“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “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. Then 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 8:1-4
You are a man in your mid-20s. You have a wonderful wife and two children. You have a good job and a promising future. You have land and livestock. Then one day a sore appears on your leg. It’s not real painful so you are not worried. But the sore gets bigger and other sores appear on your arms and hands. The sores get bigger and bigger, until it almost covers much of your extremities. You go see a physician who tells you, “I am sorry to inform you that you have…leprosy. You are going to have to leave your wife and children, your land, your home, your job, and go off to live with the other lepers outside the town.”
You are stunned and terrified. You have just been given a death sentence. The process of dying by leprosy is worse than dying itself. Your body will slowly rot to pieces while you continue to live. What makes it even worse is the complete separation and isolation that is about to begin. The mental and emotional damage of leprosy is almost as bad the physical. You are required to stay away from people. Whenever somebody unknowingly comes near, you are required to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” You cannot ever go home. You can never hold your wife, or play with your kids. If you see them, and touch them, they may get leprosy themselves. So you go off alone to rot and die. You wish you would die. Then one day, something happened that this man and his family would never forget.
You kneel before Jesus and say, “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 8:1-3) This man’s story is probably very similar to the one I just told you. His situation is probably very similar as well. Jesus and others are getting closer, so he probably starts shouting, “Unclean! Unclean! And just as likely the people following Jesus stop in their tracks. He doesn’t fault them for it. He understands. He would feel the same way if the roles were reversed.
But something strange happens. Jesus keeps coming closer. He doesn’t see or sense revulsion. He sees concern. He doesn’t see fear. He sees love. So he kneels and says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus touched him and said, “I am willing,…Be clean!”
Jesus could have healed the man without touching him. He can heal with just a word or from a safe distance. The touch said, “I am here with you. I sympathize with you when no one else does. I understand. I love you.”
If only we could reach out and touch the untouchable. Reach out and love the lonely.
- What was your impression of leprosy before reading this devotional? How has that impression changed after reading this devotional?
- Why do you think Jesus touched the leper?
- Are there social outcasts in your neighborhood?
- What can we do this week to reach out and touch, or help someone who is lonely this week?