he was praying for it? Maybe, or maybe not. All we know is he received a miracle because he came looking for one and begging for one. He was an aggressive seeker for healing. Dr. Franz Alexander, the father of psychosomatic medicine said, "The fact that the mind rules the body is, in spite of its neglect by biology and medicine, the most fundamental fact which we know about the process of life."
This leper got a miraculous healing because he believed that if Jesus was willing, he could be healed. This belief motivated him to come to Jesus. His mind already had a picture of what could be. And it made his body conform to its goals, and the result was he put himself in a place where he was ready to receive a miracle. How many miracles never take place because, though Jesus is willing to give them, we are not willing to aggressively seek them. We wait passively hoping for them, but we do not go aggressively seeking them. The facts of both the Bible and modern medicine confirms that the will of both the patient and the healer play a major role in healing. The record shows, Jesus always has this tool in His doctors bag. How we will to respond to His willingness, makes all the difference in the world. The second tool we want to look at is,
II. THE HANDS.
Verse 41 says, "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man." He touched this leper, and the leper, I am sure, would have loved to know the song, "He touched me, and now I am no longer the same." The tool of touch was one that Jesus used all the time. He established for all time the reality of healing in the hands.
Healing is a hands on experience. This contact between the healer and healed is like the contact between the appliance and the electricity. Without the contact, there is no power. With it, there is power. The power of Jesus to heal was not limited to His hands, but there is no doubt, as you look at the evidence, His hands were His key tools for communicating His willingness to heal. Look at the record just in the Gospel of Mark.
1:31. Jesus took Peter's mother-in-law by the hand when he healed her fever.
1:41. He touched the leper to heal him.
5:23. Jairus came pleading to Jesus, and said, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live."
5:41. When Jesus got there He took her by the hand and raised her up healed.
6:5. Jesus in His home town could not heal many because of their lack of faith, but this text says, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them."
7:32. People brought a deaf and dumb man and begged Jesus to place His hand on him.
8:23. Jesus took a blind man by the hand, and then laid hands on him several times to restore his sight.
9:27. Jesus lifted the boy who had an evil spirit cast out of him. All thought he was dead, but Jesus touched him and lifted him to life.
16:18. Jesus said all who follow Him will use this same tool. He says, "They will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Thus, we have the whole history of the laying on of hands as a means of healing.
We have accounts of a St. Philip who healed cancer by the laying on of hands, back in the reformation period. There is a whole history of English kings and queens who laid hands on the sick as a royal favor, and many of them were made well. This may seem a little far fetched and superstitious, but the facts are clear: The hands have played, and do play, a major role in all aspects of healing. The chiropractor's key tool is his hands, and so it is with the surgeon. The word surgery comes from the Greek word meaning, "Working by hand." This is quite obvious, but what is not obvious is the importance of the hands even in the more technical science behind healing.
Professor Dorothy Hodgkins, at the University of Oxford, was awarded The Nobel Prize in 1964, for her work on the molecules of penicillin and vitamin B12. She became the first woman since Florence Nightingale to have the Order of Merit conferred upon her. In an interview she said something that caught my eye. She said in explaining how she was able to do what no one else had ever been able to do, "I think with my hands." She was no Florence Nightingale out on the battle front ministering with healing hands. She was in the laboratory, but she was saying even there, it was her sensitive hands that were feeling out the unseen realities of God's creation. She was dealing with atoms and molecules, yet her hands were the key tools in her research.
I do not pretend to understand it, and, in fact, I am somewhat skeptical, but there is a modern movement in developing what is called Therapeutic Touch. That is the name of the book by Dr. Janet Macrae. She has taught over 200 work shops on this touch therapy in nursing schools across the U.S. She writes, "Therapeutic Touch has been derived from the ancient practice of the laying on of hands." The gist of it is this: The chiropractor says the body is not aligned properly, and so, he uses his hands to get it back in line, and this leads to healing. The therapeutic touch people say, there are also energy forces that surround the body, and they get out of balance. Gravity is a force field around all bodies, and there are others as well. By means of the hands these can be restored to balance, and this leads to healing of the body. This unorthodox method is gaining ground in the world of orthodox medicine.
I am not qualified to make a judgment on its value. I am just using it as an illustration of how our contemporary world of health care people are exploring the use of the hands in healing. There is just no escaping the evidence that Jesus linked the hands and healing. There are some obvious conclusions we can come to. For one, the touch of the hand conveys a concrete message of willingness and love. Jesus could have just said, "Be clean," and forget the reaching out to touch this leper. He had to do that when the patient was far away. But when the patient was within reach, Jesus touched them. Jesus was saying something by His touch. He was saying, "Your faith in me is confirmed. I do care. I will heal you." His touch was therapeutic in that it would raise the level of faith of the person needing the healing, and give them assurance that Jesus was going to heal them.
By using His hands to stimulate faith, Jesus was using natural means for healing, and, therefore, put His stamp of approval on man's development of therapies to bring about healing. We will see more of this as we pursue the subject, but once you admit Jesus used His hands for some purpose in the healing process, you are forced to be open to the use of all means as possible ways God can work in healing. If even Christ's miracles were in conjunction with therapeutic means, then any objection to medical treatment and therapy is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. The third tool we want to look at briefly is,
III. THE VOICE.
Jesus spoke to the leper, and said, "I am willing, be clean," and he was cured. As soon as the voice of Jesus was recorded in the leper's brain, the leprosy was healed. Voice therapy is what we could call it. It was the most common tool Jesus used. He did not touch demon possessed people. He used His voice only on them. He would shout at them, "Come out," and the power of His voice made demons vacate the ones they possessed.
Jesus had a healing voice. It was one of His best therapies. He said to the sickest of the seven churches in Revelation, the church of Laodicea, "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Note, they do not hear His knock but His voice, for He uses a verbal knock. It is His voice they will hear at the door. By means of His voice Jesus will heal their blindness and their hard hearts, and restore them to wholeness. The greatest test of His voice therapy was when He cried out, "Lazarus come forth," and it worked. He came out of the tomb healed and whole.
The Reformers rejected many healing practices, but voice healing seemed so natural. When Martin Luther found his fond friend and fellow reformer, Melanchthon, in a dying state, not able to eat or drink, and semiconscious, he was greatly agitated, and went off to pray fervently for him. When he returned, he took his friend by the hand and said, "Be of good courage, Philip, you will not die: give no place to the spirit of sorrow and be not your own murderer, but trust in the Lord, who can stay and make alive again, can wound and bind up, can smite and heal again." His friend began to improve immediately and was restored to health. That was voice therapy. A therapy now established as a valid scientific method of healing.
We have all heard that people in comas have good hearing yet. But do you realize those who are anesthetized can too, and they can by the spoken word be made to do things that they can't do when they are conscious. We do not have time to share about the marvelous things that are being done with voice power, but let me share just one paragraph from the cancer surgeon, Dr. Bernie Siegal. He writes,
"In the operating room I'm constantly communicating with patients about what is happening, and I've found that this can make a difference between life and death. Talking reassuringly to patients who are having cardiac irregularities during surgery can reverse the irregularities or slow a rapid pulse. Recently I was operating on a very husky young man, built like a football player. His size led to some minor technical problems, and while solving them I looked up at the monitor and saw that his pulse was 130. I knew that he had been anxious about the operation, so I said to him, "Victor, I'm having some mechanical difficulties because you're a big guy, but there's no problem with the surgery. This part is just a little difficult to do. You're doing well, Don't be nervous. I'd like your pulse to be 83.' During the next few minutes, without any other medication, his pulse came right down to 83 and remained there. Many anesthesiologists who've heard of such episodes have begun speaking to their anesthetized patients, giving them calming messages. Fear filled messages can increase the incidence of cardiac arrest."
What I am trying to establish is that the tools of healing used by Jesus, the Great Physician, are tools that never have become obsolete. But more important, they are not tools and techniques that only trained professionals can use. We all have wills, hands, and voices, and with the capacity to also have Christ's compassion, any one of us can be a healer. In some ways we have all already used these tools for healing. My goal is to help you see what you have, and to realize that Jesus may use you to do much more if you become aware of the power of the tools you already possess, and become more deliberate and more aggressive in using them. As we close, let us pray that God will help us be channels of His love in this needy world, by using the tools of healing.