When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds 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.-Matthew 8:1-3
I taught grades 4-5 in my church and we read bible verses similar to the one above. I asked them a question, “How do you think this guy felt before getting healed?” The kids looked at the floor, their little hands, each other. I clarified by adding, “How do you think he felt inside his heart?” And then they started answering.
“He was probably lonely.”
“He felt shut out from the other people.”
“Like he didn’t belong.”
“He wanted to be together with other people, but he couldn’t.”
I agreed with all their answers and reminded myself, just because they’re children doesn’t mean they don’t understand how our hearts work.
This man with leprosy had no name. I wonder how long he had been wandering the outskirts of towns and villages with his disease. The law during that time stated anyone with leprosy must yell out, “Unclean!” when other people came near him. Dealing with leprosy would bring anyone to a state of depression. You had wounds and scars on your inside matching those of your skin.
So finally, after years of being labeled “unclean”, living in it, believing it, and walking it, here comes someone he had heard of. Someone who could change things in his life. Turn the things that were dirty into something shiny, new. Clean. Besides his own state of affairs, the leper believed this man called Jesus could do the impossible: Make him clean.
The leper kneeled and humbled himself. He addressed this man he had never met with a title, Lord. He recognized the authority this man held and what he could do. To me this would have been the hard part. After years of walking around and yelling, “Unclean!” I would have been asking God, “Why me?”. Why would you let a disease like this in the world you created? What did I do to deserve a life like this? These questions are still in our hearts and minds today aren’t they? Why do I have to go through all this stuff?
But this man didn’t do that. He saw an opportunity for something better, not a chance to sling accusations. He looked for a way out of his situation, not for a set of answers to satisfy his hard questions.
Jesus, being the only one who could lift the humble, was willing to heal and made a different proclamation used for years by the leper, saying, “Be Clean!”
We may not be lepers where we have announce our presence, but I believe a lot of us have scars and wounds deep in our hearts. These wounds make us feel unclean. Unwanted. Left out. The results can leave us asking lots of questions and pointing fingers. Someone must be responsible for this. But what if we follow the leper’s example and seek God in humility? And who is willing to heal these wounds to make us whole again?
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners-Isaiah 61:1
After the lesson was completed, I asked the kids, “How do think the man felt once he had been healed?” They answered:
“Ready to go back to his family.”
How would you feel once God’s fully restored your heart?