Summary: Jesus restored the leper, literally one whom society had pushed away, driven away, piled into the dump and forgotten about.
Touched By Jesus
June 3 2012 Mark 1:40-45
At first he tried to hide it. Perhaps no one would notice. Maybe it would go away. It could be nothing.
But instead of shrinking, it grew. His skin started to get blotchy. It broke open, began to ooze puss.
The fear that had been ever present since he first noticed grew to panic. He tried to stay home, tried to stay away from people, tried to deflect questions, tried to deny the reality of what was happening. He did not want to accept that he was sick. He couldn’t accept it. He knew what it meant.
Fear is a potent, debilitating thing. It grabs us, grips us, strips us of the ability to think clearly and function properly. It makes us believe the worst possible outcome is inevitable, and it makes us feel that it will be even worse than that.
His fear grew; he knew people were looking at him differently. As much as he tried to avoid people, as much as he tried to cover up his disease, people knew something was wrong.
Finally the confrontation that had been building for some time came: his father and his wife confronted him. They had their suspicions; pull up your sleeves, they demanded. He cowered away. Dad and wife, eyes filling with tears, stepped back: please, they said, pull up your sleeves.
Trembling, he reached the cuff of his robe and pulled it up the slightest bit. Gasps and cries filled the room. His wife turned her face away and buried it in his father’s shoulder. The scent of fear filled the room, and they took another step back.
Hardness filled his father’s voice. You must leave. You endanger us all. Go. Now. You are a leper.
He fled. The fear grabbed hold and he ran, leaving his home and his family, feeling shame at his illness, guilt at his selfishness that exposed his loved ones, and despair: there is no cure. Only a miserable life at the margins.
He knew where to run – he knew the place simply because it was forbidden. He had always known – do not go near there. That is where the lepers are, you will catch it and die a slow horrible death as an outcast, rejected and alone, scrounging what food you can from the dump, surrounded by misery and pain. So that is where he ran.
The worst part was this: no human would touch him ever again. Even among the other outcasts, there was no affection, no hugging, no nestling together for warmth in the coldness of the night in the dark caves they took to for shelter. He was rejected, cast aside, turned away. Literally, an outcast. Doomed to live the remainder of his days without ever knowing the touch of another living person.
Imagine life as an outcast:
Although it is unpleasant to imagine, I’d like you to try. What would that life be like? Never to be touched. Never to be approached. To have everyone cringe at the sight of you, and turn away, leaving as quickly as possible, to hear the word of deep rejection from those you believed love you. To be surrounded by others like you, all desperate, diseased, hopeless.
It is unpleasant. I apologize. But unless we attempt to grasp how terrible the situation was, we won’t be able to grasp how great the miracle is.
I imagine that in the early stages, before complete despair sets in and a person gives up the will to live, any rumor – any possibility – any faint hope would be grabbed hold of and clung to. So and so ate a plant and got a little better: people flock and gobble it up. So and so stayed out of the sun and got a little better; people retreat further into the cave. Someone else stayed in the sun all the time – suddenly people are sleeping outside. You get the picture. Any tiny hope is pursued.
Rumor comes; there is a healer in the town. People are saying he healed the demon possessed, he healed diseases, that the whole town had gathered and seen a bunch of miracles.
Going to Jesus:
The man left immediately. He had to try, he had to see, he had to find out. He hurried into town, what should he say? How could he ask? Could the miracles be true? As he drew near, he called out the required warning: unclean! unclean! The crowds parted and gave him much space, their fear pushed them far away. He yelled for directions – where is the healer? where can I find him? The anxious crowd pointed as they shrunk back, obviously angry that he would endanger them by coming into their safe clean city, mostly hoping he would just quickly go away.