Leprosy is a wicked illness. Fortunately enough we are making the right steps to eradicate it worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that the global registered prevalence of leprosy at the beginning of 2007 stood at 224,717 cases (http://www.who.int/lep/en). That is still many people, bu the cases are decreasing every year and if we compare it to the 6.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth, we get a better perspective on the size of the problem. However. at one point leprosy was a lot more of a threat. Every community had a “leprosy slum” – a part of town where people with leprosy were confined, people in good health avoided any contact with these people and did not even get close to these neighborhoods.
Leprosy had an even more awful stigma in the Jewish community, two thousand years ago. It was common belief that physical illness was God’s punishment for a person’s sin. The ulcers that leprosy people carried, not only were a sign of physical struggle with an incurable illness, they were the marks of a sinful past.
Biblical theology does not allow for that understanding. Punishment for wrong doings will happen at the end of time. However, our world is corrupted by sin, which causes illnesses and bad things to happen in our lives. Jesus knew that, but he uses the common belief to teach an important lesson.
A very powerful message comes from the episode in Luke 5:12-14, “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.When he 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.”
A miracle is an exceptional episode. When Jesus performed a miracle he opened a parenthesis in the normal course of things to show the Kingdom of God.
When the man with leprosy approached Jesus he was asking for physical healing from a horrible disease, but not just that. The man with leprosy also wanted atonement for the sin that in his understanding, was causing that horrible disease. He asked to be clean!
The purpose of the miracle in this episode is to show the power Jesus has to make us clean. Jesus was showing in a very concrete way how He is the one who can eliminate sin from our life. By healing the man with leprosy Jesus preached the good news: freedom from sin.
Our life may be affected by spiritual leprosy. It is relevant to me to know that when we ask Jesus to touch our lives, He can make us clean. My prayer is that we may recognize that Jesus has the power to bleach away our stains and restore our soul. That is the Good News!
Like the man with leprosy, we can be witnesses of the miracle Jesus performs in our life every time we are cleansed.