Jesus of Nazareth: Cleansing Lepers And Changing Lives For 2,000 Years

Luke 5: 12,13  While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.  (English Standard Version)

Leprosy.  Even today the word is pregnant with dread. It conjures up images of disfigured victims, rotting flesh and a life of permanent isolation.  In Jesus’ day, leprosy was even worse.  The physical symptoms were but a small part of the stigma attached to the disease. It was the spiritual significance of being spiritually unclean and cut off from God’s people that was the real rub.

A man, or woman, diagnosed with leprosy was not allowed to participate in the temple ceremonies or even mingle with the worshipers.  The leper could not stay home and receive support or comfort from family members, but had to live outside the city and warn all who came near that he/she was unclean.

Can you imagine the emotions that the leper lived with?  The loneliness?  The sense of helplessness and hopelessness must have been overwhelming at times.

People avoided lepers at all costs, because even to come in physical contact with an individual with leprosy would render one as unclean, also.

Leprosy, described in detail in Leviticus 13 and 14 was symbolic of sin, which causes us all to be separated from God.  It was a horrible burden to bear.

Then Jesus came and everything changed.  Luke tells the story in such a brief, matter of fact way that the significance for the 21st century dweller could be easily missed. Let’s look at it a minute and see what we discover.

First, the leper recognizes Jesus as the one person who can truly help him.  His need, his humility and his faith are all right out there in the open when he bows before Jesus and says, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”

He is not arrogant or demanding.  He knows he is in no position to make demands. He is in need of mercy and healing.

He also has no doubt about Jesus ability to cleanse him. He doesn’t say, “If you can,” but rather, “If you are willing, you can.”  What a difference.

At this point in the story, Mark, in his gospel, gives us an added detail.  He notes, “Jesus looked on him with compassion”.  How absolutely amazing.  Jesus looks past the ugliness and uncleanness and sees the broken soul inside.

Here is the earth shaking, history changing part; verse 13 says, “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him.” Jesus didn’t run from the leper, He was not repulsed, He touched the man.  Jesus never hides from the dark places or stained ones.  Those are the places he came to fix, to clean, to make new and shiny.  When Jesus touches the leper a marvellous thing happens; rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the man was healed. Instantly. Completely.  Perfectly. Jesus changes everything.

He is still touching lepers and making them clean. There is no life so far gone that He cannot reach it.  No one is beyond redemption. There is no life so clean that it does not need Him. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, (Romans 3:23)

I know His compassion first hand. Some years ago, my pain, my sin, my rebellion drove me into isolation and dismay, but when I followed the example of that other leper from  long ago and humbled myself before Jesus, He touched me, too, and made me brand spanking new.  He took all the ugliness, the sin, the guilt and threw it away.  I stand amazed.

Jesus is still saying, “I am willing” to anyone and everyone who needs a clean heart and a fresh start.

Chew on that thought for a while.

 

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Jesus, Honey Boo Boo, Me and You – We’ve All Got Wacky Branches in the Family Tree

Luk 3:31  … the son of Nathan, the son of David,

Luk 3:32  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz…    English Standard Version

“My favorite part of the Bible is the ‘begats’”, said NO ONE,  EVER!

I grew up reading the King James Bible, as did most everyone in my generation (and all those before me).  I remember when the New International Version and the Good News Bible (Good News For Modern Man in those days) first came out.  We felt like we needed to read them in hiding, because we feared using modern translations would result in us being cast out of society as heretics, possibly even burned at the stake.  Those were dark days.

Just kidding, except for the growing up reading King James, that is.  For the most part, it was no big deal.  I say, for the most part, because there were certain sections of the Bible, namely the genealogies that were virtually impossible to get through with your eyelids still open.  We called them, ‘the begats’, and avoided them like the plague.

The Old Testament is peppered with ‘begat’ chapters.  The Book of Genesis is especially loaded.  It’s hard, when you’re 12, to commit to reading the Bible from cover to cover when you can’t get past Genesis 5 without being assaulted by ‘begats’.  Heck, it’s hard for adults, for that matter.

I was well into my 30s before I finally realized those genealogy lists are laced with fascinating nuggets of information.  Seriously.  Stop laughing.  They really are.  Let’s use Luke 3 as our example.

There are two genealogies in the New Testament; Matthew, chapter 1 and Luke, chapter 3.  Both are genealogies of Jesus.  With the exception of a few overlaps, they are as different as night and day.  These differences cause heartburn for many people, but they shouldn’t.

As we’ve mentioned before, Matthew tells the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective and introduces Jesus as the Messiah, heir to the throne of David, the hope of Israel.

Luke, on the other hand, tells the birth narrative from the viewpoint of Mary, and his gospel emphasizes Jesus as, ‘The Son of Man.’

Their genealogies follow the same pattern.  Matthew gives Jesus Royal family tree through the family of Joseph.  Luke gives Jesus physical family tree through Mary.  That’s why there are some differences, even though in a couple places they converge.

Yip, yip yippee, did I hear you say?  Well, hold on, I’m getting to the good part.  Geez, you’re impatient.

The royal and physical family trees of Jesus converge completely at King David.  Through Joseph, the line goes back via the kings of Israel.  Through Mary, the line goes back by way of David’s son, Nathan.  Still with me?

Here’s the nugget; Solomon, the king who followed his father, David; and Nathan, had the same mother, Bathsheba.  Now that’s cool.

Genetically, Solomon and Nathan are identical.  Jesus human and kingly lines both make Him, The son of David. He is the heir to the throne legally, spiritually and physically.  God covered all the bases. Wow!

One more tidbit and I’ll let you rest.  Solomon and Nathan both were born from a relationship that began in a very ugly fashion. Frankly, it was sinful and disgusting. Yet is has this incredible, glorious happy ending that only God can bring about.

Bathsheba was married to a gentile, Uriah, the Hittite.  Uriah was a war hero, a close personal friend of David’s, and a neighbor.  David had an affair with Bathsheba that resulted in her becoming pregnant by the king.  As a part of the cover up, David arranged for Uriah to be killed, then he married the widow.

The story of David and Bathsheba is as ugly and sordid as anything that could ever come out of the mind of Hollywood.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, God dealt harshly with David and the child died in infancy.  David repented of his actions and begged God for forgiveness.  You can read that repentance in Psalm 51 (my favorite chapter in the Bible).  God heard David’s prayer and forgave him completely.  So completely, that the next King, and ultimately the Savior of the World came from the offspring of that marriage.

If God can take a soap opera like David and Bathsheba and turn it into the salvation of the human race, just think what He can do with the soap opera that is my life; or yours.  All we need to do is follow David’s example and return to Him.

 

See?  I told you there was gold in them there hills.  What other good stuff can we find in the ‘begats’?  I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.  Or better still, study it for yourself. The trip is worth the fare.

 

Who am I in the Passion Story?

When I get engrossed in a movie or a novel, I almost always start to identify with one of the characters.  Sure, often I’m the hero.  Sometimes I’m one of the supporting cast.  Occasionally, I’m the villian.  Rarely am I the leading lady.  You may find some comfort in that….

When I read the story of Calvary, I also wonder who I am in that cast of characters.

I want to be John, the faithful disciple who followed Jesus all the way to the cross and stood with Him in His darkest hour.

More often, I’m one of the disciples who ran for cover when the soldiers came to arrest the Master.

I am Peter, who said all the right things and made all the right promises, then denied Jesus in his hour of need.

I am one of the crowd, who freely accepted the gifts of bread and fish, then rejected the Giver of Life.

I am Pilate, who in the face of public pressure, washed his hands of Jesus.

I am the raging thief, who despite his own condition, took time to mock the King of Kings.

I am the Roman soldier, who wields the hammer and the nails.

I am all of these.  But I am not only these.

I am Barabbas; guilty, convicted and sentenced, but set free because Jesus took his place.

I am a dying thief, who in the nick of time, begged, “Remember me.”

I am the Roman Centurion, who, at the very last moment understood Who it was that hung before him and declared, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Yes, I am all of these.  I am in the first group by nature.  I am in the second group because of the Passion of the Christ.

John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace” said it first and certainly more eloquently than I, but along with him, I affirm:

I am not what I ought to be.

I am not what I want to be.

I am not even what I’m going to be.

But thank God Almighty, I’m not what I used to be!

And neither are you.  That’s reason to celebrate.