The courteous thing to do in our culture when you are sick is to cover you mouth when you cough, not shake hands with folks, and keep your distance from people, perhaps even staying home from work or school. This is a mild form of the quarantine a leper in first century Palestine endured for the rest of their life. As stipulated in the Law, a leper could not enter the camp, they had to go about shouting “Unclean,” and therefore could not have contact with family, friends, or kinsmen. Because of the severity of the quarantine, they could not even participate in fellowship not only with countrymen, they could not engage in worship of God. It was a lonely existence with not only social and physical effects, but also psychological effects.
The leper was the type of what sin does to an individual. Sin cuts a person off from the camp. They are out of fellowship with God’s people and God himself. Left alone over time, it will consume the individual and, if left within the church, will damage other members of the body. Hence, it must be dwelt with in a drastic manner, i.e. cut off from the camp.
The Great Physician…
We come across Jesus in Luke 5.12ff in a certain city. Luke did not deem it necessary to record the city’s name. What is important to doctor Luke is the case of the leper: the leper is “covered” or “full” of leprosy. This disease has just eaten up this poor man. Apparently, though, he has some prior knowledge of the healing capablities of Jesus because he falls prostrate before the Lord (a position of worship) and begs Jesus to heal him. He believes Jesus can heal him but does not know if Jesus is willing to do what the leper believes he can do. After all, no one associates with lepers – you don’t even talk with a leper. They are unclean, cut off from the camp.
Jesus is willing not just to heal him but to offer something no one else would do – he touched the leper. This was a social “no, no.” Surely, Jesus knows you are not supposed to do that. Yes, but what this man needs is more important than what is socially acceptable; he needs compassion. He needs to know someone, anyone cares. And Jesus does care. Before the lepers can come experience the healing of the Master, they need to know he cares, they need to know we care. Everyday we see spiritual lepers around us, but do they know that Jesus cares. The only way they know this is if his hands are reaching out these social outcasts who are pushed to the edge of society. I am talking about the church.
Jesus came for the disenfranchised, the emarginated, those scorned by society. By reaching out and touching this social outcast, the leper, he is demonstrating his mission. He came specifically for this man, this leper. Jesus came to help him. And so when Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man, he is fulfilling a part of his mission.
Jesus tells this former leper what to do: he is still required to do something under tha Law, namely presentation before the priest. So with us, once we show compassion to the spiritual lepers around us, we do not leave them in that state; we point them toward healing and follow up by pointing them to the requirements of the high priest. We “teach them to observe everything Jesus has commanded.” Do not leave the leper to “drip dry in the pew;” they will need direction and guidance, just as this leper Jesus contacted did.
The more Jesus heals, the more popular he becomes. Everywhere the good news of the Great Physician spreads to those in need of healing. But notice that Jesus does not lose focus. He still has alone time with God to meditate, clear away the distractions, and focus on God. It can be a draining thing to be in contact with the social outcasts all day. It takes time and energy. But never lose focus on the power source of our ministry: God. He is the one who gives the increase and provides healing for the lepers. Always allow time for alone time with God and prayer time with him.