Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’ But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
A desperate man presents Jesus with a choice, ‘Lord if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He clearly believes Jesus has the power to do so and he hopes desperately that Jesus has the desire too. But it is a choice. Jesus can risk contamination in the eyes of his society, can risk failure, or he can stretch out his healing hands to this man covered in wounds and sores. It is a choice, not without cost, but Jesus does not hesitate. ‘I do choose’ are wondrous words, full of grace and compassion.
Jesus has so many choices to make in his journeys, as he meets crowds of people with all their different needs. The expectations placed on him are enormous and to begin with he tells those healed not to tell others. But word gets out and the crowds come. The excitement that this might be the longed-for Messiah begins to bubble up.
Jesus chooses not to be manipulated by the crowd, moulded by his people’s picture of what God’s Messiah should look like. He chooses to withdraw to the wilderness to pray to the One who sent him, the One who calls him beloved child. He chooses to journey to Jerusalem, to face rejection. In the garden he chooses to accept the cup of suffering and allows himself to be arrested and taken away. ‘I do choose’ are such powerful words – Jesus’ choice to give his life, to reach out and touch the untouchable ones and love the unlovable ones. His choice includes you and me – his choice to make us clean, forgiven, new, able to live again and live life, abundantly and generously.
Here is grace, compassion, love beyond words, Jesus, in your choice, not ours: your choice to heal our hearts; your choice to give your life; your choice to meet us now; your choice to call us to share your work and your ways. Here is grace, compassion, love beyond words, in your choice for the life of this world. Amen.
The Rev’d Terry Hinks, minister of Trinity, High Wycombe and Cores End URC