What did you want to be when you grew up? At various ages and stages, I wanted to be a model, an airline stewardess, a teacher, a dancer, and a secretary. It turned out I have been exactly none of those! Lots of girls my age wanted to be nurses; I knew at an early age that anything medical was not for me. I cannot stand the sight of blood, it’s difficult for me to be around sick people and I am famously not compassionate; yep, the Gift of Mercy completely bypassed me.
Years ago, my husband had surgery on his knee – it did not go well. He was in the hospital for two weeks and came home on crutches with the knee swathed in a huge bandage. He needed help changing the dressings. As much as I wanted to help, I could not do it. He had to first manage to cover the wound so I could not see it; then and only then was I able to help him finish the wrapping process.
When a man covered in leprosy comes to Jesus and Jesus touches this man, my stomach twists. Leprosy or Hansen’s Disease, can cause severe disfiguring skin sores, large lumps and nerve damage. Damage to the nerves of its victims results in further injury since burns or cuts are not felt, the injuries easily become infected which causes more severe damage and scarring. Leprosy is not actually as contagious as thought years ago and can be cured with antibiotics.
In Jesus day, the priest was the one who would examine and diagnose the person who suspected leprosy and in that day, it was a death sentence. The leper was required to shave his head, tear his clothes, and shout, “Unclean, unclean” when approaching people or towns. A leper could not worship at the temple and was required to live outside the city walls; alone, isolated, unable to work, a leper suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The leper in Luke 5 comes to Jesus and falls at his feet. He implores Jesus with the words, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.” There is so much to learn in these words and in Jesus response to this man:
- He fell on his face – what better place to be – at the feet of Jesus! The man totally humbled himself, he held nothing back. What are the things I think I can handle myself? Is there a part of me I am holding back from Jesus?
- He calls him, “Lord” – Jesus is Lord and is worthy of worship!
- He implores Jesus – he recognized his condition was desperate. I need to recognize how desperate I am for Jesus ALL the time! Jesus is the answer to every need, every question. I need to come to Him quickly and often, not just in times of crisis.
- He understands Jesus right to refuse any request – God is sovereign and nothing happens without His permission. Sometimes His answer is not what I am hoping or asking for; I need to trust Him to respond with what is best.
- He believes Jesus is able – Jesus ability is limitless. I need to approach with confidence in Him, not myself or the urgency or intensity of my need.
- Jesus touched him – how long had it been since this leper had felt a human touch, seen a kind look on another face? Jesus knows what I need and can touch the most wounded place in any heart. How willing am I to extend a hand to someone who is hurting? To risk rejection or hurt for another’s sake?
- Jesus was willing – Jesus stands ready to help, to save all who ask and He knows exactly how and when to help.
Jesus heals the leper and sends him away with instructions to tell no one and follow the law by visiting the priest and offering the required sacrifices. I wonder what the leper’s life was like after his healing. He probably failed on the “tell no one” part since the next sentence (Luke 5:15) says that crowds were coming for healing so somebody said something for sure! But how could he keep silent? He went from a life of daily suffering and torment to a pain-free life of freedom and that is heart of the story, the heart of Jesus right there. Jesus is willing to take us from a half-life to a whole life in every aspect.
Not all of us carry visible reminders of past injuries. My husband still has deep, very noticeable scars on his knee, nearly 30 years later they remain. When the leper in Luke 5 was healed, all of him was healed. Jesus healed him of all visible wounds and marks, restored any lost fingers and toes, fixed the disfigured face, smoothed out the lumps. But what about the scars that cannot be seen; the scars on his heart of rejection, fear, loss family and friends, of feelings of uselessness and ugliness. These scars that you cannot see are universal; not all of us carry scars from physical injuries but all of us are wounded and hurting in some way. Jesus is willing to heal the deepest wounds of your heart and the scars on your broken spirit; the scars no one can see. Jesus took the leper from a life of pain to a life of happiness; from barely surviving to thriving; from isolation to crowds and He can take you, too. Ask Jesus for what you need, He is listening, He is willing, trust Him for the best answer – not what you want but what you need. He is Lord.