HAVE YOU EVER HUNGERED FOR WHOLENESS?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
Last week, a women from another city came to see me at my office. She was
well groomed, very pleasant, and in full control of her emotions. She put
me on notice that she had a bad taste in her mouth regarding religion, but
because of a wedding ceremony I had performed some time ago for a friend
of hers, she felt led to seek me out. "You are the first male minister
I have ever spoken to," she told me. Because I so identified with her
early years, and I felt that her story would be encouraging to many of you
as it was to me, I telephoned her and asked her permission to share part
of her life story with you. She granted permission but desires to remain
After a few more minutes of small talk I asked her how she thought I could
be of help. For more than an hour she shared her background with me. As
I listened, I was amazed that this women was able to maintain her composure.
She was born out of wedlock, placed in a foster home, and abused as a child.
At 15, she was put on the streets by her guardian. She enlisted in the military,
where she encountered serious problems. She said she was married several
times. Her first husband left her with three children to raise on her own.
Since that time she has been divorced and widowed. She remarried and remained
married for 20 years until her husband died. Several months ago she married
again and then realized she needed some outside help to strengthen this
new relationship. Thus the visit to me.
On the surface, as I said, this woman was well groomed, very pleasant, and
in control of her emotions. Inside, however, she was filled with grief over
broken relationships and feelings of abandonment and isolation at work and
at home. As a result of her terrible past and current situation, a history
of trying to survive all by herself in a fallen world, she told me this
stress was producing physical and emotional pain. She felt helpless, isolated,
and at times unclean, she said. This woman was an excellent example of what
the apostle Paul calls "the living dead," those who are dead in
their trespasses and sins. My heart went out to her in love and compassion,
but I felt helpless because she did not appear to be open to hear about
the wholeness that would be hers if she would throw herself at the feet
of Jesus and say in faith, as the leper says in our passage from the gospel
of Luke today, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Lord,
you and only you can make me whole."
How many of you can identify with this dear woman? How many of you can remember
when you hungered for this same sense of wholeness? How many of you at this
moment hunger deeply for physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness? Is
there any hope that this woman, coming from such a broken, isolated, unclean
and hopeless world, can become whole? As we prepared to end our meeting,
I felt helpless. Her heart seemed closed. Yet the answer to all her problems
was on the tip of my tongue: "You could be made spiritually whole in
a moment if you would by faith ..."
I. Turn to Jesus in your uncleanness, Luke 5:12-13
And it came about that while He was in one of the cities, behold,
there was a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face
and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me
clean." And He stretched out His hand, and touched Him, saying, "I
am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him.
Having spent his first year of ministry in Judea, our Lord is now deeply
involved in his Galilean ministry. In this incident to which we now come
we see another pearl being strung, as it were, on the divine string of redemption.
Luke quotes Jesus himself in this gospel as saying, "It is not those
who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come
to call righteous men but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).
Our text begins, "And it came about that while He was in one of the
cities, behold there was a man full of leprosy" (see Matt.8:2-4; Mark
1:40-45). William Hendricksen writes the following concerning the disease
of leprosy in his commentary on the gospel of Luke,
The disease which we today call leprosy generally begins with pain in certain
areas of the body. Numbness follows. Soon the skin in such spots loses its
original color. It gets to be thick, glossy, and scaly. It fact, the affliction
is called leprosy because it makes the skin scaly (the Greek word lepos,
meaning scale). As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty
sores and ulcers due to poor blood supply. The skin, especially around the
eyes and ears, begins to bunch, with deep furrows between the swellings,
so that the face of the afflicted individual begins to resemble that of
a lion. Fingers drop off or are absorbed. Toes are affected similarly.
Eyebrows and eyelashes drop off. By this time one can see that the person
in this pitiable condition is a leper.
There is disagreement in the medical field as to whether the leprosy referred
to in the Bible was contagious or not. Some believe that once a man was
declared a leper by the priest (Lev. 13), placed outside the camp and isolated
from the "people of covenant," that was proof that the disease
was contagious. But the scripture does not deal with whether leprosy was
contagious or not, but rather that it rendered the afflicted person ceremonially
"unclean," and thus he was shut off from social and religious
contact with his own people.
In the Scriptures, we discover that God often uses an individual's physical
ailments to illustrate mankind's spiritual problems. For instance, a person
who is physically blind could be used as a symbol of the spiritual blindness
of an individual, a nation, or a church. The dumb, the deaf, and the lame
likewise are used to illustrate spiritual truth.
The physically impaired are often used among us by God as walking bulletin
boards, in a sense, to challenge our spiritual walk. In our society, however,
we try to hide away everyone who is stricken by disease, the homeless, etc.
We don't want to be reminded by walking bulletin boards that everyone in
California isn't healthy and fit. But if you visit the countries of the
Third World, you will not only see these walking signs but thousands of
others lying in the streets, suffering from various diseases, malnutrition,
homelessness, etc. We don't know what to do about our homeless in this country,
but a visitor from one of these other countries would feel quite at home
among our homeless.
Listen to the apostle John's words in Revelation 3:14-17: "To the angel
of the church in Laodicea write: 'These are the words of the Amen, the faithful
and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you
are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because
you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my
mouth.' You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
Several times in his discourses, Jesus said to his listeners, "You
have eyes but you see not. You have ears but you hear not. You are like
the blind leading the blind."
In the Old Testament, leprosy was viewed not so much as a symbol of sin
as it was the judgement of God for sin and its consequences; sin which produces
uncleanness, separation, decay and, for most, a painful and untimely death.
Thus, leprosy was an outward sign of the death that sin produces in people's
lives. When a person was cured it was seen as a symbol of the resurrection
of that person from the dead and his reinstatement into the land of the
In Moses' case, leprosy was clearly seen as a sign of the power of God who
was able to afflict a person with leprosy as well as cure it. In the case
of Moses' sister, Miriam (Numbers 12), and later King Uzziah (2 Chron.29),
who both rebelled against God, leprosy was a judgment of God. Miriam was
cured by God because of the prayer of her brother Moses, but King Uzziah
went to his grave as a leper.
According to Leviticus 13, once a person had a swelling, a rash or a bright
spot on his skin, one that might become an infectious skin disease, he had
to be brought to the priest to be examined. If the priest declared the person
to have contracted leprosy, his clothes were to be torn and burned, his
head was to be uncovered. He was declared "ceremonially unclean,"
and was asked to move outside the camp. When anyone approached lepers or
their dwelling, lepers were required to cry out, "Unclean, unclean,"
so that all who heard or saw them could pray for them as well as avoid them.
In Israel, the leper was the symbol of both the spiritually and the morally
This leper who approached Jesus was a constant reminder to everyone of how
God viewed mankind: they were "dead in their trespasses and sins."
Sin has terrible consequences. It cuts us off from the presence of God who
is life himself. It also eats away our soul and spirit, leaving us with
a sense of uncleanness and unwholesomeness. But we are not only cut off
from God but our unwholesomeness, sin has a way of isolating us from family
and friends. In reality we find ourselves in our aloneness living "outside
the camp" of fellowship. We sense death in our spirit; we feel we will
never be whole again. In Psalm 32, David described his living death outside
the camp because he sought to hide his sins of adultery and murder from
the people of Israel: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through
my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.
My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer."
The word of God continues, "Now this man who was full of leprosy [greatly
affected all over his body; in the advance stages, as diagnosed by Dr. Luke]
and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him saying, "Lord,
if you are willing, You can make me clean." The Lord had moved to one
of the Galilean cities, and yet this leper, who should have been living
outside the camp, heard that Jesus was in town so he boldly entered the
city looking for him. This man knew that the Pharisees threw stones at roaming
lepers, but although he knew he was breaking the Mosaic law he was willing
to face their wrath if there was the remotest possibility that he might
be healed by this rabbi named Jesus.
As he approached the Lord he recognized his own uncleanness and unwholesomeness.
Helpless, he fell to the ground at the feet of the Savior, crying, "Lord,
if you are willing, you can make me clean." "Lord," he is
saying, "I have heard of your teaching and healing ministry. Your fame
has spread like wildfire in these hills. People say that you have cast out
demons, that you have cured many diseases. No one has told me that you cured
people with leprosy, but, based on what people are saying about you, that
you are the Messiah of Israel, I believe that if you are willing, you can
make me clean."
Some Christians today believe that God has not only forgiven their sins,
but that he has promised to make them healthy and wealthy into the bargain.
Others believe that the full gospel includes not only holiness of heart
and life, but healing of the body as well, based on Isaiah 53:3-6 and 1
Peter 2:24, "surely He took up our infirmities and carried away our
sorrows...by His wounds we are healed." They believe that this physical
healing will occur, based on the faith of individual, and that every Christian
should "claim his or her physical healing."
The key to understanding this passage is seen in the statement of the leper,
"Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." The man is
saying, in effect, "At this moment in history, according to the Law
of Moses, I am ceremonially unclean. I know that I have nothing within
myself to change the situation, but I have faith to believe that you can
rid me of this uncleanness. I also realize that even though you have the
power to heal me, what is really necessary is your willingness to do so."
A study of the scriptures reveals many occasions where it was God's will
that one of his children become sick and remain sick, to his honor and glory.
Sickness, as well as healings, are used to carry out God's greater purposes
on this earth within his plan of redemption.
For example, think of Paul and his "thorn in the flesh." After
the apostle's vision of the heavenlies, when he saw things that no man had
ever seen, he received from the Lord a thorn in the flesh so that he would
not exalt himself. Three times he prayed that the Lord would remove it but
it remained to badger him. But in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul tells us that
the risen Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power
is perfected in weakness." That was when Paul stopped praying for God
to heal him and instead accepted his burden as a "thorn of humility."
Our second illustration is Moses and his experience at the burning bush,
recorded in Exodus 3-4. The Lord God appeared to Moses in a burning bush
and asked this former Egyptian prince and murderer, who had by this time
become a shepherd in the wilderness, to be his instrument to deliver the
people of Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage. Moses said he would
like to do all of this, but he was handicapped. "Please, Lord,"
he said, "I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time
past, nor since thou has spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech
and slow of tongue." And the Lord said to him, "Who has made man's
mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the
Lord? Now go [even as you are, without any healing of your impediment] and
I, even I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say."
Finally, we can give the example of the sinning Corinthians who were sick
and weak (and some even died), because of their sin in taking the Lord's
Supper: "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord...for
this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep,"
says Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. Where do these examples fit in the
health and wealth theology which we hear so much about today? At times God
uses sickness to teach humility and dependence. At times he will use sickness
as a form of judgment. The leper's theology was right on the mark: "Lord,
you can make me well, if it is your will to do so."
Can we come by faith to our Lord at any time and ask him to make us whole
by healing us spiritually, emotionally, and physically? Yes! Can the Lord
heal all of us spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically? Yes!
He is always ready to heal us spiritually by offering us salvation. But
is he always willing to heal us emotionally and physically? Sometimes yes,
sometimes no! At times, as in this case with the leper, we have to put ourselves
in a "holding pattern of faith," as it were. The leper said, "Lord,
If you are willing, you can make me clean." He knew that healing was
in the hands of our Lord, not in his own.
"And, moved with compassion (Mark 1:41), He stretched out His hand,
and touched him, saying, 'I am willing: be cleansed (a command), and immediately
the leprosy left him and he was cleansed." "He stretched out His
hand, and touched him..." Jesus was willing to touch the "untouchables."
Jewish tradition demanded that one abstain from any contact with a leper,
but Christ actually touched this man, not as a doctor would in a physical
examination, but with compassion and love. And immediately the leprosy left
We can imagine what this leper felt like as the leprosy disappeared. The
scales dropped off his skin and it became like a child's skin. His sores
disappeared and the foul odor was no longer present in his nostrils. His
eyebrows and eyelashes returned. His white hair became pitch black. His
hoarse voice replaced by the strong vocal chords of his youth. The numbness
and pain was replaced by the rush of blood throughout out his body. The
fingers and toes that had dropped off in days gone by were restored. The
face of an old lion now turned to that of newborn lamb. The deep sorrow
was replaced by joy. His isolation was replaced by a return to fellowship.
"I'm healed! I'm clean! I'm whole!" he cried in joy and amazement.
All this happened through the compassion and the touch of our loving Physician's
Several times each year our elders are asked by members of this body who
are physically or emotionally sick to pray for them that the Lord will heal
them. The elders have always complied, with the spiritual motivation that
if it is the Lord's will, the individual in question be healed. Over the
years they have had the privilege of seeing the Lord say yes as well as
no to such requests. At no time have they ever felt that the Lord would
stop them from coming into his presence to ask him for healing on behalf
of the sick. The sick person comes to the Lord and to the elders by faith;
the elders come to the Lord in faith on behalf of the sick; but the bottom
line always is, "Lord, if you are willing..."
Have you ever hungered for wholeness, for physical, emotional, and spiritual
wholeness? Our wonderful Lord is always willing to bring spiritual wholeness
in the form of salvation to all who place their faith in him as their Lord
and Savior. Our Lord also has encouraged us to come to him in faith concerning
our physical and emotional problems with the same faith and humility of
the leper: "Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean."
Once the Lord rewards your faith with spiritual, emotional or physical wholeness,
you need to,
II. Testify of Jesus in your cleanness, Luke 5: 14-16
And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself
to the priest, and make an offering, for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded,
for a testimony to them." But the news about Him was spreading even
farther, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him and to be healed
of their sicknesses. But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness
Why did Jesus warn this man to tell no one? It is obvious that our Lord
had a very clear motive for healing this one leper. Jesus intended this
to be a testimony to the priest in Jerusalem that he was the Messiah. According
to the Law of Moses (Lev.14), if a leper were healed in Israel, he or she
had to go to the temple in Jerusalem and present themselves to the priest.
The priest was to examine the person and if the healing was genuine, that
person was to be declared physically and ceremonially clean before all the
The priests had no history of a Jewish man or woman being healed in over
2000 years, ever since the healing of Moses and Miriam. The last recorded
healing which Jesus mentioned to the Jewish leaders in his home town of
Nazareth (Luke 4:27) occurred some 850 years earlier in the time of Elisha.
Our Lord reminded them that "...there were many lepers in Israel
in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only
Naaman the Syrian." So this man whom Jesus had just healed was the
first recorded Jewish leper healed since the Gentile Naaman After his healing,
Naaman gave testimony, "Now I know there is no God in all the earth,
but in Israel" (11 Kings 5: 5).
The priest would have to investigate this man. Had he been a leper? Yes!
Had he been healed? Yes! Once this cleansing was verified, the question
then would be, How was he healed? The answer, of course, was, by a man in
Galilee named Jesus who was claiming to be the Messiah (Luke 4), and was
proving it by healing the lame, the dumb, the deaf, the blind, the downtrodden,
and now this leper. The evidence would then be submitted to the Sanhedrin
for its investigation and final declaration. Jesus was generating an investigation
of his person and power. He did not need any more testimony of his Messiahship
in Galilee. He had had enough. But after the Galilean ministry, he would
head south to Jerusalem and he wanted the religious leaders to know he was
coming back to city as their Messiah.
But in his excitement, the man who had been healed did not quite carry out
Jesus' instructions. According to Mark 1:45, "he went out and began
to proclaim it freely and to spread the news about, to such an extent that
Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city but stayed out in unpopulated
areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere." Luke says, "But
the news about Him was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were
gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sickness. But He Himself
would often slip away to the wilderness and pray." The disobedience
of the cleansed leper hindered our Lord's ministry and eliminated the testimony
to the priest. In reality, the man was not clean in the eyes of the Jewish
people until he was ceremonially declared clean by the priest in Jerusalem.
He may have gone to the priest at a later date, though nothing is recorded
of such an event.
This story of a leper made whole should encourage us that our loving and
compassionate Lord can bring spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness
to our lives when we place our faith in Him.
For those of you who have not yet invited Jesus to be your Lord, please
know that he is waiting and willing at this moment to heal you spiritually.
He will save you from your sin, guilt and shame and give eternal life, which
is his life now.
For those of us who are believers, suffering with emotional and physical
ailments, we are encouraged to come to the Lord with the same humble attitude
of the leper, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean (physically
and ceremonially)." At that point the faith we had to approach Jesus
must be the same faith to wait upon him, knowing whether the answer is yes
or no, everything will work out as a testimony to his glory, and our spiritual
maturity, as we tell others, of the wholeness, peace and joy that he has
placed in our hearts by his Holy Spirit.
Have you ever hungered for physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness?
We need to turn to the Lord Jesus in our uncleanness, and then testify to
the love of Jesus in our cleanness.
Last Wednesday, a women from another city came to see me at my office. She
was a very pleasant, well groomed person. After she had shared her story
with me she was ready to leave in the same helpless, isolated, broken and
unclean condition she had come in. When it was time to end our conversation,
she asked if I would answer one last question. She told me that last year,
when she was under great stress while in the military, she visited with
a woman chaplain. After listening to her story the women told her to "Let
go and let God." She felt loved and accepted by this woman, and those
words were always on her heart, she said, especially in times of stress.
Her question to me was, "What did that statement, 'Let go and let God'
mean?" Ten minutes later, this women from another city who was starving
for wholeness, bowed her head and, with her broken heart, asked Jesus to
come into her heart as her Lord and Savior, to forgive her whole lifetime
of sins, and cleanse her and make her spiritually, emotionally and physically
Based on her faith in Jesus Christ, this once illegitimate, homeless, abandoned,
rejected, deserted, broken woman was, by the Spirit of God, "born again"
at 2:50 p.m. August 9, l989, and adopted by our Heavenly Father into his
spiritual family forever. I asked her, "Who do you want to tell first
about this new life you are just beginning in Christ?" "I'm going
to call my middle daughter and tell her everything," she replied. Jesus
said, "Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will
also confess him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt.10:32).
Have you ever hungered for wholeness? Come to Jesus. He and only he will
make you whole.
Catalog No. 4127
Ron R. Ritchie
August 13, 1989
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