Most, if not all of us, have thought at one time or another that we were too far gone, or too far away, or impossibly trapped. There is beauty hidden in that dark place. We find ourselves writhing in guilt, self-pity, gorging ourselves on the buffet of sin that never ends. Why do we hunger and eat and never feel full? Why do we thirst and drink until we are sick but are never quenched of thirst? “What I’m doing isn’t working”, we whisper to ourselves as we greedily snatch up another bite: The madness of feeling too far from hope. Sinking deeper and deeper, we lose the will to try, but we still wake up the next day. Life as survival; not as gift.
“It shall even be when a hungry man dreams, and look – he eats;
But he awakes, and his soul is still empty;
Or as when a thirsty man dreams, and look – he drinks;
But he awakes, and his soul still craves…” Isaiah 29:8
No matter how dark or filthy our place, there is One who can reach down to us, no matter where. That is a promise, and the One who made that promise cannot lie. God promises that He hears our cries for help, regardless of our state. But Jesus showed us the reality of that promise in person:
“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him,
kneeling down to Him, and
saying to Him,
‘If you are willing, You can make me clean”
moved with compassion, stretched out His hand
and touched him
and said to him,
‘I am willing; be cleansed.’
As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.” Mark 1:40-42 (emphasis added)
Just reading the above truth should touch us, but how does that leper apply to you and me? Jesus didn’t go around doing miracles for people individually only; He did those miracles for all people. He performed those miracles in a particular way to show us even more truth; not just for a testament to His power. That in itself is amazing. But what is even more amazing is how He sees into our hearts yesterday, today and tomorrow. You know, Jesus could have healed this guy anyway He wanted: He could have commanded the leprosy to leave, He could have waved His hand and swept it away altogether. But He didn’t do that; He “touched” the leper. Why is that significant? Because He touched someone who was considered “untouchable”. When no one else would be caught anywhere near the diseased man, in fear of being infected themselves, He was willing to not only heal that man but also to heal him by reaching out and touching what was unclean. Leprosy was considered the ultimate in unclean: people thought you were cursed to have this flesh-eating disease, cursed by sin or your family’s sin passed down to you. But the truth we are after is not the nature necessarily of the disease, but the nature of the diseased. Above all else, lepers were a cast-off from society and were not allowed to approach uninfected people. They were avoided at all cost by others and forced to live with others afflicted by the same disease.
You see, the leper represents the desperately sick soul that is steeped in sin. A soul who is locked into addiction; a person seemingly without hope. Shamefully forced to live with itself, decaying away day-by-day until death: Stuck in a body unable to fight off the disease. Living to survive; not as gift but as curse. Who can help him or who even dares to try? The leper can only cry out to others from a distance with hardly a response returning. But the God of heaven and earth, Who is above all and pure as light, surely can’t even gaze at such filth: if man can’t get close to a leper, surely even One holier than man should not! But here is the truth my precious friend, Jesus our King says: “I am willing”. He is not only willing, but has such compassion that He does for you what no one else has done for you as long as you have been sick…He reaches out to you and “touches” you. He may do it in person, or He may send one of His disciples. When we are living in isolation (I speak to prisoners or anyone ever incarcerated) away from things that we used to take for granted, we long for the simplest of things remembered. The smell of grass, the feel of a spring breeze on our face, the sight of sunset at the beach, the taste of a favorite food, the sound of our children laughing, and most of all the embrace of someone loved. Imagine how long it had been for this leper since he had felt the touch of someone else. It seems so simple, but if we had forgotten what is was like to be touched, it would be precious beyond words. So Jesus did for this man what no one else could or would. And He did it in a manner that made it ever so sweet! Praise be to God for His tender mercies; praise be to the Son of Man for His compassion; and praise be to the Power for His unconditional love!
What then must we do from this dark place to encounter the Christ? Follow the instructions: implore Him (beg Him), kneel down to Him, and tell Him “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Notice you don’t ask to be healed; you ask to be heard. When you know to Whom you speak, you state in belief that He is able. “You can make me clean” not, ”please make me clean”. Is that a strange distinction? I don’t think so. Haven’t we cried out enough? Our souls groan inside of us in a language only the heart and the Spirit knows. How can someone, in their state of perpetual misery, not be crying out inside? That is the voice that is heard by God. He already has compassion for you; you just haven’t acknowledged it yet. You have been begging (imploring)! Now all you have to do is get down on your knees and tell Him that He is God, that He can help you if He is willing, and that you know that He is willing by His own testament. The key ingredient: you have to know it is He and He alone that can help, and that you acknowledge Him as who He really is. If your heart recognizes Him, there is no doubt. If your spirit moves like a magnet to steel, there is no doubt. But if there is doubt, there is no healing because you are still begging to be heard. Once you know your cries have been heard by Him, doubt disappears like night being invaded by the light of sunrise.
“He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
And shall not despise their prayer.
This will be written for the generation to come,
That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.
For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary;
From heaven the Lord viewed the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoner,
To release those appointed for death…” Psalm 102:17-20
He hears your spirit groaning; now you can tell Him, “I hear You too”. Your own condition is your testimony; He knows you are a leper. Do you know that He knows? Tell Him you hear His call, and will respond to that call by simply knowing it is He. He will reach out and touch you, right where you are; He doesn’t care about your condition or how unworthy you think you are. His love is un-”conditional”. This is Truth; can you hear it? If you can, then He will.
Prayer: “Oh precious Father in heaven, how great are Your mercies toward us! Who are we that you care so much for us? Only You care for our life that we ourselves had lost. You have heard our crying out and reached out to us in Your perfect love. Oh Savior, our King, praise be the Name above all names that walked with us, talked with us, and put His holy arms around us! You and You alone have made it possible for us to receive life and life more abundantly. The payment You made for us is beyond our understanding, but we receive it with arms wide open. We embrace You and cry out for joy at your compassion. Praise be to the Holy Spirit, praise to the Power that heals us! From the hand of the Almighty God, He has given us freedom from bondage. I offer myself to You as a leper, full of death; but You embrace me as a child of Light! Your mysteries are far above me and I am humbled by Your favor. I know you are willing; perfect my willingness to receive your act of love as a wonder from the heights of heaven itself. Praise God for His goodness, and let me shout for joy as a prisoner to death no more. For Your name’s sake, I will confess Your salvation and remember to thank You the rest of my days. In the name of the Christ and for His sake I pray, Amen. And Amen.”
Peace be with you,