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
Leprosy was an awful disease. Not only is it a physically damaging condition, it also had serious social consequences. Leprosy is an infectious disease (though much less infectious than our current disease), and even in the ancient world people had a basic understanding of disease prevention. So what they did was isolate and ostracise lepers. People would call out “unclean, Unclean” whenever they came near. It would have been a hard and lonely life. In a way, lepers were treated as though they were already dead, long before the disease would claim their life.
So when Jesus healed this man with leprosy it’s as if he brought him back from the dead. He immediately sent him to the priest so he could get a certificate of healing, the 1st Century equivalent of taking a NHS Covid Test. This would allow him to reintegrate into the community, to be accepted back into society.
We don’t have Jesus’s power to heal the sick, we can’t make coronavirus go away. The responsible thing for us to do is to follow advice and allow our healthcare professionals to do their best. But there is another serious disease that we do have power to tackle: loneliness. Even before social distancing there were millions of people in our society isolated and on their own, how many more will there be now we can’t see each other outside. Jesus did something radical when he reached out to touch the man with leprosy, perhaps the first person in years to do so. Likewise our call is to reach out to the isolated and offer them the healing power of relationship and community.
Prayer: Healing God, thank you that you reached out to me and have included me in your family. Help me to see those on the margins, those in need of connection and relationship, and to reach out to them.
Action: Who in your contact list would benefit most from a phone call? Why not reach out to them this week?