Updated: Apr 15, 2020
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:1–3 ESV)
I will never forget the moment it happened. Healing flowed through my body like the waters of Jordan after a spring rain. Pain was swept away by a roaring tide of comfort. My constant companion Despair was swept away into the Great Sea never to be heard or seen from again.
It all began months earlier when a trickle of news reached the leper colony I was living in. Every week there was a new report about someone who claimed to have the power to heal. Charlatans. Phonies. All talk and no ability. But something was different this time. With the news came names. Names we knew. Ten of our friends had gone to see him, and none returned to the camp. We feared the worst, but we were wrong. They weren’t missing. They were clean. They were whole. They had been given their lives back.
I made my decision quickly. I was going to find him. I knew the dangers, but I also knew I couldn’t go on like this. Once you’ve been hit by a stone, you know enough to avoid the crowds. But the possibility of healing was worth the risk. I packed up my meager belongings—one extra worn robe and a few loaves of stale bread—and headed out to find him.
He wasn’t hard to find. All I had to do was linger in the shadows along the road and listen. No one could talk about anything else. Each time his name was mentioned, something welled up inside me. Hope? Maybe. Fear? A little. But something else. Something compelled me to keep going. Looking back, I think it was belief. For some reason, I knew he could do what no one else could do.
When I finally found him, I almost gave up. I almost turned around and slipped back to the colony to wait for time and sickness to do their dirty work. I expected a crowd, but nothing like this. Thousands and thousands were crowded around him on the top of the mountain. There was no way for a leper to make it to him. Too many scared and angry people between me and him. I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave on my own with what little dignity still remained. I didn’t want to leave with the sounds of angry curses and falling stones chasing behind me. But something kept me there.
I waited. I worried. I prayed. That’s when it happened. He got up to leave. As he began to walk, the crowds parted to let him pass through. He was coming right toward me. When he passed the final person, I summoned what little courage I had and sprinted toward him. I fell on my face and said the only thing that came to mind, “Lord, if you will, make me clean.”
I’m not sure what was sweeter—the cleansing power that flowed through my body or the two simple words he spoke, “I will.” “I will.” I asked, “If you will.” And he answered, “I will.” When I looked into his ancient eyes, I saw a love deeper than the deepest well. Of course, he would. Of course it was his will to heal me. How could one so loving refuse?
Since that day, I’ve told everyone I can about those two life-changing words—“I will.” I’ve told them to find him and ask him for help. Run to him. Fall on your face, and ask: “Lord, if you will…” His answer is always, “I will.”
“Lord, if you will…forgive me for aborting my baby.” “I will…be forgiven.”
“Lord, if you will…cleanse me from my lustful thoughts.” “I will…be clean.”
“Lord, if you will…pardon me for yelling at my kids.” “I will…be pardoned.”
“Lord, if you will…protect me from the anxiety that paralyzes my soul.” “I will…be safe.”
“Lord, if you will…restore me from my fall into adultery.” “I will…be restored.”
“Lord, if you will…heal me from the abusive home I knew.” “I will…be whole.”
“Lord, if you will…receive me into the joy of your presence.” “I will…be joyful.”
“Lord, if you will…give me the comfort of your acceptance.” “I will…be accepted.”
Find him. Run to him. Ignore the crowds. Ask him if he will. I already know the answer. He will, and when he does, nothing will ever be the same.