Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He Touched A Leper

As you probably know for yourself, real stories from life are often better than anything fictional. So, this posting will not approach the creative factor, but will, instead, look at a real event. 

Mark's gospel records Jesus touching a leper. Why did he touch the leper? Why did Mark think that was important? What is significant about touching a leper? Is there a spiritual lesson to be learned here, or is this an exaggerated detail?

To see the significance we must:
  • understand what biblical leprosy is.
  • see the social implications of being a leper.
  • examine the effect of Jesus' actions.
  • note any appropriate spiritual application.
What is biblical leprosy? It is important to note from the start the ancient Hebrew word, in Leviticus 12 and 13, does not refer to the same medical condition that the modern English word does. Easton's Bible Dictionary and four internet web sites agree there is a major difference. Note these facts about this biblical disease.
  • Leprosy was a "Terrible skin disease", not like modern leprosy which is primarily a nerve disease.
  • The Hebrew word was not intended for medical precision.
  • Leprosy is characterized by
    • scaliness
    • bleaching the hair white
    • possible rotting flesh.
  • It is a non-contagious disease.
What were the social or religious implications for a leper? Again, consider these facts.
  • Leprosy was considered a punishment by God. Three times in the Old Testament God used this condition as strong punishment.
  • They were required to live outside the camp or city walls. They could not get to the tabernacle or temple to worship.
  • Clothes were tattered or torn as a symbol of remorse, whether deserved or not.
  • They could not have anything on their heads to cover the white spots and bleached hair caused by the disease.
  • They were required to cover their beard with their mantle.
  • When a healthy person approached them, the leper was required by law to warn them by shouting, "Unclean! Unclean!"
  • They were not allowed to have a conversation with anyone.
  • They could not address another person, mostly because their greetings included a hug.
  • Lepers were social rejects.
What are the implications of Jesus touching this leper?
  1. It would be well to note this leper was not acting in a 'socially/politically correct' manner. He spoke first to Jesus and gained his attention -- a social 'No-No'. Second, he did not shout "Unclean", but pleaded for Jesus' to make him whole. "You can if you want to," he said.
  2. Jesus may not have considered his skin disease a punishment from God.
  3. Jesus could have been showing that God is approachable outside of a worship setting.
  4. Instead of being cut off from society, Jesus was showing acceptance of his person.
  5. Jesus was more interested in communicating his care for this person than in keeping religious or social 'customs'. He was showing his compassion instead of religious condemnation.
What are the appropriate spiritual lessons?
  1. There are situations that demand us being counter-cultural. Sometimes it is OK to be socially or politically incorrect. When we are despised or out-casts for Jesus sake, it is good.
  2. Some things in life are not a 'punishments' from God' but the consequences of sin or evil desires. Don't blame God for the results of your choices.
  3. I am so glad I don't have to be in church to approach God. Didn't he tell some Hebrew Christians they could approach God's throne "in times of need"?
  4.  I should accept people as they are, sin and all. This doesn't mean I condone their sin, but it does say 'I care.' Then help them fix their problem like Jesus fixed this man's disease and social condemnation.
  5. Some things in Christianity are customs or traditions, and some are unchangeable doctrines. If a custom or tradition needs to be broken to reach out to others, what are we waiting on? Jesus did!

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