Dr. Paul Brand was an orthopedic surgeon who chose his patients among the untouchable. With his wife, who was also a physician, he spent a lifetime working with the marred and useless limbs of leprosy victims. In fact, he transformed the way in which medicine approached the painful and often exiled world of the leper. Whereas the disfigurements of leprosy were once treated as irreversible consequences of the disease, Dr. Brand brought new hope to sufferers of leprosy by utilizing the body’s capacity to heal. “I have come to realize that every patient of mine, every newborn baby, in every cell of its body, has a basic knowledge of how to survive and how to heal that exceeds anything that I shall ever know,” wrote Brand. “That knowledge is the gift of God, who has made our bodies more perfectly than we could ever have devised.”(1)
Philip Yancey was a young journalist when he first met this dignified British surgeon in an interview. He recalls a teary-eyed Brand speaking of his patients, describing their disease as if first hand: their unremitting suffering, experimental surgeries, societal rejection. Many memorable conversations later, Yancey would recall the healing presence this physician was to his own crippled and weary belief in God. To Yancey, Brand represented faith and hope in body, amidst nothing less than suffering and death and loss. His belief in Christ caused him to outwardly live in a very particular way. He worked to restore the image of humanity and the image of God in lives marred by disease, and so helped restore the face of God in the doubt-ridden world of a young author. As Yancey later would write of their meeting, “You need only meet one saint to believe, to silence the noisy arguments of the world.”(2)
Brand was for Yancey a physical reminder that Christianity is no mere system or organization, preference or thought process, but a way of life with one concerned as much with broken bodies as marred souls. In a 1990 lecture titled The Wisdom of the Body, Dr. Paul Brand said, “I pray that when my time comes I may not grumble that my body has worn out too soon, but hold on to gratitude that I have been so long at the helm of the most wonderful creation the world has ever known, and look forward to meeting its designer face to face.”(3) In a body like ours, God silences the arguments of a noisy world. Jesus approaches humanity as one of us, coming to make us well entirely—in body, mind, soul, senses.
Of the ten lepers Jesus healed on his way to Jerusalem, there was only one who stopped to recognize the significance of the man behind the miracle. For this one, it was not simply a life-changing moment of being healed of leprosy; it was a life-changing invitation into a kingdom and a community, into life as a new creation. Falling on his face at Jesus’s human feet, he saw the Son of God who made him well. And Jesus said to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”(4)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, In the Likeness of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 16.
(2) Philip Yancey, “The Leprosy Doctor,” Christianity Today (November 2003), 112.
(3) Paul Brand, “The Wisdom of the Body,” Chicago Sunday Evening Club, Program 3428, April 28, 1990.
(4) Luke 17:11-18.