Friday, March 9, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 5:12-16 (Healing Leprosy)

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy (Luke 5:12-16)

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “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!” And immediately the leprosy left him.  Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

What is leprosy?  Today, it is known as Hansen's disease.  It's a disease of the nerves, mucous, and upper respiratory system that presents with skin lesions.  Left untreated, this leads to permanent damage to the skin, nerves, eyes, and limbs.  Leprosy itself does not cause limbs to fall off.  That is actually caused by secondary infections.  The incubation period can be anywhere from a few weeks to thirty years!  It is believed to be transmitted via respiratory fluids and armadillos.  95% of people are immune to leprosy.

Knowing what we know about leprosy, it is a treatable disease.  The social stigma in Bible times was terrible though.  People would be ostracized from the community and sent away to live with others afflicted with leprosy.  To touch a person with leprosy was seen as an almost certain way to invite death (to say nothing of becoming ceremonially unclean).  Now, re-read that passage from Luke.  

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.

Do you think Jesus had to touch the man to heal him?  No!  Of course he didn't!  More than physical healing, the man needed the touch of another person.  In addition to the physical healing, Jesus began a work of spiritual and emotional healing.  Jesus showed everyone in that moment that this man is healed, clean, and okay to be touched.  He is lovable and worthy to be loved.

As I was reading up on what leprosy is, I saw some extreme pictures of the disease.  This is a terrible disease.  There is a reason why movies portray those with leprosy wrapped in bandages like a mummy.  It is to protect wounds that look atrocious.  It is to protect other people from seeing what is underneath.  Can you imagine people pointing at you and avoiding you at all costs?  Can you imagine them seeing you and making some unkind remark?

It may not be too hard for some to imagine.  If someone has ever said you were ugly, you get an idea of what it feels like.  If people talk about you behind your back and go out of their way to avoid you, you know what it feels like.  If you feel invisible to the world like you don't make a difference, you know what it feels like.

Now, imagine a total stranger, the center of an excited and enthusiastic mob of people hears your cry for help.  When you know a word will do, he touches you.  It's the first time anyone has touched you since you can't remember when.  All of a sudden, you can feel again.  You aren't numb anymore.  You are completely healed.  You feel something you haven't felt in a long time: love.

You are not ugly.  You are made in the image of God.
You are not unlovable.  God so loved the world that he sent his only son to die for you.
You are not invisible. God cradles you in his arms and sings over you.  He laughs with you. He cries with you. You mean everything to Him.

If no one has told you, you are loved.
You are so loved.
You are worth dying for.
That's what Jesus did for you and for me!

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