When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Matt 8: 1-3
‘Appalling, isn’t it?’ she whispers, ‘a woman of her standing!’ He sits opposite, his brow creased with intense concern; ‘we will have to act, this just cannot go on!’ As he sips his tall skinny latte with hazelnut syrup (sugar-free of course) he worries about what the others will think. After all, this is a woman they have supported, nurtured, welcomed as part of their community; and this is how they are repaid. It was great whilst it lasted. She arrived full of great ideas and a real (but not too radical) vision for the future of their little community. ‘I thought she understood the type of people we were’, he mourns. ‘I know’, she retorts. This time her mouth twists with bitterness as she thinks of all the times she has dutifully supported this woman. ‘One could be forgiven for thinking that it isn’t sinful, the way she behaves’. ‘And bringing them under her own roof..we paid for that roof and this is how she repays us, bringing us all down.’
He reached out and touched the man. As his arm extended towards the leper, an immeasurable shift was occurring. Generations of Levitical Law, ritual cleansing and separation were being replaced by righteous compassion. Fear of contamination was being replaced by sacrificial love. You see on the surface it must have looked as though Jesus was risking everything; after all he didn’t need to touch the man, did he? Plenty of others were healed by a single word. No, Jesus chose to touch him. In human terms he chose to risk his own relationship with God (which would require ritual cleansing to recover) in order to demonstrate unconditional, compassionate and sacrificial love.
Of course, in reality he risked nothing but his own reputation. After all, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. His righteousness far outshone any mere skin disease. And that makes me think….
Where am I allowing my reputation to stand between me and compassionate, unconditional love for the outcasts in my community? Lord, show me the outcasts.