Try to imagine how the man must have felt as he approached Jesus that day. He had leprosy. It is an ugly, disfiguring disease that caused its victims to be permanently alienated from society. In first century Palestine, lepers were banned from normal social contacts and forced to live in a separate community that was far removed from their families and normal everyday life.
This disease-riddled outcast had come to Jesus from somewhere outside the village and asked the seemingly impossible: MAKE ME CLEAN. No doubt he had heard about the other healing miracles that had occurred every place that the Prophet from Galilee had traveled. He’d heard of blind eyes that now could see, deaf ears that were now able to hear, mute lips that sang God’s praise. Perhaps he had even heard how the once-paralyzed were now able to move about with a freedom that he longed to know once again.
I’m sure the man would have even settled for an encouraging word from the lips of the Master. He would have been satisfied to have Jesus treat him with some respect—to speak to him rather than spit at him, look at him with pity rather than contempt, or show understanding rather than condemnation or self-righteous judgement like he usually got from the Pharisees. Yet, because he had heard of the miraculous things that occurred whenever Jesus of Nazareth was around, the man was willing to “shoot for the start”. So, he made his simple, straightforward request—MAKE ME CLEAN.
Jesus TOUCHED Him
The man expected that the Nazarene would simply speak a word of healing as He had countless times before. He was prepared to hear the gentle voice say “Go, and sin no more.” Indeed, Jesus did speak a word of healing to the man—“Be clean.” But according to the eyewitness account of Matthew, Jesus did much more than speak. He reached out his hand and TOUCHED the man.
The man must have recoiled in shock and horror, maybe even fear. No one touched a leper. His family had disowned him because of the large oozing sores that covered his body. His former friends avoided him. He’d been forced to live with other lepers in a ghetto-like compound outside the protection of the village wall. Because everyone believed the gaping wounds on his body were highly contagious, the man and all his leprous friends were forced to cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” any time they dared to venture outside their concentration camp-like compound.
Now, the kind and gentle Prophet from Galilee had touched him. The Miracle Worker had contaminated Himself and would soon contract the dreaded disease. As the leper shrank from Jesus’ touch, he was suddenly aware that something was different. His arm and hand that had been covered with raw, angry-looking wounds was as blemish-free as that of a young girl on her wedding day. Throwing his hand to his face in surprise, he discovered that his cheeks were as smooth as those of a newborn baby!
Can’t you imagine how he must have started to dance a little jig right there in the field as he began to laugh and weep and shout for joy? And then, in the midst of his celebration, he heard the Master say, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” The Revised Standard version says “offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”
Don’t tell anyone. Can you imagine how that poor man must have felt? He had been healed of a disease that robbed its victims of self-respect, family, friends, social position and even common courtesy! Leprosy was a painful, disfiguring disease that caused finger and toes to drop off. Even facial features like noses and eye lids could be eaten away by the progressive and ravaging sores. He’d been saved from a fate worse than death, and the One who had worked this miracle interrupted his merriment with “Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone.”
Did you ever try to keep quiet about some especially good news? Most of us are not very good actors. If we try to keep hidden some especially exciting event, a certain “twinkle” lights in our eyes. The corners of our mouth tend to twitch a bit as we try to avoid stumbling into a grin, laugh or shout of “Praise God!” The smile may spread from ear-to-ear causing someone to ask why we look like the cat that just swallowed the canary. Then, we usually try to regain our composure and dourly ask, “Who me? What are you talking about?”
Good News is Hard to Hide
Good news tends to be exciting, energizing, even life-changing. A student who stays up all night to cram for a big test may barely be able to drag himself to class the next day. Yet, if that same student hears that the test is cancelled because the professor is ill…suddenly he is full of energy and ready to paint the town until the wee hours of the morning!
What a change comes over a family that nervously in the waiting room when the doctor finally comes out to announce the crisis is past. There’s laughter and excited talking, maybe tears of joy and hugs of gratitude. Cell phones are whipped out, and calls are quickly made. Slumped shoulder straighten. Wrinkled brows unfurl. New life and vitality energize the formerly exhausted.
Suppose you just got a big raise. Maybe you got all A’s on your report card for the first time. What if you sell your home or car for twice what you were asking or won the BIG lottery jackpot? If these things happened, could you have a ho-hum-business-as-usual demeanor? Probably NOT.
Yet, we often mange to keep the good news of the Christmas story to ourselves. We forget that the Greek word euangglion which is translated as “evengel” or “gospel” quite literally means “good news”.
All too often, we allow the good news of the Christmas message to get buried under an avalanche of Christmas cards and tinsel and blinking lights. We Christians ought to know better and yet, we allow ourselves to be sidetracked by jingling bells, whirring cash registers and an overabundance of Christmas “hype”. We allow the beauty of the trees and the music, the gaily-wrapped packages and the eager faces of the youngsters waiting to see Santa to overshadow the truly wondrous news of the season.
Emmanuel is here!
The news that in Jesus of Nazareth, God became Man. In the birth of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem, God took on human form. The Almighty came to earth and willingly subjected Himself to our all-too-human limitations. Jesus was Emmanuel—God with us.
Have you heard the euanggelion of Christmas? The good news is that Jesus is born for everyone—male and female, rich and poor, old and young, yellow, brown, white, red, black and all the skin tones in between! He is born for the have’s and the have-not’s. Jesus is born for the believer and the skeptic alike. He came for the faithful and the semi-faithful, for the certain and for the unsure. The euangellion of Christmas is that God’s Son was born in a stable for families and singes, for children and adults, for those who would accept Him and those who would resist and even reject Him.
Peace is a Possibility!
Have you heard the “evangel” of Christmas? Jesus is born to bring peace! Peace seems, at times, to be the furthest thing from our minds as nation struggles against nation, and people rise up against people. Yet, the good news of the Christmas gospel is that Jesus came to bring peace—the peace that comes from knowing forgiveness and the freedom that comes from a confession and forgiveness of sin and guilt. It is this internal peace that results from knowing we are acceptable in God’s sight (blemishes and all) that allows us to reach out and accept others and share with the good news that they, too, can have the peace that passes understanding. It is only when individuals have experienced this very personal peace that true peace can finally come to our world.
Healing for everyone!
Have you heard the “gospel” of Christmas? Jesus is born to heal us in all areas of our lives. He knows what it is to suffer temptation, misunderstanding, alienation, pain, betrayal, even death. He’s been through it ALL. Jesus knows what it is to be human and alone, scared and wanting to give up. He’s been there! And He’s still there with you in your pain, anger, hurt, misunderstanding, your infirmary, your need.
Jesus is born—for everyone! This is an incredible statement, but the Word of God is full of these incredible statements, especially the gospel of Luke. Statements like…
- To you born this day in the city of Dave, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
- Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. Luke 4:21
- Your faith has saved you. Go in peace. Luke 5:20
- This is my body which is given for you…this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:19b-20
- Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34
- He is not here, but has RISEN. Luke 24:5
Have you heard the “good news” of the gospel? Have you, like the leper, felt His touch, seen His miracles and experienced His love? More importantly, have you told?