Summary: Genuine love reaches out to others. Physical touch is one of the ways we can be the hands of Jesus to share the love of God with others. (Begins as a first-person narrative)
There are two days that will forever stand out in my life, though they are completely opposite each other. The first day I will never forget was the day I woke up and found a small, white spot on the back of my hand. I had never had such a spot on my hand before, though I knew what it meant. I did my best to hide it, to prevent my wife and son from seeing it. But in a few days, the single spot became several spots. I couldn’t hide it from my wife anymore. The pain in her eyes as the realisation dawned on her was more than I could bear. My son was still too young to know what was going on, though he sensed the mounting tension in our family. We all did our best to carry on as though nothing was wrong, until one day when my son was helping me sharpen the sheep shears. He was playing nearby, when I heard him let out a cry. I turned to see a look of horror on his face as he looked at my hand which was holding the sharpening stone. At first I thought he was looking at the spots, but then I felt something drip onto my sandal. I looked down to see a pool of red. I had sliced my hand with the shears, and blood flowed from the deep cut. But it was not the wound that made my heart freeze with fear; it was the realisation that I hadn’t noticed the cut – the realisation that the leprosy had left my hand completely numb. I looked again at my son, whose face was now splattered with tears as he ran to get me a bandage for my hand. As I wrapped the wound, my heart ached at the thought that this would be the last memory my boy would ever have of his father.
That night, my wife and I discussed what to do. The course of action was the obvious – I was to present myself to the temple priests for inspection; but we both knew they would only confirm what we were already certain of. After that, I would be forced to leave the town where I grew up, the friends and family I knew and loved, and sped the rest of my life surrounded only by those suffering the same affliction.
The next morning, I made ready for the journey. For the last time, I embraced my wife. For the last time, I clutched my son, holding him up with my good arm, looking into his face and desperately choking back tears as we said good-bye. He didn’t know I would never be coming back, didn’t know that he could never see me again, and that if he did, he might not recognise me. I studied his face carefully, noting every freckle and dimple, burning them into my memory. Then I put him down, hugged my wife one last time, and walked out the door.
As the priests sent me away, their words echoed over and over in my ears. “Unclean! Unclean!” they cried as they covered their faces and turned their backs to me. And so it began – the isolation, the loneliness, the craving for companionship that was just beyond my reach. “Unclean, unclean!” I was forced to shout if anyone passed by. And so it was. The days turned to weeks, and the weeks to years, every day calling out “unclean, unclean” lest someone should come too close, lest they should be touched with my disease. With each passing day, my affliction spread over my body, forcing me deeper and deeper into exile.
And then, after the years of seclusion, the years of yearning to once again be in the company of those I knew and loved, there came another day I shall never forget.
I awoke that day to the sound of a crowd of people passing nearby. Fearing retribution for being too near, I quickly retreated a safe distance away, but I was intrigued by what might be going on. Staying hidden, I watched as the vast throng moved slowly along. Their attention seemed to be centred on a Man who was speaking to them. As I heard the words He spoke, something long silent stirred within me. I had heard of One whom people were saying was the Messiah, One who could perform miracles. I had even heard He had cured ten men of leprosy, though at the time, it seemed impossible. Not since the days of the prophet Elisha had such a miracle been performed. And yet as I stood there, outcast as I was, and listened to the words He spoke, I became more and more certain that this was more than a mere man, and indeed, more even than a prophet. And the stirring in me grew stronger with each moment, until I suddenly felt myself being drawn to Him, my feeble legs carrying my decaying body closer and closer to His presence.