Summary: “Jesus as the Great Physician heals the untouchable or those that others reject.”
TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLE—Luke 5:12-16
Proposition: “Jesus as the Great Physician heals the untouchable or those that others reject.”
Objective: My purpose is to help people see there are no untouchables in the kingdom of God.
Based on the 1947 novel The Untouchables was a series centered on a greatly embellished version of the real life Eliot Ness, played by Robert Stack, and his incorruptible treasury agents whom Chicago newspapers had dubbed "The Untouchables." These were people who were larger than life, who seemed to be above the natural pecking order, who not only followed the law, but were the law. Our passage has an untouchable, doesn’t it? Jesus is the Elliott Ness of our story, a one man crusade against evil.
We do not have to be miracle-workers to touch the untouchable. Are you willing to touch those that others have written off? Are you willing to touch the despised, the mistreated, and the feared? Are you ready to love the unlovable, to welcome the unacceptable, and to forgive the unforgivable? Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched the untouchable.
Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases because it caused not only physical affliction and isolation, but psychological and mental affliction and isolation as well. Lepers in Jesus’ time where both shamed and despised and treated as the untouchable. Their physical condition was terrible as they slowly lost their limbs and withered away. They were not only shunned but regarded by some as "already dead" even by their relatives. Another family would come and bring him food every day. But they couldn’t get close. They would leave it at a certain place on a rock and when they withdrew, he would go pick it up and eat it. In this way, he watched his children grow up, yet was never able to touch them. He watched his wife cry as she left the food, but he was never able to comfort her. After several years of this, he started wishing they wouldn’t come any more. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see them…it was that had lost an ear already and several of his fingers and toes. His face was horribly disfigured. His hair was falling out. According to Jewish law, he wore rags for clothes, his hair was to be uncovered and disheveled, and he covered his face with a cloth (Lev. 13:45). The Jewish law forbade anyone from touching or approaching a leper, lest ritual defilement occur. The leper did something quite remarkable. He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him. Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but He demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in His physical touch.
LEPROSY is a vivid and graphic physical picture of the spiritual defilement of sin. Sin is ugly, loathsome, incurable, and contaminating; it separates men from God and makes them outcasts.
I. THE REQUEST: HIS CONCERN (v. 12) “Lord, if You are willing You, can make me clean”—The language suggests an advanced case. In its final stages it causes disfigurement of the body, as the various members decay.
1. The place “When He was in a certain city”—This picks up 4:43—Jesus was in “one of the towns,” perhaps on the outskirts, for lepers were not generally seen inside cities & towns.
2. The predicament “A man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus”—His leprosy must have reached a very advanced stage. Barclay speaks of the progression of leprosy: It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal chords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma and ultimately death. Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches.
3. The penitence “He fell on his face and imploring Him”—The posture of the man is an expression of reverence or respect. This man did not know whether the help he craved would be given to him. Note the humility of the request.