Summary: Three events that lead to wholeness
If You Will
Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church
May 7, 2006
Introduction (see note at bottom)
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet a lady who needed a ride to the hospital. She came by the church to borrow the phone and call for a ride, but wasn’t able to get anyone, so I offered to drive her out to the ER. In the few minutes it took to drive across town, I learned that this woman had once been married, had been divorced for the last eight years, had three kids, had a good job for five years, got sick, hasn’t worked in two years, is behind on her rent, was supposed to be moved out three days earlier but the brakes on her car were out so she couldn’t move. Her teenage son is a senior this year and doesn’t have a job. Her boyfriend has a good job, but is abusive, but she keeps him around because he helps her out.
There was more, and my heart went out to this woman. She felt like she was in a hopeless, helpless situation where there were no good alternatives and the only way was down. Here was a woman who had no one to talk to and no where to turn, and in that few short minutes gave me, a stranger, more of her story than others have in the five years I’ve been here. Hers was truly a story of desperation.
Can you identify with her? Today I know that although your stories would be different, some of you also feel hopeless and helpless in your current situations. Life has taken a turn that you didn’t expect. You were dealt a hand you didn’t want; are enduring problems and trying circumstances you never saw coming and wonder whether things will ever get better. Life becomes little more than a going through of the motions as we are drained of feeling and emotion, and it seems that no matter how hard you try, there’s more pushing back at you than you can push against.
In the biblical account we’re going to read this morning, we’re going to meet a man who was also in a hopeless situation, but found hope and healing in Christ. You too can find hope and healing in Christ, and more than that you can be instrumental in bringing that same hope and healing to others.
“And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But so much more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.”
In the time we have left I want us to consider three events:
The Turning of the Leper
“The disease which we today call leprosy generally begins with pain in certain areas of the body. Numbness follows. Soon the skin in such spots loses its original color. It gets to be thick, glossy, and scaly. In fact, the affliction is called leprosy because it makes the skin scaly. The Greek word lepos means scale. As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty sores and ulcers due to poor blood supply. The skin, especially around the eyes and ears, begins to bunch, with deep furrows between the swellings, so that the face of the afflicted individual begins to resemble that of a lion. Fingers drop off or are absorbed. Toes are affected similarly. Eyebrows and eyelashes fall off. By this time one can see that the person in this pitiable condition is a leper.”
Think about the way leprosy is presented in the Scriptures. According to the Law, to be identified as leprous was to be declared unclean. When one was unclean they were to be put outside the camp, isolated and separated from the others. The disease produced decay and, for the most part, a slow and painful death. It was and is a picture of sin and the consequences of sin. It is an outward sign of the death that sin produces in people’s lives.
According to the Law, once a person had a swelling, a rash or a bright spot on his skin, one that might become an infectious skin disease, he had to be brought to the priest to be examined. If the priest declared the person to have contracted leprosy, his clothes were to be torn and burned, his head was to be uncovered; he was to be declared unclean, and was made to move outside the camp of Israel. When anyone approached a leper or their dwelling, the leper was required to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that all who heard or saw them could avoid them. In Israel, the leper was the symbol of both the spiritually and the morally dead.