Lord, If You Want

hand

Jesus was in one of the towns where there was also a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him. Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone. “Instead,” Jesus said, “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses instructed. This will be a testimony to them.” News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer. – Luke 5:12-16 (CEB)

“Lord, if you want…”

There is much being said in this seemingly simple request. First, there is an act of submission both physically, as the man fell on his face, and also in his words as he calls Jesus “Lord.” We read this as “Lord” with a capital “L” but it can also be translated “master,” and this man is probably not calling Jesus divine. So it is not just at the feet of God he places himself, but subservient to his fellow human. How much more he would have submitted if he knew that Jesus was God incarnate!

“Lord, if you want…”

But be beyond the submission, what captured me in this passage was the “want” of Jesus. The Greek word is θελω – translated “choose” in the NRSV and “willing” in the NIV. θελω is not a word of passive acquiescence. The man was not saying, “Lord, if it’s no trouble” or “Lord, if you have a minute.” No, he was asking what Jesus desired, pleased and intended to do.

 

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:9-11 (NRSV)

“I do want…”

We discussed this passage last night in my worshipping community. Just as the man’s naming Jesus “Lord” changes after Easter, so does God’s θελω. It didn’t “please” Jesus to go to the cross but he was willing to submit himself to worldly power to demonstrate that he could overcome them. If Jesus was willing to suffer humiliation and die, surely he is pleased to restore us to wholeness.

“I do want…”

I was also captured by the dynamic nature of Jesus’ θελω. This verb isn’t passive – it conveys active intent. When I do something as a matter of convenience, it doesn’t really cost me anything. Picking up milk when I’m already at the grocery store is not θελω. Turning off the lights when I leave a room isn’t θελω. These cost me nothing. But making a special trip to an out-of-the way store in order to prepare a loved one’s favorite meal or to sit in conversation with someone who needs a listening partner when the calendar is full costs something.

“I do want…”

This statement captures much of God’s attitude towards us. God’s θελω is evident in creation and relationship with the created – and cost God greatly when we chose our own interests over God’s. God’s θελω was made manifest in the incarnation – and cost Jesus the glory of heaven to be with us (see Philippians 2:6-11). And I think Jesus’ θελω with this man in Galilee – and the many other healings he did – cost him personally. Not in power but in sharing the joy of wholeness and restoration and the pain of rejection.

“I do want…”

All of these acts of God are an investment in humankind. God gives of God’s self to us in so many ways. And we take so easily, so causally, assuming it cost God nothing. We treat God’s θελω towards us as something that God just does, out of habit and without second thought. It may be habit, because it is part of God’s nature, but I don’t think it is without thought. And I don’t think it costs God nothing.

After our discussion last night, I continue to reflect on two thoughts. The first, how am I responding to God’s θελω towards me? Am I taking, thoughtlessly, rather than entering into a mutual encounter, where we both give and receive? And second, considering God’s θελω towards me, how am I called to offer the same θελω to others?

One response to “Lord, If You Want

  1. Pingback: Water and Stone | Life in the Labyrinth·

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