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EHR 5: Incarnational Listening

05-11-2017

Introduction…
Leprosy is a terrible disease.  It eats away at a person’s body and destroys them, piece by piece. Thank God, leprosy today is treatable and almost cured.  In the ancient world, the term leprosy referred to any sort of skin condition, especially involving white symptoms.  So psoriasis, among other skin conditions, would fall under the category of leprosy.
Leprosy, in the Bible, was not only an unsightly condition, but it also had a social and spiritual effect. Under OT Law, a person with a skin condition, labelled leprosy, was cast out of the camp. They were religiously “unclean” which meant they were not allowed to take part in worship, nor were people allowed to come in contact with them or else they, too, would become unclean.  Lepers were forced to live outside towns and cities. They were cut off from their families, living in isolation. Typically, the only people who could live near lepers were other lepers!
By Jesus’ day, lepers were forced to carry bells with them, ringing them and calling out, “Unclean! Unclean!” to give people a chance to get out of their way.  They spent their lives being avoided by everybody to make sure the disease didn’t spread.  Unlike today, as patients, they were cut off from society, left to fend for themselves, but also their physical condition affected their spiritual condition.  Lepers were unclean, unholy, unrighteous people.  They were cut off from people and from God!  I remember reading about at least one Pharisee who would literally throw rocks at lepers to make sure they didn’t come too close! The Pharisee was that concerned about becoming unclean himself!
[pic] So imagine the situation when a leper came running up to Jesus!  Most people would run away from a leper.  Jesus welcomed the leper, who fell at his feet and declared, “If you choose, you can heal me!”  Which is interesting because it was believed only God could heal leprosy! (2 Ki 5:1-14)
The fascinating thing is that Jesus didn’t shrink back from the leper.  He didn’t avoid the leper, being careful lest he, too, become unclean.  He healed the leper, which is amazing. But he also touched the leper! Which was amazingly loving.  Nobody could touch a leper or else they would become unclean too. So nobody had touched this leper for a long, long time.  The leper, in faith, came to Jesus to be healed. Imagine how he felt at Jesus’ touch!  Jesus was fearless in the face of leprosy. He reached out and touched the man, healing him on many levels at the same time.
Jesus addressed the man’s physical need- healing. He addresses the man’s spiritual need because being unclean with leprosy was a spiritual condition. He also addressed the man’s emotional need to be touched with affection.
We are all spiritual and emotional lepers, longing to be touched. We may not have leprosy, we may not be outcasts. But today, especially in our digital world of texting, FB and email, our connection technologically has left a void for physical and emotional connection.

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