I’d like share a little story. It’s story about humanity. It’s a story about humility. It’s a story about a man’s struggle with his health. It’s a story in which, I think, we can all relate. It really is the story of our lives. This particular story takes place a little over 2,000 years ago. But rather than listen to me tell it, you should hear it from him.
It all begin about fifteen years ago. I woke up with a dull ache in my joints. I didn’t think a lot about it at the time. I had been working pretty hard the past few days and I thought I was just stiff and sore from overexertion. But the soreness didn’t go away. In fact, after several weeks, in addition to the soreness, I noticed that little discolored patches of skin were beginning to form all over my body. And not long after that, those little patches of skin began to grow into lumps, especially on my face until people said that I had a face that looked like a lion.
Then one day, those lumps began break open into sores. It was extremely painful. I remember waking up one morning and warming some water up so that I could wash my sores. After I had let the water warm for few minutes, I went over and began to wash my face. And as I was washing, I looked down and I saw little red blisters forming on my hands. I looked at the pot of water closely, and saw steam was rising from it. I had been washing my face with scalding hot water and I never felt a thing.
I soon found that not only had I lost feeling in my hands and face, but also in my feet. They were completely numb. Over the next several months, I slowly watched my body begin to fall apart. My muscles deteriorated. My tendons tightened and contracted. I lost several of my toes and most of my fingers, for reasons too gross to explain. The physical suffering was awful, but that is only half the curse. For I had leprosy.
When my symptoms first started to show, I went to a priest. He examined me carefully and then he said, “You have leprosy.” You are hereby pronounced to be a leper. You are unclean, he told me. This meant that I was now an outcast. No one wanted to talk to me. No one wanted to touch me. No one wanted to even come near me. In order to walk down the street I had to cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” so that people wouldn’t accidentally brush up against me and contaminate themselves.
At the sound of those words, I have seen crowds part like the red sea. As I would pass by, I would hear the voices. “Look at that Leper, he’s disgusting, oh, he’s so gross.” A child would gasp and say, “Mother, what’s that?” Their mother would respond, “That is a leper. They are very bad. If you ever see one coming, run the other way.”
Leprosy not only took away my body, but also my status as a human being. I ceased to be a person created in the image of God, and instead I became a suffering, diseased animal to be avoided at all costs. So I spent the majority of my time in isolation, trying to avoided people, digging in the garbage for any scraps of food I could find, and wondering what in the world I had done to deserve this. When I wasn’t cursing God, I was begging him to take me from this painful, awful and disgusting existence that had become my life.
Then one day while I was at the garbage heap, I overheard another leper say that he had come to town. I didn’t know a lot about him, but I knew that his name was Jesus and that he was supposed to be some kind of healer. I didn’t know if he had ever healed any lepers or even if he could. The next day I was stumbling down the street, when I saw a large crowd of people coming my way. Immediately I tried my best to cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” When the crowd began to separate, I lowered my head and continued on. I had only taken a couple of steps when I looked up and saw that a man was still standing in the road. Maybe he hadn’t heard me, though I doubted it — everyone else had moved. Just the same, I again cried out, “Unclean, Unclean.” But again, this man didn’t move. He just stood there. And all it took was one deep look into his eyes to know that this must be the healer.
Well, now that I had found him what was I supposed to do? Did I dare approach someone who was so popular? How would the crowd react? Would they punish me for breaking the law? I decided right then and there that I would rather they stone me on the spot for taking a chance at being healed, than to go on living the way I was. So I began to limp towards him. When I was only a few feet away, I fell to my knees, and looked up and heard myself stumble over the words, “Can you help me, healer?”
That’s when the most amazing thing happened. He touched me; he took his right hand, and he reached out and placed it on my shoulder. I heard someone from the crowd gasp, and someone else shouted, “Master, don’t.” But he did. I couldn’t believe it. The healer, this Jesus, he was “touching” me. He was touching “me.” I couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched me. In his eyes, I could see compassion, I wasn’t some diseased animal to him. I was a human being. Then he said, “Be clean.” The moment he said that, my pain vanished, I immediately felt a peace and comfort all over my body like I’ve never felt before. I looked at my hands and my feet and they were perfect. I couldn’t believe it. It was a miracle, and I was filled with such inexpressible joy that I cried out as loud as I could. “praise be to God, who has cleansed me from all my afflictions!”
Now you might be asking yourself, why share this story with me? Simply because, as awful as leprosy is, you and I and everyone has a disease that is so much, much worse. At times, it is us who should be crying out, unclean, unclean. But unfortunately the disease that you and I have is quite socially acceptable. The disease that you and I have is sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory and holiness of God. God sees sin, just like we see leprosy, repulsive and disgusting.
Sin, like leprosy, is contagious (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). Sin, like leprosy, is deceptive (Hebrews 3:12-13). Sin, like leprosy, is not inherited but acquired (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin, like leprosy, has a tendency to increase (James 1:14-15). Sin, like leprosy, is incurable, “except” for by the power of God (Hebrews 9:22).
Leprosy is a physical disease; it’s awful, but it’s temporary, and it won’t separate you from God. Sin, however, is a spiritual disease that does separate you from God, and without cleansing, will hurl you into an eternal darkness from which there is no escape, no hope of relief. Sin is very serious, and unfortunately, you and I have sinned. But there is good news, the best news of all, the most unbelievably amazing news. May I share it with you?
For God so loved the world, (that’s you and me), that he gave his only Son, (Jesus died for our sins), that whoever, (that is anyone with an open and honest heart), believes in him, (they follow him, they obey him), should not perish, (we were going to perish because of our sins, but now we won’t), but will have eternal life, (we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, in a perfect world, in a perfect body, away from sin and leprosy with a God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination).
Why does God loves us so much? Because we are His children. And I am so thankful He is my Father. And I’m also so thankful He has provided a cure for my disease of sin. For it came at a very, very high price. Jesus had to die on a cross (as the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity) for your and my sins. John 14:6 tells us “Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Him.” Clean your soul and clear your conscience, say yes, to the only one who can heal you of your disease.
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