While He was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged Him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Luke 5:12-14, ESV)
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Let’s take a short journey back to gain some needed context for our Scripture today surrounding “leprosy."
I believe that in our time together, we will discover that we each know the pain of leprosy a lot better than we think.
To have “leprosy” in Bible times, was to have a variety of skin diseases that left a person disabled, disfigured, and separated from both God and from their community. The disease was thought to be highly contagious, so lepers were shunned to live alone or with other lepers on the outskirts of the city. Isolated, they found themselves dependent on charity or regularly scavenging to survive.
The Old Testament Law declared that lepers had to cry out “Unclean, unclean!” wherever they went, so people would know to stay far away. Oftentimes, lepers found themselves the target of stones thrown from people determined to avoid being infected.
Leprosy changed every aspect of a person’s life and left them helpless to a slow, painful, and lonely death. However, probably the most painful reality of leprosy was that it was found to be totally incurable. That is, of course, outside of the supernatural work of a God that can heal and restore all things!
In today’s story, Scripture tells us that there comes to the city a man “full of leprosy”.
This indicates that the disease is mature and close to ending his life. The leper see’s Jesus, falls on his face, and begs for healing.
It is here, in his desperation to be cleansed from what will certainly kill, that we see the power of Jesus Christ. The power then for the leper, and now for ourselves!
Jesus reaches out, embraces the leper in all of his uncleanness and declares him to be clean! It says, “Immediately the leprosy left him."
After his cleansing, we see that Jesus instructs the man how to be restored back “legally” to God and the community. He must present himself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for cleansing. Only then will he be “declared clean,” able to enjoy the full participation with God and others.
Do you see it friends? Do you recognize the story? It is our story. Leprosy is a graphic illustration of the reality of sin in the world and in our lives.
We are “full of sin” just like the leper. Our sin has disfigured and disabled. It has divided relationships in our lives and ultimately separated us from the God who created and loves us! We are stuck and utterly hopeless in our disease.
It is here, in the most desperate state that the Savior of the world embraces us in the midst of our sin, provides Himself as the legal sacrifice required, and then declares us “clean”.
We are immediately freed to enjoy full participation with God and others for all of eternity.
God alone is able to do for the leper what he cannot do for himself. And God alone is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves! (Cleansing & Freedom)
Hallelujah! What a Loving, Glorious, All Powerful God!
For my brothers and sisters in the Lord, Today, I call you to remember.
Take time and reflect on the day that Jesus embraced you in the midst of your disease and declared you “cleansed”. Give thanks for His love and go “show” yourselves to a broken world that is hopeless in their sin.
There are people all around you who are desperate to hear of the One who sets the captives free! Share your story! Share His Story!
And for someone today, you like the leper, have found yourself on the receiving end of stones. You wear the pain of sin that has disabled and disfigured life. You are separated in relationship from those you love and ultimately from God who loves you deeply.
Friend, may I suggest that you come today. Come today, in all of your uncleanliness, falling desperately at the feet of Jesus begging, “If You will, You can make me clean.”
The Gospel of John promises that He will not turn anyone away and today, you have the ability to hear the words that you’ve been longing to hear, “I will, be clean."
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” – Corrie ten Boom
For further study, read: Leviticus 13-14, Hebrews 4:16, Romans 5:8, and John 6:37.
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[guest writer, Kristina Villines]