In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a disease that would cause someone to be completely isolated from society. Matter of fact, when an individual had leprosy, he/she would have to verbally proclaim themselves to be “unclean” when other individuals approached their vicinity. They would often have to leave the city because of their “uncleanness” and stay outside the gates. If a leper touched the head of an animal, the animal was to be killed so as not to carry the disease inside the gates.
Imagine being removed from society. You can’t see your family, much less hold them in your arms. You can’t be in the presence of any other individual. You are removed from everyone, placed in isolation...treated as lower than the animals. You sit in your isolation while your flesh literally rots, begins to stink, and is consumed by this disease to the point of numbness. And the only reason people care where you are and what you are doing, is to make sure that they do not get close to you.
Leprosy had to be the ultimate physical brokenness. The lack of any type of relationship, as you slowly are consumed by this disease. And by the way, the disease won’t give you the closure that you seek. It won’t bring death. It is a disease of destruction...with no ending.
Luke 5, presents one of the greatest images of Jesus in my mind. Let me try to draw it for you. I used to teach PE at a middle school. 140 students in each class. You can imagine the kind of conversations that would evolve in a herd of about 25 cliquish, immature, 13-year olds. When we were outside, these “drama club” meetings, as we would call them, would venture as far away from the adults as they could. You could always tell when something was up by walking toward the meeting. At first they would begin walking a different direction. But as I drew even closer, ah...an uninvited guest! The group would slowly start to disband. The closer I get, the more of these super-interested members become not so interested. By the time I draw into the middle of the meeting, the meeting ceases to exist.
That’s the story in Luke 5. A man “full of leprosy” is coming near to Jesus. Imagine all the scattering. People are checking out like an elementary school on a bad weather day. But Jesus, the great healer of brokenness, walks toward the man. In fact, reaches out His hand and puts it on the man. What? He touches the leper? Has He lost His mind? As has become routine with Jesus...what a stark contrast to the mind of the world!
It’s amazing how Jesus is willing to love and to draw into relationship with brokenness. That super challenges me. He was willing to love even the circumstances that nobody in their right mind would love. I’ve heard it said, “The test of a man’s spirituality is how well he loves.” I would agree with that and add to it...how well he loves what is not natural to love. That which is broken. That which is different. That which he can’t understand and relate to. Yeah...that was how Jesus loved. That is why He is the great healer. He has the solution to all brokenness through sacrificial love and relationship.
When I am willing to walk toward the disease...When I am able to see outside myself and willing to sacrifice from the places that I am unbroken, for the brokenness around me...When I am willing to touch the brokenness that others run from...that’s when God can use me to be a part of someone’s healing too. That is when cycles of brokenness can be stopped. I pray for a heart to walk towards brokenness...so brokenness can be healed. After all...isn’t that what we all want people to do for our brokenness? Isn’t that what Jesus would do?