The other night I was pondering two stories in the fifth chapter of Luke, one in which Jesus heals a leper (5:12-16) and the other in which Jesus heals a paralytic (5:17-26).
First, it was Jesus’s words to the man with leprosy who asks to be made clean that struck me. He says, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretches out his hands to touch him and says simply, “I do choose. Be made clean.”
And immediately afterward in the gospel of Luke comes the story of the paralytic, the crowds surrounding Jesus to such an extent that the man has to be lowered down through the ceiling of the building to be seen by Jesus.
This story is so powerfully familiar to me–I can remember sitting in the basement room of my church, with its rainbow-painted walls and hearing one of the matriarchs of my church tell this story with its vivid details, so that I swear even now I can see the rattan mat the man lays upon, hear the grumbling of the crowd and the scribes and the Pharisees as they accuse Jesus of blasphemy (5:21), and smell the sweat of the crush of people in that room.
And I guess I take so many aspects of the gospel, and this life of faith for granted. Jesus didn’t have to choose to heal the leper, to reach out and touch him. With all the questions we raise in our hearts, the doubting voices, those who’d begun to whisper about him (5:22), why should he do such a thing?
But he chose to. He chose each one of us, when we were too weak many times to choose him, to reach out to him as the leper did, to believe to be made clean, to find a way to lower that paralyzed man into the crowd.
And it was those wonderful women in my church who took the time to tell these stories, even when they weren’t sure we were listening. But I remember them, I remember today the power of the story from the first time it was told, just as profoundly as in this moment in China when I read it again.
And so I praise you, God. I ask you, humbly, to keep on choosing us, even when we’re too weak, too unwise, too questioning, to choose you. Because your love is everlasting, your stories true, your power healing, totalizing, life-changing. Let me never take for granted what you do for me everyday, how you have chosen me. I thank you, I thank you for that. Amen.