This week at PCS, we’re doing a Week of Prayer called Friend Request, and it's all about getting to know Jesus as a friend. So today, I decided to share a short excerpt from yesterday's talk called Jesus:LovesFree.
So Jesus, He often broke the rules of society, but when He did, it was never for His own benefit. Jesus only ever broke the rules to bring kindness, compassion, or healing to somebody else.
With that in mind, I want you to picture in your head this story. It's hot and dry. There’s dust in the air. You can see it, you can taste it, it’s in your eyes and coating your skin and your filthy worn-out clothes. You hear the flies before you see them, but these days you know that you really can’t do anything about them anyway, so you ignore them as they land on your skin, in your hair, and on the open sores that cover your entire body. You can feel the sun baking down upon you, and you look for some shade behind a bush, or a section of broken-down wall, but it’s been getting harder and harder for you to move lately as the leprosy has begun to get into your feet.
Yeah, leprosy. If you lived a couple thousand years down the road, you might know that it is a bacterial infection that’s actually often preventable and treatable if caught early. But you don’t. It’s somewhere around the year 30 CE, and all you know is that your features are beginning to deform, your feet and hands aren’t working like they used to, your fingers and toes are beginning to get shorter, everything hurts, your skin is covered in gross, ugly patches, and you nose is almost always bleeding. Essentially, you’re living a death sentence.
The laws of the land say that once you’ve been diagnosed, you have no choice but to leave your home… your family, your friends… everyone and everything you’ve ever known, and move out of the city and into a leper colony where for the rest of your life, God grant that it may be short, you’ll be surrounded only by other people with this strange and horrible disease. Most importantly of all, from the moment you were diagnosed with leprosy, nobody… not your mom or your dad, your sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, child… nobody at all could touch you. With good reason too. You wouldn’t even wish this disease on your worst enemy, let alone the people you loved. And so off you go into this strange exile-like isolation, never to be seen or heard from again, except at very great distance.
You manage to haul yourself over to the big rock, and sit in its shade, enjoying the cooling breeze as it blows across your skin. You look off in the distance toward the road, and you see someone coming. Running towards you. That’s strange… what would they want with you? When they get a bit closer, you gather your breath and begin to shout, “Unclean” towards them, warning them as the law requires, to keep their distance. They stop and shout back. Immediately you know who it is… you’d recognize that voice anywhere. It’s your dad.
You stop shouting and listen: "My child,” he shouts toward you, “listen to me! There’s somebody you need to meet. His name is Jesus, and He’s in our village even as we speak! He can do incredible things. He spoke in our synagogue about a kingdom of love, and even more, I’ve seen with my own eyes as he casts out demons. My child, this man has power. I truly believe He could be the Son of God, the Messiah. Please come and meet Him. I really think He may be able to heal you!"
Woah, what? Did dad really say ‘heal you’? You’ve never even heard of such a thing happening, but the hope that has sprung up inside your soul is stronger than the pain that courses through your body, and so, grabbing your crutches, you begin to follow your father back, at a distance, to the town where you grew up.
When you get there, you realize you have a bit of a dilemma. You’re not really allowed to be there. If this doesn’t work, if your dad is wrong, you’re going to be in a pile of trouble. But you realize that you’re living under a death sentence anyway. What could these people ever do to you that your leprosy isn’t doing already, only 1000 times worse?
And so, step by step, you begin your walk into town. As you get closer and closer to where Jesus is, you see a huge crowd of people surrounding Him, watching and listening to what He’s doing.
Unnoticed, you hobble closer and closer until finally, your heart beating a million miles an hour, you draw a deep, painful breath, begin to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!”, and one step at a time, you walk into the middle of the now-horrified and scrambling crowd. As the people press off to the side to get out of your ‘contagion zone’, a path is opened up before you, and you find yourself looking into the eyes of Jesus. He speaks to you.
"What do you want, child?"
What do you want? Relief from your pain? Inner peace from all your struggles and torments? A quick death? No. "If you are willing,” you hear yourself begin to say, “you can heal me and make me clean."
Silence. The crowd is silent, the breeze is silent, the animals are silent. It’s almost as if all of creation is waiting in anticipation, straining for the answer.
The Bible says in Mark 1 that Jesus was moved with compassion, and that He reached out and touched the leper. "I am willing,” he says. “Be healed!"
With the words ‘Be healed’, instantly you feel your body begin to be made whole again. Your pain disappears immediately. You can actually feel your skin and your sores healing. Your face is reforming into what it used to be. Your hands and feet are growing, and changing into the hands and feet of a healthy person; no longer gnarled, deformed, and crippled. With one touch and two powerful words, Jesus has completely and instantly changed the rest of your life.
The Bible says that Jesus told the man not to tell anyone, but to go to the priest to be examined - the first step in being re-allowed back into society. But the simple fact was, Jesus touched him. He broke one of the most basic rules of the time so that this complete outcast could know without a doubt that he mattered to Jesus. He was loved, no matter what he looked like or felt like. No matter what was wrong with him, he now knew that he was somebody who mattered enough to touch. And that, equally as much as his physical healing, changed his life completely.
Do you hear it? Jesus is calling to you, right now. He's saying, “Friend, what do you want?"
Jesus wants you to know that no matter how you look, or feel… no matter what’s going on beneath your surface, you matter so much and you’re deeply loved. If you allow Him, he will touch you. And when you’re healed, and when you know that you’re loved, by all means, don't avoid the outcasts. Because the things that you do, matter. The things that you say make a difference.
Do your best to always act in love, speak in love, and literally be love to everyone around you, no matter who they are. Allow Jesus love you. And while you do, let that love overflow to everyone around you. You may find the life that is changed, is yours.
Image by Shvets Anna from Pexels.