Trembling at the thought of being seen and stoned by the crowds, the man with leprosy crouched beneath one of the many stone slabs dotting the slopes of the picturesque hills that framed the Sea of Galilee. He had come to see the man they called Jesus, Who he had heard was a healer. People had talked about how Jesus healed—how everyone who had gone to Him for healing received their healing. He turned none away. Whatever their conditions—fevers, paralyses, deaf ears, or demonic oppression—He healed them all.
All. That little word gave him hope that perhaps even he might be made whole. By the time he reached the hills, a large multitude had gathered on the slopes to listen to Jesus teach. This poor diseased man couldn’t see Jesus from where he was hiding in fear, but because of the unique acoustics of the hills, he could hear every word that Jesus was speaking to the multitudes:
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you…” (Matthew 6:28–30).
He listened attentively—the timbre of Jesus’ voice and every word He spoke carried an immeasurable depth of understanding and empathy for his everyday fears. Embers of hope that he had thought long dead suddenly flared to life, fanned by the authority of Jesus’ words. Whereas he had initially trembled from fear of being exposed, now he began trembling with a different emotion that made him listen even more fervently.
As the meaning of Jesus’ words sank in, the man with leprosy began to weep. For the first time in years, he wondered, Is this possible? That God wants to be a Father to me? A heavenly Father Who would clothe me much better than the lilies, which are better clothed than Solomon in all his glory, if I put my trust in Him? Is it possible that God is reaching out to me with kindness, acceptance, and love, and inviting me to taste and receive His goodness? After all the years of being rejected and living as an outcast, something deep within his heart broke at these new thoughts and brought on a fresh flood of tears.
Galvanized by the unmistakable compassion in Jesus’ voice that caused hope to race along every still-intact nerve in his body, the man crawled out of his makeshift shelter the moment Jesus finished speaking. All thoughts of staying hidden were gone. All he wanted to do was to go to Jesus and ask Him to take his disease away.
As he began to make his way to Jesus, there, coming down the hill, a man walking slightly ahead of a few others caught his eye. He realized it was Jesus, coming straight toward him. Instead of having gone straight down to the crowds after preaching to them, the Lord had turned another way to go toward the lone, afflicted man, as if He already knew all about the man’s need and where he was. Unable to hold back his feelings, the man fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him.
In a voice still choked with tears, he whispered, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Without hesitation, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said, with the same compassion and warmth the man had heard earlier in His voice. “Be cleansed” (see Matthew 8:2–3).
As he felt the touch of Jesus’ warm hands, the man closed his eyes involuntarily and his body shuddered under that touch. It had been so long since he had felt the touch of another human being, let alone a warm and loving touch. Then he opened his eyes to look at Jesus, and found Him smiling at him with love in His eyes. Sensing that something was different about his body, the man looked down at his hands, which a moment ago had been covered with open sores and had ended in stubs for fingers. His eyes beheld healthy hands with fingers fully formed and skin completely whole. Like one in a dream, he began lifting the sleeves and hem of his robe and watched in amazement as the cloth rolled upward to reveal smooth, unblemished skin covering his arms, legs, and feet. He was cleansed! The power of Jesus had, in an instant, swallowed up his uncleanness.
He looked up into the face of the One Who had made him whole, overcome with gratitude. Even as he turned to go, the man knew he would never forget the compassion and encouragement he had seen in our Lord Jesus’ face, nor His warm and affirming touch.
He has not just healed and cleansed me, the elated man thought as he walked away in wonder. He has given me back my life!