“Unclean, unclean!” the man shouted, and everyone scattered to avoid contact with the leper- everyone except Jesus. We don’t see a lot of lepers today, but we have a similar reaction to people. They come in different shapes and sizes. Think over the past few weeks, has there been anyone who has made you uncomfortable. What was your reaction to them and why?
The religious wisdom of Jesus’ day demanded that a holy man keep away from various social outcasts, for example, lepers and “sinners”. So Jesus was bound to encounter resistance as He openly welcomed them. What did Jesus do, and what can it teach us?
There are three stories that is within the Scriptures I am going to share with you. Let’s take a quick look at each one to get an overall view of the way that Jesus encountered the “unlovable”. The first story is about a leper who desires healing from Jesus. He begged Jesus on his knees to be healed. Leviticus 13:45-46 states that a leper “must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, unclean! Unclean!” As long as the person had the infection, he had to do this. He was a social outcast. Can you imagine what the people felt psychologically? More than likely he felt alone, shunned, and hurt. No one could go near him because they would be considered unclean and he had to live separately from everyone else until the infection was gone. The leper overcame several risks coming to Jesus that day. Firstly, he risked being in a crowd. Because he was supposed to be away in seclusion, he shouldn’t have been in the crowd. Secondly he walked up to Jesus with a glimmer of hope, but was a bit unsure. The risk was actually going up to Jesus and being cast out again and mocked by those around him. He had uncertainty in his voice when asking Jesus for healing; he states, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” He was scared because he knew if Jesus touched him, He could “catch” the leprosy.
Jesus took risks as well though in His encounter with this man. He risked being unclean by Levitical law. If He were to touch the man, He could be considered unclean. The interesting part of this was that Jesus did not become an outcast by touching Him and contracting the infection. He became an outcast when the healed leper went and told people what Jesus had done, even when Jesus told him to go to the priest first to be cleansed (Levitical law says they have to present themselves to the priest and be cleansed before going back into society once the infection is gone). Jesus responded to the leper’s complete needs and made him whole. Jesus touched him, this man probably had not been touched or hugged in a long time. Jesus healed him, took the infection away. Jesus then gave the man freedom, freedom from leprosy, freedom from being an outcast and freedom to be himself again. Jesus made the man clean since the leprosy left him. Jesus dealt with the whole person.
Our next scene goes to Capernaum where friends lowered a paralytic down from the roof. We have heard this story since we were children. Jesus first forgave the men of his sins. This was more than likely a shock to the paralytic. Especially seeing that his friends did all this work to bring him to Jesus for healing. The paralytic may also be wondering how did Jesus know about his sins. Was it sin that caused his paralysis? It also sparked a lot of murmuring between the teachers of the law. The teachers started asking who can forgive sins other than God? Jesus knew what was being said and therefore he asked them a question before saying “you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He healed the paralytic and told him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus showed the teachers and those around them physical proof that He is indeed the Son of God and the power of God was within Him. The people responded by praising God saying “we have never seen anything like this!”
From Capernaum, Jesus goes by the lake and sees Levi, (Matthew) a tax collector and asked him to follow Him. Jesus then went to Levi’s house for tea with many “sinners”. The Pharisees did not understand this because they would not even associate themselves with tax collectors or “sinners”. They judged people according to their laws, not by grace. Jesus however, embraced the “sinners” and showed the Pharisees that He loved everyone. Jesus told the Pharisees that He was like a doctor that came to heal the sick not the well. He was here for the sinners not the righteous. He was in fact telling them that He was the healer of sickness and relationships.
Jesus teaches us that we need to love and accept others no matter who they are, what they look like, etc. Jesus was always filled with compassion for the whosoever, with no prerequisites. Compassion is not judgemental, nor is it self-seeking. The Pharisees were very judgemental. They always looked at the outer person, and not at the person as a whole.
The paralytic’s friends showed compassion. We can learn to pray for others, being there for them and never giving up, and doing whatever it takes to make sure that they are healed and taken care of. Have we been that kind of a friend to someone lately?
Sometimes it is very hard to love the “unlovable”. How can we reach out to those people? We need to pray for them, and for our attitudes towards them. We need to see the person as a whole, not just what’s on the outside. The leper may have been ugly to look at with his skin infection, however, he was a man who longed to be accepted and loved on the inside. Ask God to help us to look at the whole person, not just what is visible. Remember that healing is not just physical healing, healing involves us psychologically, socially, emotionally, and physically. So when we pray for healing for someone, albeit from alcoholism, cancer, anything, we need to pray for them as a whole. Jesus came for the whole person, accepted people for who they were, and He asks us to do the same. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and judge people according to our rules, or start gossiping about them. Everyone was created by God in His image. May He help us to remember that.
Who are the unlovables in our lives? How can we reach out to them physically, socially, mentally and spiritually? May we be more like Jesus in our relationships, with everyone we meet. God bless you.