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"One day in one of the villages there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus he fell down before Him in prayer and said, 'If you want to, you can cleanse me.' Jesus put out His hand, touched him and said, 'I want to. Be clean.' There and then his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone.
"Jesus instructed him, 'Don't talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.'
"But the man couldn't keep it to himself, and the word got out. Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible, Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer." Luke 5:12-16 (The Message).
Luke had many stories of healings and miracles to draw from. Why did he choose this one? Of course I don't know! But there are little hints here and there of Luke's reason. The scholars tell us that Luke's theme was "Jesus, the Son of Man." He adds many touches to his story that illustrate Jesus' humanity; His dependence on the Holy Spirit; the many references to His prayer life; little snippets like His being asleep on the boat; eating fish after His resurrection, for example, things that humans do.
In this story Jesus met a man covered with "leprosy". He could have had any skin disease, but whatever it was, he was disfigured and, worst of all, unclean. That meant that he was not allowed human contact. Isolated! Ostracised! Untouchable! Unwanted! Probably walking on the outskirts of the village wailing his mournful plight, 'Unclean! Unclean!'
Instead of moving away, Jesus walked right up to him. The unnamed man fell at His feet, entreating Him, 'I've heard about you, Jesus. I know you can make this stinking, diseased body of mine clean...if you want to. Now it's all up to you.'
What would Jesus do? What did this man need? Just a word would transform him but he needed more than a word. He needed a human touch. But how could Jesus touch him? He was a rabbi, a holy man who was not supposed to contaminate Himself with diseased or dead bodies. If He touched him, He would become unclean.
There was one thing about Jesus that was different from every other rabbi of His day. His touch worked the other way, made the unclean clean. He made the sick well, the dead live and set the demonised free. Wherever He went, speaking, touching, embracing, He left whole, well and free people in His wake. And it was what He wanted to do. No hesitation.
But, in spite of Jesus' warning, the healed man could not keep his mouth shut. Would you? Of course everyone wanted to know what had happened. And of course he told them. Wouldn't you? And of course that made Jesus even more popular, and everyone wanted Him to touch them too. And He did.
That created a problem for Him. He needed time out. He was human, remember. Why did He need time out? Of course He needed rest; He needed to eat; He needed to "chill" like we all do and oh, by the way, He needed to spend time with His Father and for that He needed solitude.
There was no solitude where there were the ever-present crowds but He knew how to find time and place to be alone -- out in the wide-open spaces in the night hours when everyone else was asleep. Without time alone with the Father He had no engine and no rudder for His ship. It was in these times of intimacy alone with God that He drew strength, received direction and shared the Father's love which energised Him for the gruelling times ahead.
And He said, 'Learn from me.'
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