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The Leper

It all started about fifteen years ago. I woke up with a dull ache in my joints. I didn't think a lot of 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 the face of a lion. Then one day, those lumps began break open into sores.

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. As 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 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 fall apart. My muscles deterioriated. My tendons tightened and contracted. I lost several of my toes and most of my fingers for reasons to gross to explain. The physical suffering was awful, but that is only half the curse of leprosy.

When my symptoms first started to show, I went to the priest. He examined me carefully and then he said, “You have leprosy. You are hereby pronounced to be a leper, which means you are unclean.”

Which meant that I was also 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 accidently 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." A child would gasp and say, "Mother, what's that?" Their mother would say, "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 became a diseased animal to be avoided at all costs. So I spent the majority of my time avoiding people, digging in the garbage for scraps of food, 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 feeble existence that my life had become.

Then one day, at the garbage heap, I overheard another outcast 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 supposedly a healer. I didn't know if he had ever healed any lepers or even if he could.

Once, just after I was pronounced unclean, I asked a rabbi friend from a distance about the possibility of being healed. He said, "Hmph. It's as difficult to raise the dead as it is to heal a leper such as you." I remembered his words as I thought about Jesus. I had heard that he had made the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and had even cast demons out of people, and I couldn't help but wonder if he could do that for them, then why couldn't he do it for me?

The next day I was hobbling down the street, dreaming of being healed when I saw a large procession of people coming my way. Immediately I cried 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 didn't hear me, though I doubted it. Everyone else had moved. Just the same, I again cried out, "Unclean, Unclean." But again, he didn't move. He just stood there looking at me, and all it took was one deep look into his eyes to know that he was the healer.

Well, now that I had found him what was I supposed to do with him. Did I dare approach someone 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 me my knees, and looked up and heard myself stumble over the words, "If . . .you are willing. . . you can make me clean?"

For a moment, he didn't say anything, he didn't do anything. He just stood there looking at me, and in his eyes I could see a combination of pain and compassion. It almost looked like anger. That's when he did the most amazing thing. He took his right hand, and he reached out and placed 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 was "touching" me. He was touching "me." In his eyes, I wasn't some diseased animal. I was a human being. The emotion I felt was deafening. So much so that I didn't hear the first few words out of his mouth. I think he said, "I am willing" I'm still not sure, but I definitely heard what he said next. He said, "Be clean." And as soon as he said it there was a tingling all over my body. I felt the skin on my hands and feet and face stretch. I looked down, and I was cured. I was whole. I was clean.

I was so shocked, that I couldn't put any words together. Before I could speak, he spoke up again. He told me to be quiet about what had just happened and to go to the priest and offer the appropriate sacrifices so that he could validate my healing. At this point I would have done anything he asked of me, so I jumped up on my new feet, grabbed him with my new hands, and thanked him. Then I headed for the priest.

Now it was a long way to the priest, and in order to get there I had to cut through the marketplace. As I approached, I saw that it was full of people. Instinctively, I cried out, "Unclean, Unclean!" When I did, everyone stopped and looked at me. Someone asked, "Why are you unclean?" Another asked, “You’re not a leper are you?"

That’s when I started talking. He told me to be quiet, but the more I told, the more excited they became, and the more excited they became, the more I told. Soon everyone was running off to find Jesus. By now I had completely lost it. I was running through the streets telling everyone about what had happened to me.

Later, when realized what I had done, I felt awful. So many people went looking for Jesus that he had to leave our town and go out into the wilderness. Eventually, I did make it to the priest. I told him my story and offered my sacrifice. Afterward, the priest said, “I hereby pronounce you clean and on behalf of the people I accept you back into the community.” Just like that I became a person again in the eyes of my village.

I never saw Jesus again. I never got to thank him the way I wanted to. I never got to apologize for making such a mess of things. They killed him a couple of years later in Jerusalem. He said and did the wrong things in front of the wrong people, and they took that same hand that reached out and touched me and nailed it to a cross. Not long after his death, word got out that he had come back from the dead and that he was the Savior we had been waiting for. Soon the good news was spreading throughout the region. When one of his disciples came to our village and told us about it, I believed him and became a disciple a disciple of Jesus, the resurrected Messiah.

When I did my old rabbi friend asked me how I could believe in such nonsense. My response was, "It’s as easy to raise the dead, as it is to heal a leper. . . like me." From that moment on, I have given my life to telling others the same story I just told you, and to do for others what Jesus did for me. To touch them when they are untouchable, and to love them when they are unloveable.

©2004 by Wade Hodges

And if you ask me why I love Jesus so, I will tell you the same story, He touched me when I was untouchable, and loved me when I was unlovable,
Praise His wonderful name!
The human spirit can endure a sick body,but who can bear it if the spirit is crushed Prov 18:14

Coco i was just reading about the leper in Mathew just last week and the Lord laid on my heart that the mans joy of being able to return to his family and friends was greater than the healing of the physical pain of the disease.Thanks for sharing