Today, I had an opportunity to minister to and pray with a man who revealed that he was HIV positive. He told me that he was afraid for me to touch him. He was afraid that when he told me he was HIV positive that I would be repulsed my him and afraid of him. I laughed a little and told him, “It’s not like cooties. It can’t jump from you to me.” This allayed his fears a bit.
I was reminded of the passage of Scripture in Luke 5:12-13
While [Jesus] was in one of the towns, a man was there who had a serious skin disease all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged Him: ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. Reaching out His hand, he touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be made clean,’ and immediately the disease left him.
The first thing that strikes me in reading this passage again is that the leper “fell facedown” before Jesus. In his shame and sorrow, the man didn’t feel that he could even show his face to Jesus. It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to look at God when our sins are so evident. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden who hid themselves from the Lord’s presence after they sinned, we often hide our shame from the One who loves us so deeply, the One who knows our sin and shame already and loves us anyway.
The second thing that hits me is the courage this leper had to actually walk up to Jesus. So often, the first step in overcoming guilt and shame is getting up and walking to the solution–Jesus. I imagine this leper had been alone for the majority of his life, banished to live as a beggar, unclean and downtrodden. When he saw Jesus walking through town that day, he likely had no idea that his life was about to change miraculously in a single moment.
The third thing that strikes me in this passage is that Jesus “touched him.” Anyone who touched a leper in those days would then be considered unclean and would likely become a leper themselves. Jesus wasn’t afraid of becoming unclean by touching this man. He saw the need, the desperation, and chose to heal. How many times have we let fear drive us away from getting dirty with those around us who are suffering? In America, we tend to throw money at problems in our culture, hoping that someone with the courage to act will and our consciences will be clean because we contributed to the cause. I’m not minimizing giving here. Please don’t get that from what I’m saying. What I am saying is that when an opportunity presents itself to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus (which got quite dirty), don’t squander it! Is there risk involved in touching the leper? Absolutely. There’s a greater risk, however, in not touching the leper.
Throughout the New Testament, we see example after example of Jesus getting dirty with those around Him. From having dinner with tax collectors to spitting in mud and cleansing a blind man’s sight with that mud, we are left with little alternative when we question what’s required in being a Christ-follower. So this week, as you’re going about your business, don’t be surprised if Jesus puts a leper in your path. Know that it’s ok to share the Word of Christ with them. Know that it’s ok to place your hand on their shoulder as you pray for their needs. Be the hands and feet of Christ Jesus.