July 8, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 5:12-14 (NRSV)
Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.”
Healing was central to the ministry of Jesus. When he healed people, he demonstrated the reality of the kingdom of God. God’s power defeats disease. God’s love creates wholeness. So when God reigns, healing happens. Jesus offered physical healing, yes, but also healing beyond healing . . . relational healing, psychological healing, spiritual healing. Jesus seeks to make us whole in every way.
This devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Healing was central to the ministry of Jesus. When he healed people, he demonstrated the reality of the kingdom of God. God’s power is greater than disease and even death. So when God reigns, healing happens. Broken bodies are restored.
Yet Jesus sought to heal people, not just physically, but in other ways as well. We see this in Luke 5:12-14. When a man with leprosy approached Jesus and asked if he might choose to make him clean, Jesus said, “I do choose. Be made clean” (Luke 5:13). At that moment, the leprosy left the man. He was healed. That’s wonderful, but it’s not the whole story.
There are two crucial details in this story that show Jesus’s full intentions. In order to make sense of them, we need to understand how leprosy affected the life of one afflicted with this disease, in addition to the physical illness itself. People with severe skin diseases were excluded from Jewish society in an ancient version of social distancing. They had to live alone, away from their families and outside of their cities. Moreover, people with leprosy were regarded as ceremonially unclean, which meant they were excluded from religious practices. Healthy people were forbidden by law from touching someone with leprosy. If one who was healthy happened to brush up against someone with a skin disease, the healthy person became ceremonially unclean and would therefore, be excluded from certain communal gatherings until his or her cleanliness was restored.
With this background in mind, we note with keen interest that before Jesus pronounced the man with leprosy clean, he “stretched out his hand” and “touched him” (Luke 5:13). Jesus chose to become ceremonially unclean. Luke does not tell us why, though it’s likely that Jesus wanted to communicate love and acceptance through touch. The man before him had been cut off from human touch for a long time. Jesus literally reached out to him as a way to reach into his hurting soul. Jesus sought to heal the man, not only of his disease, but also of his desolation.
We see this happening in Jesus’s instructions to the man after his healing. He told him to go to the local priest and make an offering. Why? “For a testimony to them,” Jesus said (Luke 5:14). “Them,” in this case, would be the people of the community to which the man with leprosy belonged. According to the Mosaic law, the priest had the authority to declare someone clean, which meant that person could be restored into fellowship with others. He no longer had to live apart from his community. He no longer had to be denied the love of family and friends. He no longer was excluded from working so as to support himself and affirm his dignity
By touching the man with leprosy and sending him to the priest, Jesus healed the man in more ways than one. Yes, he was healed miraculously of his disease. But, through touch and priestly affirmation, the man with leprosy was healed of his loneliness, isolation, and inability to contribute the common good. Jesus offers physical healing, yes, but also healing beyond healing . . . relational healing, psychological healing, spiritual healing. Jesus seeks to make us whole in every way.
How do you respond to the story in Luke 5:12-14?
In what ways, if at all, can you relate to the yearning of the man with leprosy for wholeness?
If you were to come before Jesus today, what would you ask of him? In what ways do you need to be healed?
Find some moments of quiet so you might reflect deeply on Luke 5:12-14. Imagine what it would be like to be the man who is healed of leprosy. Imagine what Jesus looked like and sounded like as he interacted with this man. See if God has more for you through this story.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your healing power. Thank you for your mercy and compassion. Thank you for your love.
Thank you, Lord, for wanting us to be whole, not just in body, but in all ways. Thank you for all the ways you have healed us and are healing us still.
Lord, I ask you to continue your healing work in me. You know where I am broken and need fixing. You know my relationships that need mending. So, like the man in today’s story, I ask you to make me clean. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling Archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: More Than Just Physical Healing