Surely, he felt more and more lonely and rejected as the days crawled by. After all, his skin disease had no cure. He and the other lepers who had been sentenced to life outside the city existed inside a vat of hopeless desperation.
Life as he knew it changed the day that nasty spot first appeared. He didn’t think much of it, but the Law of Moses required that he go to the priest to have it checked out. He didn’t have time for all the days of quarantine required to declare him clean, but he didn’t have a choice. He would go, endure his timeout, and then get back to business.
However, his condition soon worsened. The priests declared him unclean, and he was banished to live out his days in the putrid leper colony. Leaving his family and friends broke his heart. Yet, having the priest insist that some great sin had caused his condition broke his spirit. Some of the rabbis even bragged about throwing rocks at him to keep him away.
He had followed all the commandments since he was a boy. He might not be a Scribe or a Pharisee, but he couldn’t imagine what he could have done to bring on such a wretched condemnation. He knew his friends and family would be better off when he left this earth. All the misery and shame that he and his disease had caused them would finally be over. He knew he would be better off then for sure. He would finally be out of his misery.
That’s when he saw Jesus.
Maybe the leper sat alone on a hilltop watching the long line shorten as people came to Jesus for healing. Somehow, the leper knew Jesus held the power to heal him. Jewish custom required a leper to stay at least six feet away from everyone. Surely, he could get close enough to cry out for help. Yet, the closer he got to Jesus, the closer he wanted to be. He couldn’t help himself. He fell on his knees in front of the One doing the healing and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Then, Jesus did the unthinkable. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:2-3 NIV)
This miracle touches my heart more than any other. At times, maybe we’ve all felt a little like the leper – lonely, misunderstood, rejected, and downright desperate. We knew we needed healing. We believed that Jesus had the power to help. We just didn’t believe He would reach out to heal us! How could Christ the King be concerned with little ole me? Why would He?
The truth is, Jesus wants to save us all, even though we don’t deserve it, because He loves us! He hears our prayers and offers healing because we matter to Him. Knowing and believing all of that is more than enough. Yet, when we fall down in worship, cry out for help, and express our belief in the power of the Almighty, Christ the King simultaneously becomes Christ our Friend. Jesus could have merely spoken healing over the leper. Instead, He gave the man what he had missed and needed the most – the loving touch of a friend.
Leper that I am, if Jesus had never healed me, that touch from Him would have been enough.
Jesus knew how important it would be for him to be accepted into his community again. So, “Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matthew 8:4 NIV) Like all good things, this was a process! I would have loved to have seen the expression on the face of that priest who originally declared him unclean. As far as we know, there are no records of any other lepers being healed. Most likely, the priest had to get a quick refresher course on the whole cleansing process. It involved several washings, sacrifices, and more days of quarantine.
Now, the leper was the talk of the town for something wonderful!
The leper’s family and friends most likely accepted him back into their circle quickly. All he had to do was hold out his arms and let them get a good look at his skin as proof of healing. Unfortunately, proof of a healed heart takes much longer. We can’t merely look inside someone to see evidence of spiritual healing. It takes time for them to walk out their healing in positive words and actions. They have to exercise patience in the process and allow the Holy Spirit time to direct the hearts of those around them. Meanwhile, family and friends have the responsibility of offering proof of their love. It takes time together to witness proof of a changed heart. When both parties do their part, both are blessed, and it glorifies God in a monumental way!
The miserable life the leper thought he was destined to live became one of extreme thankfulness, great joy, and powerful testimony. The same can be said for every changed heart.
“You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!
You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,
and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past.
You have laid your hand on me!
This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!
Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.”
(Psalm 139:3-6 The Passion Translation)
Lord, may others see what You see!