“And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Mark 1:39-44 (KJV)
Perhaps we can understand our Lord’s concern for a feverish woman, or a blind man, or a palsied man, or a woman with an issue of blood for years and years, but that He would allow a leper close to Him and furthermore, to reach out and touch him may be beyond our limited understanding but most certainly it had to be mind-blowing to those around Him. For you see, if you were a leper in the times of the life of Jesus the Messiah, lepers had a special place in society and it was separation, solitariness, and humiliation.
According to the Lord, leprosy was an infection that made a person ceremonially unclean (Lev. Chapter 13), and so God appointed His priests to act as His inspectors to determine whether the victim was unclean, and if so, they gave the word that the leper had to be separated from the rest of the camp.
The disease was very contagious. Therefore, lepers were supposed to keep their distance and warn everyone that they were coming, lest others would contract the disease and be defiled.
“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” Leviticus 13:45-46 (KJV)
Imagine the feelings of a person, man or woman, young or old, who had leprosy. First, the skin was in terrible condition. The disease, also called Hanson’s disease, essentially erodes the nerve endings in the body. And when the disease attacks the nerve endings in the hands and feet, the diseased limbs begin to die; they rot and decay right on the person’s body. While it can be treated today with antibiotics, back then, there was no healing through medicine; it was only through the miracle of the Lord’s touch that the leper could be healed.
So first, you were deformed and ugly. So you covered yourself so no one could see your ugliness and your deformities. Hunliatin and depression were your only friends.
Secondly, you were an outcast religiously and socially. You couldn’t worship with your fellow Jews. You were not allowed to congregate with those that were clean. As much as you may have wanted to lift your hands or go to the alter with your friends and fellow-worshippers, you were not allowed to do so.
Socially, you were supposed to walk on the other side of the street when passers-by were approaching and say, “Unclean, unclean”. No going to the market and enjoying picking up fruits, vegetables, and bread, choosing which you would purchase. No, you could no longer do that. Friends had to keep their distance too for they did not want to contract that horrible disease.
Life for you had no joy, no comfort, no compassion, no love, save for those closest to you.
Can you imagine?
You would be broken-hearted, isolated, and emotionally wrecked as each day brought another day of sadness and loneliness. Few to comfort you, even less to really love you.
Now, I have a question for each of us: Who in your life have you made a leper? Who have you judged to be a “unclean” in your life or those you worship with? What do I mean by that? Simply that we do that. We look at someone in our lives who doesn’t meet our standards and we judge them and then we create them to be a leper and then treat them as such. We distance ourselves from them. While we once loved them, our love has grown cold. While we once broke bread with them, we have no time to meet with them for a meal. We once worshipped with them; now we’d rather we didn’t see them in church. Once we gladly told others about our friend, now we talk about “that” person with disdain, showing little or no respect for that person. We scowl at times when thinking about that person. We hope that our paths will not meet as there will be awkwardness for us to look upon that leper…the leper that we have created.
And so, where once there was a friendship and a camaraderie between you and them, now there is nothing but scorn in your heart for them. For they are a leper to you and you must keep your distance and they must be left alone to fend for themselves. They must be “punished” for whatever it is that they did that caused you to judge them and make them diseased to the point of no redeeming.
Now I say, Clean your heart my friend! For it is you that is the leper! You are the one that has contracted the disease of depravity and ugliness! Your flesh has prevailed and it is raw, blackened, and dead. It is you that needs to be cleaned and healed, not the one you deemed leprous through your judgmentalism and censoriousness!
So humble yourself before the Lord and make it right before Him and you. Ask Him for forgiveness for the sin of pride and corruption. Allow Him to remind you exactly what His Son had to do to clean you! Remind yourself what a depraved sinner you were and are and that He has shown you only grace and mercy all the days of your life! And then go and do likewise to the leper you have created and walked away from. Go to that person and ask forgiveness for judging them and for abandoning them. For the Lord has not forgotten them. For whatever they did, let the Lord do His work in their lives while you carry out your mission for the Lord which is to love even those that we deem undeserving of our love.
After all, what have you ever done to deserve the love of Jesus? What have you ever done Mr. or Mrs. Christian? You have done nothing! Before you were born-again, you walked in your own ways, looking forward to each day and how you might satisfy your unredeemed flesh. But even after your salvation, you continue to disappoint the One who gave His life for you. You are so lacking in love, you are so short of compassion, you are so exempt of grace, and you have no mercy save for those very few you deem worthy of it.
But remember, the Lord is a merciful God and has forgotten none of His children! His love does not ebb and flow with His children’s faithfulness to Him! He loves you perfectly through every good time and every bad time in your life. Then why do you treat your fellow brother or sister as a leper? It is because you have forgotten God’s love for you. You have forgotten Christ’s work for you. You have forgotten the Spirit’s power within you. And hence, you have forgotten that they too are God’s child for whom Jesus died, because you are now convinced you are better than they. For in your mind, you will only be satisfied when they walk away from you and cry out “Unclean, unclean”! Only then will your flesh be satisfied. Except, you are the sinner! You are the diseased one! For you have chosen to forget the full love of Christ. You have dismissed the mercy of God. And you have forgotten the grace of God that plucked you from the fires of hell.
It is time for forgiveness. It is time for repentance! It is time for humbling yourself before your God. It is time to rent your clothes! It is time to place yourself in dust and ashes! It is time for you to be a dispenser of grace. It is time for you to look upon the almighty Lord, hanging on the Cross at Calvary and remember His words as he hung there by nails of hatred, His body beaten and torn, hanging naked before the world to see, being humiliated by so many who reviled Him and wanted nothing to do with Him. While all this was happening, while His physical body was in extreme agony, and while He knew that He was going to be separated from His Father so that He would take the punishment for the sins fo the world, His lasting and penetrating words were, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (KJV)
Jesus died on the Cross for our sins because He had compassion on the sinner – including you and me. Jesus also reached out and healed the leper (also the one who, like us, was unclean). Why? Scripture tells us again because He was moved by compassion. Now if you have been pierced by the arrow of truthfulness from our Holy God, then go and do likewise Christian. Show others that you are the Lord’s and that He is your Master and Savior. Mortify your flesh and allow His Spirit to reign in you that you may be the salt and light you have been called to be…for His sake, for His glory, and for His Name.