by Rick Campanelli
[T]here 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. Luke 5:12-13 [ESV]
The man was "full of leprosy," we learn. People feared this terrible disease was contagious. He shouldn't have come anywhere near them, never mind mixing in their crowd. And he certainly shouldn't come anywhere near Jesus.
Some would have wondered if the leprosy was the man's own fault -- maybe he broke the religious law by hanging out near unclean people, or maybe this was a judgment for some sin. Maybe the man himself wondered whether something he'd done had resulted in this horrible disease. In any case, he was shunned because they feared he was contagious.
Desperately forgetting his own shame and the risk to others, he plunged into the crowd at Jesus feet. "Lord, if you will, make me clean!"
We can imagine the people around Jesus recoiling in horror, and all the more when they see Jesus stretching out his hand toward him. "Watch out! He's contagious!" We can imagine them warning Jesus, and each other. Understandable, maybe. But they would have been warning the wrong person.
It is Jesus, not the man, who is contagious.
"Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying 'I will, be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left." Jesus' power, his purity, his redemption, his restoration -- all flow through his miraculous touch. That contagion even cures shame, as Jesus instructs the man to go and show himself to the priests so he will be restored to the community. Whatever his disease, whatever his past, the man need no longer fear or be shamed by himself or anyone. He was "full of leprosy," but now by Jesus' touch, he is full of restoration.
Do you or someone you know feel shunned or ashamed -or that you just can't seem to get it right, or find a way and place?
Jesus is reaching toward you and me personally with his healing, redeeming, restoring, unshaming and unshunning touch. "I will," he says. "Be clean."
And He is contagious.