Summary: Starting over is never easy but with Christ’s presence it is always good...
Naaman had leprosy. This commander of an army, valiant soldier, tool of his nation’s victory, and highly respected man had been cursed with this horrid disease. Second Kings records this story in order that we might learn that God’s power, mercy, and healing isn’t just for Israel. But Naaman’s national pride almost kept him from finding the freedom he needed and wished for. He came dangerously close to proving out Charles Kingsley’s comment, "if you want to be miserable, you must think about yourself; what you want, what respect people ought to pay you. You will spoil everything you touch, you can be is miserable as you like."
It may or may not surprise you but God does not rejoice our misery. In fact, the Bible is all about God’s healing, renewal, and restoration. Central to God’s word is the truth that God wants us to the whole people. God is in the business of touching untouchable lives, then and now. You can flip through the gospels and see person after person touched and restored. The woman Jesus met at the well; Zacchaeus, Matthew, the woman caught in adultery, and children he blessed, are just set up examples.
The man with leprosy provides one memorable example because of the horror of that disease in ancient Israel. Its effect on one’s life was devastating. Leprosy cut one off from their family, city, and friends and even from worship. The Law of Moses provided sacrifices to give when one became "clean" and set up a system whereby the priests could restore someone to the community. But the law did not have the power to he all anyone. Jesus respected the law. He ordered this man, once clean, to go and make the proper sacrifice and to show him to the priests.
We discovered to things about Jesus in this passage. The first is he knows what we’re like. And secondly, that he touches as where we are untouchable. Jesus identifies with this man and us. He knew the sense of loneliness is man had suffered. He would, on the cross, on the cross, experience the same separation this man had felt over the years. John Calvin wrote, "By his word alone he might have healed ought leper; but he applied at the same time, the touch of his hand, to express his compassion. Nor ought this to excite our wonder, since he chose to take upon him our flesh, that he might cleanse us from our sin."
When Jesus touched this leper it became impossible for Jesus to enter the city. To do so would be a violation of the Law of Moses. Yet Jesus was willing to bear this in order to restore this man. The law was not destroyed with Jesus’ birth but fulfill in his coming.
Jesus touches us at the place where we feel most untouchable. Each of us has such places. I find interesting that this man came to Jesus not doubting his ability to heal him but his willingness to heal him. If I am honest there are times I’ve wondered about Jesus’ willingness to heal me. With Jesus really want to touch someone like this leper? Someone with a reputation? Someone who was seen as being cursed? Yet Jesus reaches out and places his hand on this man.
When Jesus touches us he restores us. We are taken from the world and placed in his community. We’re adopted daughters and sons of the most high God. We have a new family. We have a new purpose for our lives. Our citizenship is now in heaven not here on earth. And all of this is because Jesus touches us. What keeps us from being touched by Christ? Perhaps we feel our past is too bad. Maybe we think back the ones we’ve heard and figure how can we be forgiven. Maybe we suffered in the past so much that we couldn’t see a future without pain and despair. Whatever the reason let me assure you that God does heal, restore and make whole all who come to him.
A teenage boy was seriously injured an automobile accident. The doctors did all they could to repair the damages to the boy’s body but despite their fast medical knowledge they were unable to completely restore his legs. He was informed that he would eventually walk, but only with the aid of braces and crutches. The young man was devastated. His whole life had revolved around sports, with the likelihood of receiving an athletic scholarship in football. He would never run again. He was not even sure that he wanted to walk.
The next year was not easy one for the boy or his parents. Major decisions had to be made, routines established, and attitudes adjusted. Time, prayers, and patience help to restore some of the boy’s confidence in himself, but he still battled daily with lapses into self-pity. One evening the boy’s father approached him and said, "get dressed, I want us to go to church tonight and hear the guest preacher." At first boy protested, but eventually agreed at the father’s insistence.