Summary: Why touch a leper? They were "untouchable", declared unclean, outcasts to all. But Jesus touched this man. Why? And what can we learn from what He did that day?
We’re going to begin today’s sermon with a trivia question:
Question: What is the largest organ of your body?
(Answer: the skin)
If you an average adult, your skin covers about 21 square feet of your body. It will weigh 9 pounds and contain more than 11 miles of blood vessels.
If you think you look bad in the mirror with no clothes on… imagine how bad you’d look without any skin. Your skin holds your body together, and protects you from various dangerous bacteria and viruses.
In hot weather, your skin will release as much as 3 gallons of sweat a day. However, your eardrums, the area around your lips and your nail beds will not sweat.
Most people think that the only reason we have fingerprints is so the police can find us if we’ve been bad, but God designed them so that you’d have the ability to grip items in your hands. Unborn children don't develop fingerprints until after 3 months in the womb, and some people never develop fingerprints at all. There are 2 rare genetic defects that deprive some people from having them.
And you really need to clean up after yourselves. Your skin sheds 50,000 cells every minute. Globally, dead skin accounts for about a billion tons of dust in the atmosphere.
Your skin is a very special creation by God. And one of the primary functions of your skin is to help you “feel” the world around you. There are at least 5 different types of receptors in the skin that help us to respond to pain and to touch. And in blind people, the brain becomes rewired so they can respond to stimulus received through touch and hearing. Thus, the blind literally "see" the world thru touch and sound.
The ability to touch and “feel” the world around us is critical to us.
ILLUS: Back in the 1940s someone conducted a study of 26 children in an orphanage. The babies were more or less cut off from human contact in their cribs, or where a single nurse had to care for seven children. By the time the babies were 1 year old, the isolated orphanage babies were less curious, less playful, and more subject to infections.
When they reached their 2nd and 3rd year of life, of the 26 children reared in the orphanage, only 2 could walk and manage a few words.
ILLUS: At first service, Doug (a former fire fighter) told me about the experience he often had at the scenes of house fires. There were times when they’d arrive on the scene to find people in serious shape and often in shock. But what they discovered was that if they quietly sat beside the victim and gently touched them as they spoke to them, the victim would suddenly calm down and be comforted by that simple touch.
The ability to be touched can make all the difference in our lives.
And that truth makes the story we’ve just read this morning all the more powerful.
This is one of the first recorded healings that Jesus seems to have performed.
And who does He heal?
That’s interesting, because Lepers were considered “untouchable.”
Leprosy is a terrible disease.
ILLUS: If untreated, who have leprosy can expect to live an average of ten years.
It usually starts with a feeling of fatigue and pain in the joints. Scaly spots develop on the skin, and the body becomes covered with lumps filled with puss. The face changes its shape, so that the sufferer would come to resemble a lion. Growths develop on the vocal chords so that the leper voice becomes raspy. The body begins to decompose, and the leper develops a terrible stench.
As you can imagine – no one wants to be around or touch these people.
But even worse than the isolation from being touched, leprosy deprives the victim of being able to feel what they touch. The disease attacks the nervous system, compromising the body’s ability to feel pain. The leper might step on a stone or a thorn and injure his foot but be totally unaware that there’s a problem. Infection sets in and eventually, the injured foot might just fall off.
Or the leper might try to wash his face in scalding water and blind himself.
Or he might reach into a fire to pick up a dropped potato and not realize he’d been burned.
(from a sermon by Alan Carr)
God imposed quarantine on those who suffered from this disease. They were “unclean” – forbidden to enter the Temple; forbidden to have contact with their loved ones; commanded to shout “unclean, unclean” whenever they came into contact with other people .
They were not to touch… or be touched by anyone.
To touch a leper was to expose yourself to the disease and risk being infected.