Scripture: Mark 1:40-45
40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean." 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people." 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Even the untouchables and the outcasts of Jewish society found help in Jesus. Unlike the people of Jesus' time who fled at the sight of a leper, Jesus touched the leper who came to him and asked to be made clean. Why was this so remarkable? Lepers were treated as outcasts of society.
Their physical condition was terrible as they slowly lost the use of their limbs and withered away with open sores over their entire bodies. They were not only shunned but regarded as “already dead” even by their relatives. The Jewish law forbade anyone from touching or approaching a leper, lest ritual defilement occur. The leper who came to Jesus did something quite remarkable.
He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him and make him whole again.
Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but he demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in his physical touch. The medical knowledge of his day would have regarded such contact as grave risk for incurring infection.
Jesus met the man’s misery with compassion and tender kindness. He communicated the love and mercy of God in a sign that spoke more eloquently than words. He touched the man and made him clean – not only physically but spiritually as well.
Some eleven centuries later, a man named Francis met a leper on the road as he journeyed towards Assisi. “Though the leper caused him no small disgust and horror, he nonetheless, got off the horse and prepared to kiss the leper. But when the leper put out his hand as though to receive something, he received money along with a kiss” (from the Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano).
Francis did what seemed humanly impossible because he was filled with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus is ready to heal us and free us from fear, prejudice, and anything else that might hold us back from approaching others with selfless love and concern for their welfare.
Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
The Holy Spirit sets us free to love as God loves – with mercy, kindness, goodness, and compassionate care.
How do you treat your neighbor, especially those who have been rejected, mistreated, and left alone.
Do you approach them with the same love and compassion which Christ has shown to you?