If You Are Willing, You Can Make Me Clean

maxresdefault-112While 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

 

 

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