Summary: A study of Jesus' ministry to the outcasts of society.

“[Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” [1]

Most of us have deficits, deficiencies, limitations that ensure our life will always be marked by struggles, demands that must be overcome if we are to continue onward toward Heaven and home. If our deficiencies aren’t apparent now, they will become apparent as time passes. We accept one another, but we are painfully aware of the limitations that mark those with whom we associate. This tendency for people to focus on obvious deficits characterizing others is not something that only became apparent in these latter days.

Those with physical limitations, and especially those suffering emotional deficits, were ostracized during the days when Jesus walked the dusty trails of Judea. It hasn’t been all that many years past that the same attitudes expressed in Jesus’ day were prevalent throughout society. I suspect that most of those biases continue to this day—we just don’t speak of them. Perhaps society is more polite than at earlier times, though I suspect that we are more cowardly, less willing to be confrontational. Society frowns on honesty, preferring to hide behind euphemisms to mask prejudices. All the high-minded silence that marks contemporary society hides some rather ugly biases—biases that spontaneously erupt from time-to-time.

I could have chosen to speak of any number of handicapped people Jesus met, people who had been excluded from society because no one knew quite what to do with them. And yet, Jesus chose to touch a leper, to take time to question a distraught father, to allow Himself to be touched by a woman who was unclean because of her bloody discharge. Those whom society excluded were welcomed by the Master. Jesus made room for misfits. And what He did in that day, He does in this day. That is excellent news, because if your life is less than perfect, if you struggle to meet with the expectations of the culture in which we live, if you know that you can never fulfil the ideal of society, you need to know that Jesus makes room for misfits.

It is always startling, though also comforting, to see the way in which the Master interacted with those whom society deemed misfits. He allowed an unclean women to touch his clothing, something that simply wasn’t done in that day. He did not rebuke a prostitute who wetted his feet with her tears and then wiped them dry with her hair. His failure to shove her away scandalized his Pharisee hosts and assembled guests. He touched lepers, healing them instead of insisting that they stay two meters away from him as though they were infected with COVID-19. He touched dead bodies when such action would make Him ceremonially unclean. Jesus was prepared to touch contaminated people, people sullied and soiled by life.

I’m speaking today to people who not only suffer deficits, but people who are painfully aware of their deficits. Because you know the pain that accompanies your limitations, you may wonder sometimes how God could love you. You may even question whether God could ever use you! Whatever deficit or limitation you have, or imagine you have, you need to know the Jesus makes room for misfits. What others think of you does not determine Jesus’ acceptance of you. Our Lord promises, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” [MATTHEW 11:28-29]. All who are willing are invited to come. At issue is not one’s suitability for Christ’s love, but their willingness to come.

Again, we witness Jesus saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” [JOHN 6:37]. Jesus is pledged on His sacred honour never to cast out any who come to Him. Now, that is real comfort, and it is not dependent upon whether one is suitable for coming to the Master.

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