How Jesus Handles The Walking Dead

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daily text logoFebruary 7, 2015

Luke 5:12-16

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “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 the leprosy left him.

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

CONSIDER THIS

leper

Covered with leprosy.

That’s a really bad situation. Back in the day, those three words constituted the kiss of death. In the first century mind, leprosy was worse than death. The disease practically  made a person “dead” to the community. They were effectively the walking dead. Leprosy severely disfigured people. Their skin would literally fall off of their flesh. Their nose would often collpase. Their bones would twist and their hands would curl up and wither. It gets worse. Because people understood leprosy as extremely contagious, lepers were exiled from their families and community. They had to shout “unclean” everywhere they went in order to avoid any possible contact with people. They were untouchable.

The leper featured in today’s text falls on the ground at the feet of Jesus, and with his face to the ground he begs him,

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

For all practical purposes, lepers perfectly embodied the curse of the fall; they were a walking demonstration of the law of sin and death. Jesus is precisely the opposite. He perfectly embodied the blessing of the Gospel; he was a walking demonstration of the life giving law of the Spirit of Life.

What happens next is completely unnecessary and utterly absurd.

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

It was unnecessary. Jesus didn’t have to touch him. He only had to speak the word. It was absurd. Jesus was fully human, which meant he was vulnerable to leprosy. When a clean person touches an unclean person the clean person became unclean. Jesus reverses the curse. When he touches the leper not only does the leper become clean, but Jesus does not become unclean.

And immediately the leprosy left him.

Jesus touched the untouchable in order to reveal the power of love. I have this theory that the power of love is so concentratedly pure in the person of Jesus that it works through his glance and through his words and through his touch and all the way down to the molecular level transforming disease into health. This is not some demonstration of raw power. It is a revelation of revolutionary love. Jesus touched the leper because he loved the leper.

He was triaging the fallen creation, starting with the most devastating and hopelessly impossible situations. Remember what he said in Nazareth– good news to the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the prisoners– It’s being fulfilled before our very eyes. Jesus wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything. He was going about reversing the curse of the fall. See what he says to the leper:

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

The priest will certify the restoration of the leper and tomorrow he will be back in the embrace of his family and friends. Imagine the joy of that. We won’t call him a leper anymore. He will be called by his name again.

This is what love does. This is how the Gospel works. This is who Jesus is. Now, if Jesus dwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t that mean this is what we do and how we work and who we are?

I want to challenge you to follow Jesus as today’s text ends– withdraw from the busy-ness of today, find a “lonely place” and talk to God about these things. Examine yourself. Inquire of your own faith. What if this kind of love were possible for you? What would that mean?

Today began “Covered with leprosy.” It ended, “Covered in Love.”

Tomorrow, we will see what it could look like for us.

 #GOINGTOTHEMOUNTAIN

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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