Lepers, One and All

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I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh. It said, “Jesus is coming! Look busy!” More than making me laugh, it truly made me think. That is how a lot of people really feel. Jesus is going to come on us suddenly and catch us with our proverbial hand in the cookie jar, and then, WATCH OUT! 

      Let’s take a look at appearances, shall we? In Jesus’ day, no one was more pious (or more worried about appearances) than those “righteous” Pharisees. But look at what the Lord said to them:      Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones.                                                                          Matthew 23:25-27 NKJV

      As humans, we look at the outward appearance of others. We live in a society that is conditioned that way. We expect certain behaviors from so-called “Christians,” and when they don’t fit in the mold we’ve always found them in…maybe they’re not truly Christian after all. This is how we feel that others sometimes look at us. Do we measure up to the ideal? Just what is the ideal?      Put another way, what if you were raised in a household where Mom never served beef. Maybe she felt it was not healthy. Or maybe in 4H, as a young girl, she had a pet calf and never could bring herself to cook up that cute little face she remembered so well. In any event, you were discouraged from eating beef, and it was taboo to bring it into the home. Eventually, you grew up and moved away. You couldn’t get enough of that beef! Yummy, tender, juicy beef. But, after a while, the guilt crept in. Mom came to visit and saw the half-eaten burger in your refrigerator…were you letting Mom down? You felt like you were doing something wrong. Were you? Of course not! But that is the conditioning that I speak of. We feel like there are certain behaviors expected of us as Christians, and certain other behaviors we should never indulge in. And if we do indulge in those behaviors, we never speak of them in the company of other Christians, for fear of immediate judgment.

     Peter let the freedom clearly shown to him by Christ be tainted by other believers, Judaizers that told him what he “oughta not” be doing. Paul was quick to correct him though. The record is found in the book of Galatians as Paul relates the incident.

      Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter, before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”   Galatians 2:11-16 NKJV 

     What happened here? Peter let the Jews guilt him into thinking what Christ had freed him to do was not okay! He was eating with the Gentiles, food that Jews called ceremoniously unclean, but Christ said if he blessed it, it was clean. In fact, Christ had shown Peter in a vision that He had made the Gentiles (who the Jews thought as a people were unclean!) a part of His family! Yet, when those Jews came from Jerusalem, Peter let that sense of what he “ought” to be doing control him, rather than exercising his freedom in Christ. He offended some of the Gentiles, and Paul called him on the carpet for it. We see later that Peter repented of it and never (that we know of) let it happen again.       We see this behavior in Christianity on a daily basis. We seem to be bothered if the preacher or music leader is not dressed as we expect them to dress, or the version of the bible being taught from is not the one we’ve always been taught from. We find things offensive, or find that in some strange way we are not living up to someone else’s vision of a “true Christian.”       Go back and re-read our first verses. Christ called appearances useless to God. He looks on the heart. And the heart He wants to see in us is one of repentance, and not a spirit of judgment. (The Pharisees abounded in that one.)        Now we’ll look at a true picture that Christ wanted us to see. In fact, it was so important a picture, that three of the Gospels record this account, short as it is. I want us to see ourselves in this man. He is the man seen in Matt 8:2 and following, Mark 1:40 and following, and in Luke 5:12, which is the record which we will be examining today: 

And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He (Jesus) put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him.   Luke 5:12, 13 NKJV

     Now, this man was in a helpless condition This disease, leprosy, is not only painful and incurable, but it meant social isolation. And this man is described in the Greek as being overtaken with the disease. The word is “pleres,” the root of our plural and plethora. There was probably nowhere on this man that was not affected. He would have been ostracized from society, unable to enjoy the fellowship of any other but wretched outcasts, like himself. And a sorry lot they would have been.       How great a picture of ourselves as sinners is painted in the picture of the leper. We, in our sins, are unable to commune with God. We are outside of His fellowship and can do nothing on our own to rectify the situation. Try as we might, we can do nothing to make ourselves clean, to free ourselves of the sin we are mired in and which keeps us from attaining the true righteousness God requires to enter into His heavenly kingdom. We must be willing to do what the leper did.       Read again when it says he “fell on his face and implored Him.” The Greek literally translates implored as begged. The leper acknowledged his condition. Then he acknowledged Christ’s position. Translated literally, the man said, “O Lord, if You should want, You are able to cleanse me.” The Greek word translated “You are able” is “dunasoi.” The root word here is “dunamai,” which means power or authority, and is the root of our English word dynamite. The man rightly acknowledges Christ’s position, His power and His authority. Then he falls upon Jesus’ mercy, asking if He is willing to help him. He humbled himself, face first on the ground before the Lord. He acknowledged His power and authority.        Can you ever put yourself there? Do you think those Pharisees could see themselves in that position? Hardly! Astoundingly, look at what Jesus does next! Verse 13 tells us that he reaches out and touches the man!       Do you know how leprosy is spread? Contact! By direct contact with an infected person’s skin! The bacteria is transferred from skin to skin. Did Christ need to touch him to heal him? Let’s jump over to another healing and see…

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. Matt 8:5-13 NKJV 

     Christ shared in our sufferings. He took our sin on Himself at the cross. Picture Him touching the leprous man, and immediately the leprosy leaves him. He could have just spoken those words, “Be cleansed,” and the leprosy would have been cured just the same. But Christ was profoundly compassionate towards the man, just like He is towards us. Jesus’ touch, the first touch of an uninfected person in perhaps years, must have meant so much to the man. In touching him, Christ was showing him that he was truly clean. He belonged again. You can be sure the touch was warm and caring, perhaps a hand on the shoulder with a squeeze of assurance and encouragement. It was not a tap with an immediate withdrawal like that of your brother in the “I’m not touching you!” game. You can be sure Jesus did not recoil in disgust. He was providing not only healing, but comfort and acceptance; spiritual healing to the man.       The word used for cleanse used here has so much meaning. To see it is truly to see ourselves in the story. The Greek is “katharesai,” to cleanse. The root is the same for our English catharsis. Webster’s defines catharsis as “a purging, or complete cleansing, usually referring to the innards or bowels.” In the use of this word, we get the idea that Christ completely purged the man of his disease. If you or I touched a leper, it is a no-brainer that we would get leprosy. But unlike a mortal human, Christ was able to take the illness and make it disappear.       And that is what He does with our sin when we come before Him in confession. He says, “I am willing to rescue you.” He touches us, cleanses us and forgives us. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   I John 1:9 NKJV 

     And not only forgives, but forgets, as well! 

  Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.   Hebrews 10:17 NKJV 

     He touches us, heals us, forgives and forgets our sins. We are restored and made whole. How is it that the Pharisees were unable to see God in Christ?  God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.   I Peter 5:5b NKJV 

     The same is repeated in James 4:6. The proud are at odds with God. They see no need for a Savior. They can be good enough…they’re certainly better than you or me…! Can’t you just hear them now? Maybe you can hearyourself.        Look what it says about those who humble themselves…He gives them grace. And Paul is recorded saying:

 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.                                                                                                         Ephesians 2:9 NKJV 

      So in being unwilling to acknowledge their position as sinners, in need of mercy, the Pharisees missed the boat. They reveled in their pious behavior. They felt like they were better than almost everyone else. But in God’s eyes, either you are suffering from leprosy or you are healed from it. And if you are healed from it, you should be excited to tell others there is a cure! You’re either clean or you’re not clean. Look at an excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.   Matthew 5:8 NKJV 

     The word translated “pure” is actually that Greek word “katharoi,” meaning literally “clean.” Blessed are the clean in heart, for they shall see God. Where do we see God? In heaven. In order to be cleansed for eternity in Heaven there is only one source of cleansing, as we see…

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them in living fountains of waters. And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   Revelation 7:14-17 NKJV Jesus came so that we might know Him, and would learn to follow and trust Him. Make no mistake about it, there is only one way to get to heaven; so simple, and yet so hard for our minds to comprehend.  You simply acknowledge that He came to save us, gave His life for that purpose. The bible says “repent” and you will be saved. That simply means we turn from our own path and learn to follow Him daily and read His Word.       Finally, remembering what was said above in the book of Revelation, read our final verse:

I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   John 14:6 NKJV

#devotional #jesusiscoming #lepers

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