40 A leper* came to him begging him, and kneeling* he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41Moved with pity,* Jesus* stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42Immediately the leprosy* left him, and he was made clean. 43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus* could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Leprosy referred to any number of skin disease – but all of them, whether contagious or not, made the sufferer unclean in Jewish law. “Lepers” were supposed to keep away from society, and to shout “unclean” whenever they came near other people. If a person touched a leper, he too was made unclean. This man had seen Jesus healing others by laying on of his hands, thus he did not really believe he could be healed – after all, who would touch him, a leper? And so we hear the “if” in his request, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Have we ever thought that we were too far gone, too deep into our own self-destruction or sinfulness, for Jesus to be willing to touch us, to choose to touch us? But however much we, as humans, may choose to distance ourselves from others, for fear their “leprosy” might contaminate us, Jesus did not do that!
Jesus said, “I do choose” and he reached out and touched him, and said, “Be made clean.” And the man was healed. Jesus could have healed the man without touching him – he could have healed him from across the field! But Jesus knew this man needed to be touched. He needed to know that he, too, was a worthy human being.
After his healing, Jesus told the man to go to the priest, but not to tell anyone what had happened. But who can hold in news like this? This man, who had been a leper, told what had happened, how his life had been changed when he met Jesus, far and wide! As a result there was a riot whenever Jesus went into a town, and he had to continue his teaching outside in the fields.
Was your life changed when you met Jesus? Who have you told lately?