I mentioned in my last post, how I spent time in China while adopting our son. While there, our group visited a place called the Pearl Market. It was exactly what the name says. It was a market. They sold pearls. As we filed off the bus we were greeted by the sights, sounds and smells of a busy city of several million people. Then I noticed something.
As I looked around I saw this man sitting at the edge of an alley. He was bald with tattered clothes. He had no nose, ears or fingers. Most of his toes were gone. He had ashy white patches all over his body, and a huge open festering wound on his leg. He had leprosy.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say I was revolted by the sight of this man. While I couldn’t stand the sight of him and wanted to get as far away from him as possible—I also couldn’t look away.
In Matthew 8:1-3, we see the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy.
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.
What happened in this story? The man comes to Jesus and falls down at his feet and asks Jesus to cleanse him. He recognizes Jesus has the ability to heal him. I have read this story so many times, and it was always this clean, safe version of leprosy. I had always thought of leprosy as some form of skin irritation or skin disease, but never really grasped the severity of this nerve disorder that literally makes one’s appendages fall off.
After having seen this man, I’m even more dumbfounded that Jesus touched this man. I had absolutely no desire to touch this man. No part of me wanted to make eye contact with him, much less physical contact. I am not proud of my reaction, but Jesus touched the leper.
This man who was created in the image of God, just like you and I—was covered in sores. He was repulsive to look at, but Jesus would have touched him. Jesus would have loved him. The craziest part of all of this is in so many ways, we are that man. Biblical fatherhood understands that we are that man—and God saved us.
When Jesus found us in the midst of our sin, were we any less gross? Were we any less repulsive? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still repulsive, God loved us through the shedding of Jesus’ blood. While we were still revolting and disgusting, God saw us as His own, made in His image, called out and chosen to be adopted as His children.
I am utterly embarrassed by my reaction, but praise God for His redemptive work in my heart—even as I reflect on the situation—I was that man. I was uncleaned, but He healed me. I hope the same can be said of you as you read this. That He has made you clean. That He has washed away the disease—the sin—in your life. I hope you can say you have been made whole by the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Dad, would it be weird if you read Matthew 8:1-3 with your family and talked about it tonight? Awesome, that means you should do it!
Here are a few questions to get you started talking about this story:
1. What do we learn about God?
2. What do we learn about people?
3. What do we learn about relating to God?
4. What do we learn about relating to others?
5. What does God want me to understand?
6. What does God want me to believe?
7. What does God want me to desire?
8. What does God want me to do?
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This is a guest post from Will King. Will is a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary studying leadership. He is the associate pastor of students and men’s ministry at Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown, TX. Married to Lucinda for 13 years, they have four wonderful kids.
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