In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” Luke 5:12-14
Leprosy in the first century carried some of the same stigmas that those with AIDS experience today. It was also fairly common for people to believe that a person who had such a feared disease, for which there was no known cure, had done something really bad to be inflicted with it. While most of us are not as forthright in making such accusations, there are still many who think similarly today.
For this man, the bad news in his life was not difficult to ascertain – he had leprosy. And like those who have contracted the coronavirus, lepers were quarantined, in order to prevent the spread of this highly contagious condition.
So, to show himself in public, let alone approach a healthy person like Jesus, was a huge risk, for which there could have been serious consequences.
I don’t know if this man carried the shame and guilt that he had done something to “deserve” this potentially fatal condition. Luke certainly doesn’t paint that picture. But for those of us who have experienced or are now experiencing what feels like a devastating setback, it’s easy to give up and assume that our situation is hopeless, and that we don’t deserve to be rescued.
However, this man chose not to settle for a lifetime of begging and feeling like a “less than.” He had likely heard about Jesus and the good news that seemed to follow him wherever he went. He imagined what it would be like to experience good news for himself. So he decided to take action so that his bad news would become good news!
This man risked everything when he approached Jesus, and made his bold statement of faith, “Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” To which Jesus responded, “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Then Jesus touched him, and he was healed!
Jesus was not only willing to speak words of healing, but he cared so much for this man that he was willing to touch his leprosy, which was known to be very dangerous due to the high likelihood of contagion.
While we don’t know how this man contracted leprosy, I don’t believe that it was a result of his sin. Jesus, himself, shot down that line of thinking when talking about a man born blind in John 9. However, when we look at the entirety of Jesus’ life and ministry, we see him lovingly and compassionately reaching out to touch people who were hopeless in order to give them hope.
Take a moment and reflect on whether the God you experience in your worst moments looks at all like Jesus in this passage. How is he the same? How is he different?
Jesus has come to bring good news to all of us who are captive. And for all of us, our captivity is bad news. But like the man in this story, we have a choice to remain in our bad news or ask Jesus if he is willing to transform our news from bad to good. Faith leads to doing, so go for it, Reach out to Jesus!