Last Sunday, when the time of worship moved slowly toward a more focused time of prayer and healing ministry, I was in my regular spot at the front. I leaned back a little bit, and closed my eyes. I was breathing in and out, doing what I knew to focus on the healing atmosphere that Jesus’ presence brought. A few moments later, I felt a strange sensation in my right hand. I felt an urge to close my hand around it and hold tight — and not let go. I don’t know if it was a hand I felt on mine, but I knew I needed to respond. After worship was over and Sunday went on, I kept that experience in mind. I wanted to share it and listen more, to see if there was something else I needed to hear.
The other context came on Monday morning, as I was scrolling through the Bible webpage I use to do my devotions. I had a passage from Numbers that I liked a lot, but when I was reading Luke, another one pulled at my attention. It was a familiar story, where Jesus steps outside of the expected norms of His day, and does not refuse a leper the same touch that had healed countless others. I had heard that story many times, but understood it more after hearing my Dad emphasize that Jesus saying “I will” or “I am willing” was not a passive expression, but a deeply enthusiastic expression.
I loved the story even more after seeing how “The Chosen” portrayed the moment — they didn’t miss a beat. Jesus’ shocking, norm-defying compassion, His delight in the leper’s faith, or the joy and relief of being freed from a degenerative disease. All of that came to mind when I highlighted it. The feeling I experienced, the hand that I was sure I felt, I suddenly remembered.
I was reading the King James Version of this story, where Jesus says:
“I will: be thou clean.” I read “I will”, and immediately wanted to see just how many definitions of the word Jesus meant when He said it, deathly serious and radiantly happy about it.
Will means these things, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
“The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action”
“A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority”
“Deliberate intention or wish”
“Free discretion; inclination or pleasure”
“To yearn for; desire”
“To decree, dictate, or order”
“To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will.”
In the Greek of Luke’s gospel, the word is thelō. It defines “will” in these ways:
“To will, have in mind, intend”
“to be resolved or determined, to purpose”
“to desire, to wish”
My favorite context, however, comes from the last two definitions:
“to love” and “to take delight in, have pleasure”
I remembered how my Dad repeated Jesus’ line back to us “It would be my pleasure.” I understood that feeling, that gentle but serious intensity, was a reminder. Jesus does not just have a passing interest in healing me, or keeping the specific “part 1” healing promise I heard last December. It is a passionate, exaggerated delight, something He takes pleasure in. He will accomplish it by force, with determination and purpose. It is is preference, what He wants to be instead of what is right now. It is an order written with more love and delight that I believe I am capable of describing or understanding.
It doesn’t make sense to me, even as I write these words. But I have to believe it — because He keeps saying it. His willpower is cosmic, it can accomplish anything. I picked that emblem above because it reflected my understanding of will. I see it is a resilient, bright light that banished darkness. I understand it as an oath to resist fear. I understand it as empowered by hope. The silly imagery of the Green Lantern and all the nerdy nonsense that surrounded it is all I could see as I sat down to begin writing.
My only response is to be grateful. To keep repeating my gratitude day and night, and to my family and to those around me. I don’t do that even close to enough. I don’t feel shame, but I feel pushed and happily shaken to rid myself of any temptation to ever be in a funk or to feel bad or to worry-wart. Jesus has the most willpower, like ever. He is the most self-confident, creative, stubborn (in a holy way) man that ever lived or will ever live. He’d be the best Green Lantern ever.
He’s the One who created the human mind, the mind that eventually led some nerdy and observant people to portray willpower and the strength of positive emotions as universe-altering superpowers! He literally can create anything within the limits of His imagination, and there is no limit to that! His will is forceful and compassionate. And it takes no effort from us. The leper had his face to the ground, he knew there was nothing he could do. All he could do was hope that the character of Jesus matched His ability to heal any disease.
And he was more right to hope than he could have known.
The willpower that faith is, was the only force that truly delighted Jesus and moved Him to act with compassion. It’s all He needs, and you don’t even have to work at “getting it”, because He’s the one who gives it.
The blackest day won’t last against His will. Evil will flee from it, as will those who serve its shadow. But faith will draw it in. I want to keep on drawing it in, and He’s the one who helps me do it.