Jesus Reaches for Us

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “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.” Matthew 8:1-4

In Jesus’s day, leprosy was one of the worst diseases you can have. As a skin disease, it was incredibly painful and destructive, leaving a person disfigured. And because it was both spreadable and seen by many as a curse from God, those who were infected were cast out of society, forced to live away from their family and friends and to identify themselves as “unclean” to anyone they encountered.

Put yourself in the shoes of the man with leprosy in Matthew 8. Imagine being forced to leave your home, everyone you love looking at you with pain or disgust in their eyes, casting you out. Imagine the fear of feeling “cursed by God”, even if you know you haven’t committed a crazy sin. Imagine having no home, no friends, no one to talk to or help you or comfort you as your body is literally deteriorating before you. For years. That would be pretty terrible, wouldn’t it?

Now imagine hearing about Jesus. There is some man from Nazareth who is traveling around healing people. Those who were blind have regained their sight. The lame walk. Others with leprosy have been healed. Would you let the idea pass with an “Oh, that’s nice” or would you try and move heaven and earth to even get near this miracle man.

That’s where we find the man with leprosy in Matthew 8. Jesus has just given his greatest servant ever and is being followed by hundreds of thousands of people. The man with leprosy breaks every society protocol (remember, he was supposed to stay away from others) and comes to fall at Jesus’s feet. I imagine him nervous, shaking, crying out, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” The pain of years of isolation and sickness weigh in his eyes. He holds his breath waiting for a response.

And this is where my own eyes start to well as I imagine the moment he felt Jesus’s hand on him. Jesus, God incarnate, reaches out and touches a man riddled with a disease that would make every other person in that area run away. Before Jesus heals the man, He reaches for him. Jesus says “I am willing. Be clean!” and Matthew says that immediately the man was healed.

What a beautiful picture of the good news of Jesus. While we don’t have leprosy, we all have a sickness of the heart. We struggle with sin and fear and shame. It’s easy to think it always has to be this way, but the truth is that we have a Messiah who is willing to reach for us and heal us. We just have to be willing to come and ask! Jesus is not afraid of our mess, and indeed is quick to reach out rather than turn away.

Whatever we are struggling with, we have the opportunity to remember that Jesus loves us, is willing to meet us, and wants to bring healing and freedom to our lives today.

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