Luke 5: 12-16
by John Esposito
(Bethel, CT, USA)
The End of the Rope
Now from the Gospel of Luke, beginning at the fifth chapter and reading verses 12-16. The story of a man with leprosy.
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When this man saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, " 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!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that the crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
And that's how it ends; a five sentence story about a man who you can say was on a mission from God, actually if you ask me, he was on a mission to God. A wonderful story about a miraculous healing. A healing made possible by the touch of a hand. But it was only five sentences, that’s not enough for me. I needed more; I wanted to find out more about the story. I needed to know the whole story and all the facts, but there's no longer anyone available to talk to. So here’s how I see the story being told.
Seeing the amount of sun rays left on my floor, I realized the end of the day is upon me. I start preparing my shop and getting it ready for tomorrow, when I see a crowd gathering outside. As I step out to take, a look a man collapses in front of me. He looks exhausted and near death. His clothes were tattered and with the days being long and hot, he had a fowl odor about him. Perhaps he’s a beggar, I don’t know and I don’t know of him. My father had taught my brothers and me to always be thankful for what we have and to never look down on others or even worse, take advantage of them or their misfortunes.
As I bent over to help him up, I feel a hand on my on my shoulder. With this hand, came a voice, both of which seemed calming and healing. This voice I heard said, “Friend it is alright, I am here to help.” I then stand up and turned to see who was speaking these words. And there He was, standing in right in front of me, standing there with His hand on my shoulder. It was Him, the only One it could ever be. It was Jesus…Jesus of Nazareth as some called Him. He began telling me that with all my good intentions, that I have just pleased my Father in heaven, and that like this man on his knees, neither of us will be forgotten.
This man, a very desperate man with leprosy approaches Jesus. A man who was quarantined from his family if he had one. A man who was also asked to leave the colony where he had lived. This man who was isolated from the rest of the town. Someone who had nothing else to live for, but was willing to take one more chance. A man who was at the end of his rope. A man who could no longer hang on to that rope, and let go. The same person who most people ran from and chose to ignore. Someone who became an obstacle in the path of Jesus. An obstacle by letting go of his rope, and landing at the feet of Christ. Sobbing and begging perhaps for the very last time. And with what ever dignity and strength he had left, extends his bloody rope burned hands out to Jesus and asked to be cleansed and to be healed.
I imagine that day everyone backed away from this man. Some probably turned their heads and others covered their eyes. I bet some even gasped in disgust because they didn't understand his pain and suffering. And they were all frightened. I bet some even ridiculed him out loud, but I’m sure though most did it in silence. I could hear all of this going on, but could no longer understand what they were saying. Everything was a blur, except for Jesus. When He placed His hand on my shoulder I felt this sense of calmness and peace. I also felt this energy, a surge of power; it felt like I had been just knighted by a King.
This was all taking place, all at the same time by everyone there, everyone except for Jesus. He didn't step back when this helpless man approached him. He didn't turn away in disgust and he wasn't frightened. Jesus didn't stop and ask the man to come closer. No, he took the first step and went to him. The thought of stepping back never even entered Jesus' mind. And the instinct to say no could never come from his mouth. He reached out to this man, this man with leprosy and touched him without any hesitation and said "I am willing, be clean." What Jesus did that day is what we all should do and that’s to step forward. To say yes to people in need and to extend our hands and touch someone. There’s an old saying that to the world you are but one person, but to one person you could be the world.
I had all these questions going through my mind. And the sequence of events happened so quickly I didn’t have time to have any of them answered. Questions like where did this man come from? Is he married and does he have a family? How long has he been sick and roaming the country side? If he does have a family, will he be able to get home to kiss his wife and hold his children again. I can see how weary he was and I know his feet must be sore and blistered from the constant walking in those shoes. But I also know that he will now be able to dance a thousand dances in those same shoes.
I wonder how many people that day even after they witnessed this miracle still didn't believe or understand what they had just seen. They heard Jesus was near and they came to see Him. And that was a gift in its self, and not only did they get to witness Jesus, but they got to witness Him perform a miracle. Even though I know not all of them understood, I pray that they did. And being blinded by the times in which you live can sometimes be very dangerous. So I also prayed that a buffer hadn’t been placed between their souls and the threshold to heaven, which was standing right in front of them.
I wonder how many hesitated and even stepped back when Jesus approached them. Thinking he now had leprosy and they were still unsure and still scared. How many of them backed away and didn't let Jesus touch them or their children because they were afraid this disease would now consume their family? I pray that none of this is true and that everyone who witnessed this witnessed to others that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
All this from two men who are now living testimonies to the gospel. None of us have the healing powers of Jesus, but we can all still heal someone. A gentle word or touch can do wonders. A simple act of kindness is our first step forward into someone else's life. It doesn't matter if you are or have been a hand held tool of the Lord. What matters is that we all work together to do God's work no matter what our task. That when we all come together, that this is when God's work is done on earth as it is in heaven. When we work together it teaches us how to become the hands and feet of the Lord.
That night I found it very difficult to sleep. A million thoughts were racing through my mind. It was so hard to breathe and with all that excitement still gushing through my veins, my heart was pounding so hard I was actually able to see it beating in my chest. Still wide awake I went outside and lay in my field. I remember staring at the moon all night and watched as all the stars began to twinkle. It was like watching all the angels in heaven dancing with joy as they were celebrating Jesus carving another notch in His truth stick.
The next morning I had the pleasure of welcoming back the sun to begin my day. Later that morning after I opened my shop, people were coming in all day to see me, and to touch me. They were telling each other that I was special and one of the chosen ones. I answered them by saying that we were all chosen. That when the times comes, God will want us all home with Him. I wasn’t any different than they were. I was just some guy who was just trying to do the right thing. I told them that life isn’t about you, it's about others and when we come to understand this, life then becomes about you. And by understanding this, together we can all become doers of the word.