A few months ago, while holidaying in one of our large capital cities, I was taken aback by the amount of people asking passers’ by for some change, initially I felt sorrow for them-in that the passers’ by were simply that-they passed by as if the person wasn’t even there-
But after a few days, due to the regularity of being approached, I could see how easy it is to forget that each of these people are unique: different in hurts, backgrounds, passions and loves..
It seems that without even trying, but due to the regularity of the situation-they seem to become as one.
Just this bunch of people-that when we encounter or think of as a collective, are easy to just pass by. To not get our hands dirty so to speak.
There was a cartoon in a recent paper that spoke volumes of this type of situation. There’s a hall all lit up and full of people in fancy cloths. Out the front, standing next to a sign that reads “Charity Gala ball for the homeless” is a bedraggled and needy looking man, and upon looking to enter is advised “no ticket, no entry”.
It’s a satire-tical look at the situation that hits home.
Thankfully for humanity, Jesus is not scared to get his hands dirty.
As we heard:
“a leper came to him and falling to his knees before Him, and said to Him, If you are willing, You can make me clean. And moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said I am willing, be cleansed”.
The significance of Jesus touch is great.
Because leprosy is of a highly infectious nature, lepers were shunned by society.
Kicked out of society.
They had to live in camps, leper colonies outside the towns and cities-Leper Colonies. They were not to approach or touch no one and should anyone begin to walk near them, they had to call out “Unclean, Unclean” to warn them to stay away.
A doctor who recently conducted research into this disease in India said, “It’s a repulsive disease. It attacks the nervous system which causes the victim to lose all sense of touch and pain, initially in the fingers and toes, then spreading up the arms and legs.
Without a sense of touch, the ill person eventually damages their toes, fingers and feet. They will knock them, cut them, get infections and not even notice”.
He said that upon seeing so many people in this leper colony without fingers and toes he asked them how it happens. Some said they knocked them off, but many said they did not know, but they seemed to lose them at night and in the morning there was no trace of them left.
One night, he sat with a leper while he slept. He saw rats chewing the persons toes and fingers-but the victim did not wake, for he felt nothing.
If we were in Israel, would not we too stay away from this leper?
But Jesus reaches out and touches him-and cures him.
But this was much more than a physical disease.
It was a disease of hopelessness. Because being deemed “Unclean” they could not attend the temple or tabernacle worship.
They could not enter the house of God. In a sense, they were banned from God, from hope.
The seriousness at that time of this leper’s inability to attend the temple cannot be understated. A Scholar noted that the trashing, or destruction of the temple in Israel by the Romans
is regarded by the Jews as much worse a tragedy than the Holocaust.
This leper, this man, had no physical hope, and worse, seemingly no spiritual hope.
But Jesus reached out touched him. Reaching out his saving hand-and gave him access to His Father.
Gave him hope. The same hope that we received when Jesus reached out and touched us.
In sending the leper to the priest, Jesus is preaching through illustration,
He is providing an opportunity for the priests and others, to see and hear the leper’s testimony. A testimony that is much more complete and moving than only if it was a statement about his physical healing.
The same picture, the same testimonies can be heard today, or at least they should be. Physically, God provides for us with shelter, food and clothing. He provides doctors, nurses and a government with a social conscience. Everything good we receive is a gift from God.
But like the leper, we have received more, much more.
Our gracious God gave us his Son. Who has brought us forgiveness and restored our relationship to God the Father. He covers with his blood the hurtful and hateful things we have done. The pain we have caused on others and the messes we have made.
His gives us life and we rejoice.
The Lord got his hands dirty in dealing with our sin, to bring us back to him.
The same hands he reached out to the Leper, to clean him.
The same hands that reach out to non-Christians. Not a group of nameless people. But individuals that hurt, love and yes, are looking for hope.
But hope that is misplaced and fleeting if outside of Christ. God knows the hope they need, the only hope this world has to offer-
hope in His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God loves us and he loves them. God has brought us peace, and he looks to bring them peace-they just need to see it and to feel that blessed hope. Christ died for our sins, and he died for theirs.
His hand reached out to us, and he reaches out his hand to them. How did his hand reach out to you, maybe as an infant you were carried to him in Baptism? Maybe as an adult someone brought you before the Word of God.
How does his hand reach out to those that as yet do not know him?
Through his church, through its members and through us.
Luther’s morning prayer basically covers our daily life as a Christian.
“In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. I give thee thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that in my thoughts, words, and deeds I may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let the holy angel have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen.”
(and) Daily, the Lord carries us out to them, the people he has placed before us, so that we can carry them back to him. We are not the saviours, but we are the cleansed lepers who go to them with our testimony of Jesus. Go to them with Jesus testimony, that no matter what their ills, he wishes to wash them clean. To bring them peace, love and hope. To give them life, now and eternally. Amen.