First was the story of the leper. (vs 12-14) This leper approached, prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus touched him, said, "I am willing. Be clean."
The second story (vs. 18-26) is about the paralytic with the four friends-who unceremoniously made hole in the roof and let their friend down, mattress and all, to land at Jesus' feet.
And what did Jesus say to this man? "Be whole? Be healed?"
No. He told him, "your sins are forgiven you."
Which sparked some internal debate in the Pharisees present. The man ended up walking away from his encounter with his sins forgiven. And with a whole body.
Sandwiched between these two stories is a phrase, "and the power of the Lord was present to heal them." It sheds some light on both of the stories.
The power of the Lord was present to heal whom? The leper? The paralytic? Yes and yes.
But also the Pharisees and lawyers in the crowd.
See, physical healing is not a matter of whether God is able, but whether or not He is willing. The leper recognized that. He didn't doubt Jesus' ability to heal.
Leprosy. Most Biblical scholars agree that disease presents a good picture of sin. According to the law, lepers had to remove themselves from society and had to call out "unclean, unclean" whenever they were by people. The leper asked for cleansing, not healing. Cleansing was the antidote.
The Pharisees and lawyers had whole bodies, but they still needed healing and cleansing. Spiritual healing and cleansing. All needed their sins forgiven-all were sinners.
As God sees it, our biggest problem is not physical, but is spiritual. Sin is the much bigger problem and the much greater need, superseding even broken bodies.
God still heals today. He heals broken and sick bodies on a regular basis. But it is not always His will to heal. That is why cancer and accidents and other diseases regularly take lives. Even the lives of people whose situations have been fervently prayed over.
God is more interested in our spiritual health and growth and healing than our physical wholeness or comfort.
That may require an ouch amen, but it requires an amen nonetheless.
God puts us in situations that will produce the most praise and glory for Himself, and cause the most progress in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ.
That is God's ultimate will in any believer's life.
The trials are for our personal benefit. They are for the benefit of those observing our lives.
And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen paradoxes today." (Luke 5:26)