Pastor Pat Duffin,
High Prairie Christian Centre
One of my favourite Bible accounts is the incident where Jesus healed a man of leprosy. Leprosy was so odious and noisome that the Bible often used Leprosy as a ‘type’ or ‘illustration,’ an object lesson of how awful sin is and its corrupting, spiritual effect on the life and the person of those so unfortunately afflicted.
Leprosy is a progressive disease that destroys both the body and the person as it eats away by first attacking the nerves but eventually infecting the skin and even interior organs. As the skin loses sensation the body sustains injuries [e.g. burns while cooking, cuts and bruises while working] that are not addressed because they are not felt.
One of its visible effects is the loss of extremities such as fingers and toes, lips and noses. Then opportunistic other infections begin to fester and cause further damage to the body and it begins to rot as circulation is diminished and diseases become entrenched. Limbs and other parts of the body become disfigured and dysfunctional. The stench of rotting flesh becomes overpowering as the whole person begins to fester.
Not only was the disease devastatingly hideous and terrible to the infected, but it was terrifying and horrible to everyone else around. Because of this and not understanding how to prevent its spread, nor how to help the afflicted, the unfortunates were expelled from society and forced to live away from healthy people. Deprived of family, friends, or even a kind gesture, they were not only excluded but driven away. They were also forced to warn others to stay away by crying out “unclean, unclean” as they foraged for food or moved from place to place, often choosing to live in their own castaway communities where they could garner some form of human comfort from each other, as well as acceptance and practical help with their problems.
Victims were known as the ‘Untouchables’ because no one in their right mind would willingly expose themselves to the risk of that terrible fate by even being close, let alone touching a leper.
We need to understand how horrendous this disease was and how it continues to picture the deleterious effects of sin as an ongoing erosion of the physical and spiritual life of the person. Not only are people debased physically and spiritually, but they become something repulsive, even dangerous to others. They become outcasts living on the fringes of society, rejected, alone except for the company of others like themselves. All the while their lives progressively diminish in every respect until finally they die, helpless and hopeless.
But then comes Jesus Christ. And suddenly everything that is desperate, impossible, and pointless is transformed into surging hope. What a powerful and poignant moment!
The forlorn picture of sin-cursed destruction meets the holy, loving, saving Creator who declares that His purpose is to seek and save the lost, untouchables of this world. [Luke 19:10]
This leper knew something that even the eager crowd did not. Hesitantly, self-consciously, he approached the famous Rabbi. In a self-abasive gesture, he humbled himself with a worshipful gesture as he kneeled before the Master of the Universe and made his unforgettable statement of faith and hope, “’Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ 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]
The importance of what just transpired cannot be overstated. The former hopeless one, has now become a hopeful seeker because Jesus has come into the picture. Wherever, and whenever Jesus enters the picture everything changes. The impossible becomes possible. The unworthy and hopeless now have hope.
And when the Creator touches you, it is very personal. The leper kneels and confesses his faith in Jesus. He knows who Jesus is. He knows the power and the authority that stands before him. He addresses Him as ‘Lord.’
He knows that Jesus is renowned for doing good and great things, impossible things for people. He knows Jesus is kind and helpful.
What he doesn’t know, and what everyone of us struggles with as well, is whether Jesus would do it for me. “‘If’ you are willing”, that is the very heart of the matter.
To paraphrase the issue, “Lord I know you are able. I believe you for that much. But where my faith weakens and where I struggle is, would you do it for dirty, unworthy, insignificant me?”
And Jesus answers, “Yes, I want to help you! Yes, I will help you! This is who I am and what I am about!”
How electrifying! My Saviour wants to, and my Saviour will make me clean both inside and out!
Because, Jesus does all things well. Jesus does it perfect. [(Mark 7:31-37, Matthew 19:26, Genesis 18:14 and Jeremiah 32:27]
In my mind’s eye, I picture this scene portrayed by Bruce Marchiano [The Gospel According to Matthew, Visual Bible, directed by Regardt van den Bergh], where “The Smiling Jesus” embraces the outcast leper and loves him as He cleanses the unclean but hopeful seeker.
Oh yah! That’s my Jesus! Full of love and grace, ready to meet us exactly where we are. He receives us and cleans us up and gives us a whole new life. Not a new lease on life, Jesus gives us a brand new, completely transformed life.
Are you an untouchable? Have you sinned great sins? Do you feel unworthy? Unclean? Unaccepted? Unqualified for God’s mercy and grace?
Are you an outsider? Excluded? Hopeless?
Do you know that God can do it, but you are unsure that He would do it for you? Like, why should He? Why would He?
Learn the lesson of the unclean, leper and Jesus’ response.
“Yes, I can! Yes, I want to! That is my will for you! And, Yes, I will do it! All you need to do is respond to my invitation, ‘Whoever comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.’” [John 6:37]
If you are a ‘whoever’, then you qualify. Everyone is eligible, no exceptions. Go ahead, just simply ask!