The years had slowly faded by, whispering across the mountains as he sat, full of sorrow and anger, wishing of what could have been. The dull ache of resentment in his heart had eased as the seasons changed, but it was still there, yet the daily tears had now turned to weekly ones. He missed his wife and daughter, and the thought of them was hardly recognizable these days. He couldn’t smell the flowery scent of his wife hair, or hear the giggles of his little girl anymore, and his heart ached for just one more taste, one more feel, one more laugh with them. He hadn’t done this to himself, but he knew that the Lord had not caused it either. He had accepted fate many nights ago after having a dream that brought him great peace. He awoke with an understanding that things like this just happen. Diseases rage in a body without thought or care of what that person had done throughout their life. It had taken years of being angry at his God to finally accept that it was not Yahweh’s doing, and yet somehow, He would still bring glory through this situation. The sores oozed on his arms and legs, and the pain continued to increase as the days went on. People saw him from a distance and ran the other way as he shouted, “unclean! Unclean!” What a mockery! It was law that he must shout, “unclean,” wherever he went to warn those around him to stay away since he was highly contagious, but what that did to his soul was overwhelming. Before long he had begun to believe that all of his being was unclean, not just the disease. It’s hard to differentiate your identity from your illness when your illness is all you see or all you are told to see. His heart ached for just one touch. “Oh to be hugged again,” he thought. The idea brought a short smile to his face that faded quickly as he remembered his reality and needed to yell “unclean” again as travelers passed by on the far side of the dusty road. “May you bring me hope, my great God,” he whispered. “May you bring me hope!”
For the past five months I feel that all I have heard about is the virus that is making its way across the globe, leaving people scared and lost. There have been days where I have succumb to that fear and worried about what would happen if I caught it or if my children did, but there have also been days that I have grown resentful of all the fear I see out there. Anger boiled, and I wanted to shout from my rooftop about all I was feeling. This past week, I felt my heart breaking over the sight before me: people worshiping at church behind masks, angry people yelling at others in a store for not wearing a mask, bullying online because of different belief systems and ideas, and overall fear in people’s hearts about what is happening. Some fear the virus, others fear the government’s control, while yet others fear what happens when both groups interact. Anger and fear seem to rule everywhere I look, and Holy Spirit in me started grieving. I love when that happens because it bring me great peace to feel His heart for the world, but yet it is heavy, it is a burden, and it is something I need to do something about. I cannot just sit still, listen to what He is speaking, and do nothing. The Lord provokes us to feel His heart so that we may breathe life into the dry bones we see in front of us, to be His hands and feet, and to prophesy life into places of darkness. I spent some time the other day crying with God about all of this and what I was to do, and I felt Him respond, “I touched the leper.” Simple as that. He touched the leper. It sent me digging into Matthew chapter 8 again. It’s such a short passage at the beginning of the chapter that I have glanced over many times, but it is powerful, and brought me to tears as I read it again this week. Let’s dig into this passage, shall we?
Matthew 8:1-3: “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, a large crowd followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “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.” Immediately, he was cleansed of his leprosy.
First, a large crowd was with Jesus, so, imagine the murmurs, anger, and fear that started when the man with leprosy walked up to Jesus. In that time, if you had leprosy, you weren’t allowed near people, and if someone passed you on the road, you had to yell, “unclean,” as a way to warn others that you were contagious. This man was not supposed to be in that crowd. He wasn’t allowed to come up to Jesus, but his faith outweighed his fear. Jesus, by Jewish purity laws, was not allowed to touch the man, and YET, He reached out and met him in his brokenness, touching him, not the illness, and calling forth life from death. The next thing, listen to how the man asked to be healed. He didn’t even ask, he stated. “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Right there you can see the faith. He didn’t say, “if you can,” he said, “if you are willing, do it.” He already understood that Jesus had the power, and Jesus’ response shows that yes, yes God is willing to heal even the untouchable. God is willing to reach out and touch the hand of anyone, in any place of life, no matter what the world says or what we believe to be safe vs unsafe. He’s willing to reach out and touch you in your brokenness. He’s willing to take your fear and give you faith. He’s willing to walk with you, talk with you, and be your God. He’s willing to show up for YOU. So, do not cower in fear, instead, let faith rise up as the King of the world leads you in peace and grace.
My heart, after reading it, was to the Church. Are we touching the leper in front of us, or are we cowering in fear? Hear that word with an open heart and mind. There are so many Christian’s lately, myself included some days, that are cowering right now when this is truly a time for the Church to rise up and show we are Christians by our love. My love does not allow you to sit in fear. Hear that again. It is not love if I encourage and condone the fear in you and do not point your eyes to the One who gives LIFE ABUNDANT. Fear is not abundant. I spoke with a few friends at a worship night this past week and that topic kept coming up. So many in the Church are playing politics online right now but when it comes to spending time in the Bible, speaking God’s Word to those around us, and calling fear out for what it is, we cower. I cower. I find myself finally learning to stand a bit more firm in what it means to speak life, but for months I have cowered in fear: fear of the virus, fear of rejection, fear of being mocked, and fear of being yelled at or told my opinion is wrong. But, that is what I am saying I guess. This isn’t a matter of opinion. This isn’t even my opinion. This is the Truth of God’s Word. He touched a leper. He reached out and touched him as the world shouted no. Am I willing to reach out and touch the contagious? Am I willing to call out fear for what it is and implore my brothers and sisters to live wise but to live without fear? Am I willing to go into uncharted territory for the Gospel’s sake? Am I willing to speak life instead of death? Am I willing to stand firm to what I believe? Am I willing to touch the leper? Let faith rise up as the King of the world leads you in peace and grace.
He saw the crowd approaching from the mountainside, and his heart skipped a beat as he realized who was leading the pack. This great man Jesus he had heard so much about was walking his direction. He has snuck into one of Jesus’ teachings the other week, but had been thrown out by people worried about his disease. This time, this time he would meet this man face to face. His heart leapt with excitement as he felt hope again for the first time in what felt like eternity. He made his way through the crowd, ignoring the looks of anger and betrayal around him as the people saw the sores on his body. The whispers got louder as many began to complain about an unclean man being in their midst, and yet he pressed forward. The fear was tangible in that space, weighing down on them like a gloomy cloud before a rainstorm. He didn’t mind though because He knew it wouldn’t be long before Jesus could see him. He stumbled his way to the feet of Jesus and said, “if you’re willing, make me clean.” Jesus looked down at him, smiled, and knelt directly in front of his face. The crowd gasped as they watched him reach out his hand. “But, he’s unclean Lord,” the followers yelled. Jesus didn’t pay their fear any mind, for if they saw what he saw, they would understand. His hand came to rest on the man’s arm as he looked him right in the eyes and said, “I am willing. I am willing. I am willing. Be clean.” Immediately, the leprosy was gone. The man didn’t know what to do or how to react. He had imagined this day for years, praying that by some miracle he could have a second chance at life, and just like that, it was his. Tears poured from his face as he looked down at the hand of Jesus on his arm. His gaze slowly rose to see the kind eyes of a gracious Savior, and it was all he could do to whisper, “thank you.” Jesus smiled, stood, and looked out at the now quiet and still crowd. He didn’t need to say a word. The faith in the man who he healed spoke volumes and the simple touch of humanity with the faith of God behind it broke the wall of fear over that place. He didn’t need to say a word, so He smiled and nodded, knowing that He had taught them all a powerful lesson that day. Let faith rise up.