Touching the Untouchable

jesus_leper12While 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.” 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14Then 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.” 15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).

There were two kinds of Leprosy in Jesus’ day. One that was rather like a very bad skin disease, while the other was a disease that started from a small spot and ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.

The man in our passage was covered with Leprosy (verse 12). The Book of Leviticus gave very specific instructions about various skin diseases, Leprosy being one of them. Lepers could not live inside the town, obviously that meant that they could not go to synagogue or the Temple. They were outcasts of society. The leper was to cry “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went: he was to dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). They had to carry a bell everywhere they went and if anyone should come within 50 yards of them they had to ring a warning to them. Leprosy was a contagious disease.

Dr A. B. Macdonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious skin diseases. Shunned and despised, frequently lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.” Often the leper came to hate himself. That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean and Jesus touched him. It doesn’t seem as if this man came with anyone else if he was part of a leper colony. Somehow he heard of Jesus and sought Him out.

We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The leper had the faith to go in search of Jesus. The passage tells us, “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy (verse 12). He risked being stoned for being in the town. It was evident to all he was a leper because he “was covered with leprosy.” There seems to be a courage born of desperation that brings him to Jesus. There is a humility in the leper for he casts himself on the ground, and with his face in the dirt, proclaims his words of faith, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There is no doubt in his heart that Jesus can do this. If there is any doubt at all it seems to be about the willingness of a Rabbi to even associate with him. He knew Jesus to be a holy man and was afraid to cause him to be unclean by being near Him, but his was a courage born of desperation. To come into contact with a leper would demand that anyone wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. There seems to be no hesitation in Jesus. He is willing to heal. How long had it been since this leper had been touched? I wonder if he was moved in his spirit at the touch of Jesus. He felt Jesus’ compassion and love! I believe that we would all have wept if we had seen this untouchable being touched with the love of God.

Compassion is a quality sorely in need today. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to reach out beyond ourselves to those He loves and wants to touch. Jesus told him to go and show himself to the priest so that he would be inspected and having been found clean, would be able to be brought into the community of the faithful. Love the unlovely, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

Keith Thomas

 

The Kindness and Grace of our Savior

Healing-Touch27She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched the fringe of his robe. 28For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his clothing, I will be healed.” 29Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel that she had been healed! (Mark 5:27-29).

How wonderful it is that God responds to faith. This woman’s faith was born out of desperation. Matthew in his gospel (v.9:20) tells us that she had internal bleeding for 12 years. What would it have been like to be in her situation? Her condition was one where it was illegal for her to be in a public place, for fear of contaminating anyone else. Leviticus 15:25 says “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.” She would never have been able to enter Church or fellowship with others. Her condition excluded her from the social structure of the day. Mark further tells us that she had spent her all on the doctors (Mark 5:26) and was no better but rather grew worse. This poor woman was completely broke and more than likely had not slept in a bed for some time, what hotel would have her! What friend would let her stay at their house, everything she touched would be ceremonially unclean.

How scared she must have been as she was mingling with the crowd trying not to be seen and recognized, desperately trying to reach Jesus, her only hope. She was desperate. Mark goes on to say that when she touched him and was instantly healed, Jesus asked “who touched me?” (v.31). Her response was one of fear, she “fell at his feet, and trembling with fear,” (v.33) told him of her illegal act of touching a rabbi. Why would she be trembling? She took a huge risk. Jesus is well known as a Rabbi in whom is the Spirit of God. She would have thought that she would contaminate him with her own uncleanness and render him not able to heal the Ruler of the Synagogue’s daughter. I am sure that she expected to be severely told off.

I love Him for His response to her, “daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Her history over the last 12 years of having this condition was one of rejection by people. How beautiful to see grace, acceptance, understanding and joy in the face of our Savior. Doesn’t grace and kindness win your heart? Hasn’t He been like that with you? I long to be accepting of the poor and hurting like Him.

Prayer: Oh God, make me more like Jesus, full of grace and truth.

Keith Thomas

The Parable Of The Lifesaving Station

imagesOn a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew. Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea.

They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work. The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the lifesaving activities personally. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people.

They were dirty and sick, some had skin of a different color, some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal pattern of the club. But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another lifesaving station was founded. If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but now most of the people drown!

Taken from Personal Evangelism 101, by Brent Hunter

What Happens to the Christian upon Death?

images1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

When Paul the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth, he compared the earthly body that we live in to a tent, a short-term, impermanent home. What he was saying is that the real you, your spirit, is clothed with your fleshly body for the fifty to seventy years that you live on Earth, but that when this “earthy tent” is destroyed, we have something much more permanent in heaven, a building from God, a home that is eternal, a body that is not built by human hands (v.1), a heavenly dwelling (v.2). As we get older, we become more and more aware of our mortality—we groan and are burdened and become more and more convinced that there has to be more to this life than what we see with our physical senses. If only we could see this truth—that we are created for eternity and not just for this world, that we are just passing through. It would change everything for us if we truly believed it. Paul went on to say that we are fashioned for this very purpose and that what is beyond death is the true life. The Holy Spirit living in us is a guarantee of what is beyond the veil of death:

5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5).

A Christian enters heaven without a break in consciousness. Back on earth our friends bury our body, but they do not bury us! Personhood survives the death of the body. In the Bible, the Book of Acts, there is the story of a man of God named Stephen. As he was dying, he said, “Lord, receive my spirit.” He did not say, “Receive my body.” There was no break in consciousness for him—the Lord was standing up from His normal seated position at the right hand of the Father to receive him (Acts 7:59). We would live very different lives if we truly believed that our life on earth is just transitory. If we believed that when we put off the tent of this body, we enter into true life (I’m presuming that you have received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus), we would invest our time, energy, gifts and resources into more things that will last after we get rid of our earthly tent. What would God have us invest ourselves in this side of heaven? He would have us invest in what is important to Him—people. Seeking to help as many as we can to know God and be saved from the penalty of sin.

Sometimes as people are dying, their spirit often drifts between earth and heaven where they can see both worlds. A few hours before Dwight L. Moody, the great American evangelist died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from a sleep, he said: “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go!” His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.” “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day! It is glorious!”

My prayer is that you would ask the Lord to give you the free gift of eternal life that Jesus has bought for you in dying in your place. My prayer is that we will see Mr. Moody together and rejoice in the finished work of our Savior on our behalf.

If you would like to read more on this topic, find the series Insights into Eternity in the middle column or in Chinese on the top right hand side tab. The study is called What Lies Behind Death’s Door.

Keith Thomas

How Much Are You in Debt?

Woman at Feet of JesusJesus went to have dinner at the invitation of a Pharisee named Simon. During the meal a woman that was known as a prostitute in the area came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair and anointed Him with her expensive perfume.  Simon’s thoughts were heard by the Lord. He judged Jesus for allowing this known sinful woman to draw near to Him and touch Him, something that no self respecting Jewish Rabbi would do at that time. The Lord Jesus spoke a parable to Simon:

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:40-42).

Jesus spoke about two debtors.  Although the Lord was speaking the parable to Simon, it is also applicable to all of us. Every one of us has a debt of sin that we have brought upon ourselves. At the time of Christ, a denarius was the take–home pay of a man for a day’s wages. One had a debt of the equivalent of a month and a half’s wages, and the other’s debt was equal to one–and–a–half-year’s wages. The Lord was acknowledging that, outwardly, the sinful woman’s sin was of the sort that spiritually was a high debt, but at the same time, He was pointing out that even though Simon thought that he was morally a better person, he could not pay his debt of sin either. Both were unable to pay.

Every one of us is spiritually bankrupt before this Holy God to whom we have to give account someday (Romans 14:12). Let’s use the analogy of being an Olympic long jumper. Maybe you can long jump eight feet as compared to Bob Beamon’s Olympic world record achievement in the long jump of 29 feet, 2 inches. However, if you and Bob Beamon had to jump across Niagara Falls, a distance of 1800 feet, both would fail. It matters not whether you are a 50-denarii sinner or a 500-denarii sinner, no one can meet the demands of a holy God.  Jesus put it this way:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

The law was given that men and women would see their need of a Savior and turn to Him and be saved in order to have their sin–debts cancelled. We can all improve our lives and characters to a certain degree, but we cannot, by ourselves, cancel out the debt of sin that is against us. Author R. Kent Hughes puts it like this:

“What we must understand is that the condition for being forgiven is to realize that we are broke and insolvent, where we are accomplished moralists or accomplished sinners. This is the problem—people keep trying to persuade God to accept the currency of their own making. Some submit the currency of integrity. “God, I work with compulsive liars. The only honest man I know is myself. Surely I am acceptable.” Others would argue that their domestic currency ought to make it. “In this X-rated world, my life is a wholesome G. I’m faithful to my wife. I love her and my children. I am a good husband, father, and son. I reckon that’s all I’ll need!” Social currency is a favorite too. “I am truly color-blind. My money (lots of it) goes to the needy. I volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center. I really do care. The world needs more people like me, and so does heaven.” Church currency is perhaps the biggest delusion. “I live at church. My goodness will surely be accepted.”

It is good for our hearts to consider regularly where we would be in life if not for the Lord interrupting our path and Jesus coming and eternally changing our lives with the Gospel. Those kinds of thoughts should give us a new appreciation and gratitude for Christ.  If there is a lack of love toward Christ in us, it is because of a lack of awareness and consciousness of the debt of sin that has been paid by Christ. How much in spiritual debt are you? Isn’t it time to come to the Lord and have Him graciously pay your debt for you? Turn to Him today, acknowledge your sin to Him that He may forgive you and have your debts paid for by Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross for you.

Keith Thomas