“A leper came and knelt before (Jesus), saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said, “be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:3)
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong – that no one really wanted you around. That your mere presence ruined everybody’s party… or spoiled everyone’s day.
Welcome to the world of a leper in Jesus’ day. It was a life of rejection, ill-treatment, and of constantly being an outcast.
In part, it was because of fear. Lepers had a strange flesh-devastating disease – and nearly everyone thought it was contagious. The very thought of rubbing shoulders (let alone touching skin) of a leper was enough to send you into instant panic. It was akin to panic caused by the AIDS virus of our recent history. It was terrible. It was terrifying.
And through no real fault of their own, lepers became contemptible – even to their own family members. Can you imagine living with that kind of rejection… every day of your miserable life?
Matthew records this incident just after Jesus “wowed the crowds” with His most famous sermon (chapters 5-7). As He was coming down the mountain, He comes face to face with one who has totally lost face in his society. He can’t even legally seek Jesus’ help (according to the Law) – even approaching Jesus was a capital offense. But he has nothing left to lose – so he does what the desperate and helpless do… he comes and throws himself at Jesus’ feet.
Maybe it was the desperation in his words… or maybe it was the all-out hope, but Jesus did not treat the leper as he should – as He was required by the Levitical Law to do. He did the absolutely unthinkable… He reached out to touch the untouchable. And with the touch of Jesus, “immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
It’s as if Jesus can’t help Himself. He just has to touch broken things. He just has to bring life to death, light to darkness, hope to those who have no hope. Jesus just has to give those who are rejected and outcast the one thing they need most… acceptance – to know that even they matter to God. To know that, although the whole world rejects them and sees them as a blight and a plague, the most important Person to ever walk this earth isn’t afraid to enter their world or embrace them at their point of deepest need.
Jesus touched the one who was despised and rejected and, in one precious moment, gave him a new identity… The one healed by the Living God!
If you struggle with rejection, I have some tremendous news… there is Someone Who is willing to touch you. To embrace you. To call you His beloved. To give you a new identity – as precious and treasured in His sight.
There is always hope for the hopeless – and that hope is the Hope of the whole world!