Summary: Jesus was amazingly sensitive to a leper. It's a great example of how we need to be, because, in a sense, we're all lepers now.
Early on in the coronavirus outbreak in the UK Boris Johnson sent a letter to every household in Britain. The fact that he did this, and the content of the letter, highlighted the gravity of our situation. Boris Johnson’s key instruction was: stay home. We stay home in order not to pass on, or pick up, the virus.
The following day I went for a run along Bournemouth Promenade. There weren’t many people about. As I approached Bournemouth Pier I saw two men talking, standing three or four metres apart. It struck me that they were behaving like the lepers in the Bible. Indeed, that’s how we should all be behaving. Coronavirus isn’t leprosy, but it’s like leprosy in the way it’s preventing us from coming close to each other. We are all, I thought, lepers now.
That made me think about Jesus healing people. There are times when God distances himself, and perhaps in future Reflections, we need to think about why God does that. But God and Jesus’ default desire is to heal. We can be in no doubt about that as we look at Jesus’ life. He healed. Among those he healed were many lepers. Jesus didn’t heal everyone he came across. For example, he healed only one person when he visited the pool in Jerusalem. That’s in John 5:1-9. But he clearly wanted to heal. He also wanted his disciples to heal. When Jesus sent out his 12 disciples on mission, he instructed them to heal, and he specifically included lepers.
Knowing that God and Jesus, by default, wish to heal, encourages us to pray for healing.
There is something further we can see in the way Jesus healed. When Jesus met people with an illness or infirmity, he was very sensitive. Jesus met a man with leprosy. This is Luke 5:12-13. The man begged Jesus to heal him. ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him – a leper! What would that mean to a person whom no one ever touched? A lot, without doubt. When Jesus met a man who was deaf, he looked up to heaven, sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’. The deaf man would have had no doubt what Jesus was doing. When Jesus met a blind man, he took him by the hand, led him out of the village, and spat on his eyes. So, we see that when Jesus healed, he was very sensitive to each person’s situation.
We are not on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus. We don’t encounter patients in intensive care. We are not NHS doctors and nurses in protective suits. But we can pray that God will heal, knowing that by default, God wants to heal. And even if we are not on the frontline, even if we are self-isolating, the telephone and internet may bring us into contact with people who are finding the situation hard. Then we can try to be like Jesus and show something of the sensitivity that he did. It’s something I know I’m not good at. But I can aim at it.
May God guard us and guide us.
P.S. I wonder what Jesus would do if he was alive today, and met someone with coronavirus? He’d want to touch him or her, I think, but then there’s Boris Johnson’s instruction!