35: Unclean! Unclean!
All alone beyond the city wall lived a man with a very serious disease—leprosy. His whole body was covered with large sores that grew deeper and deeper into his flesh. He suffered pain constantly.
The leper was not allowed to come into the city. Whenever someone came near him, he had to cry out and warn that person about his horrible illness: "Unclean! Unclean!"
People stayed out of his way. They circled around him and turned their faces away from him. Not even the members of his family dared to come close to him. They brought him food daily, but they put it some distance away from him, as if he were a dangerous animal. People feared and abhorred him.
The leper spent all his time alone. Healing was out of the question for him. The disease would affect him more and more as time went on. The rest of his life would be one long bout of torment and anguish, ending in death. Wouldn't it be better for him to die than to live a leper's life?
Still, the leper dearly loved life.
One day the news of Jesus' miracles penetrated even the world of this lonely leper. His family told him about the great things Jesus had done. People on the road freely discussed Jesus.
Hope was born anew in the poor leper's heart. He had never heard of a leper being healed, and his mind told him it was impossible. But his heart told him that it could be done. And his faith said that Jesus could do it.
He had no rest. He simply had to go to Jesus.
He stumbled along the roadway on his diseased legs. He had nothing to show for himself but his filthy, tattered rags. The bottom part of his face was covered with a piece of cloth. The law required this of lepers whenever they came near normal people. "Unclean! Unclean!" he cried out in his hoarse voice whenever anyone came near.
He was trembling with joy and expectation, for soon this would no longer be necessary. Jesus was going to help him! Or would Jesus turn away from him in disgust, the way other people did?
The leper knew perfectly well that he was not worthy to have Jesus bother with him. But he had to go to Jesus, for only Jesus could help him.
He stumbled on, breathless and excited. He looked around him with his half- blinded eyes. Where was Jesus?
Jesus had come down from the mountain where He had been teaching His disciples and followers. He was in the city. The leper found Him there. In his deep yearning for healing, he had dared to go past the city gate and into the town. That was strictly forbidden in the law. He was terrified that he might be chased out before he could find Jesus. He stumbled down the streets as quickly as his weak legs would carry him—anxious, trembling, crying out hoarsely, "Unclean! Unclean!"
The people of the town were frightened at the sight. They kept out of his way, but they also yelled angrily at him. They told him to go away. How did this horrible, frightful man dare to break the law by entering their town?
The leper managed to find Jesus before the people could drive him out of town. He fell at Jesus' feet and worshiped Him. He lay his aching head down on Jesus' feet.
"Sir," he stammered, "if it is Your will, You can make me clean."
Jesus did not shrink back in horror or become angry at the leper. He had just told His disciples to be merciful, and His own heart was full of mercy when He saw this poor leper.
He bent over the leper and stretched out His hand toward him. The people around Him cried out in dismay when they saw what Jesus was doing. Jesus was touching the man! He laid His hand on the leper's oozing, diseased head and said, "It is My will. Be clean!"
At once the man was healed. A stream of energy surged through his body. He felt no more pain, for he was completely healed. He threw himself down at Jesus' feet in gratitude.
Jesus forbade him to tell anyone how he had been healed. He did not want people to think of Him as a wonder-worker. People already followed Him around too much in hopes of seeing Him perform a miracle.
Jesus sent the man to show the priest that he had been healed. He would then offer a sacrifice for his healing. That's what the laws of Moses demanded.
The man joyfully promised to do just as Jesus had said. But he had not gone far before he forgot what Jesus had told him. His joy was too much for him; his happiness overcame him. He could not keep his news to himself; he had to tell others how he had been healed.
Then even greater numbers of people came running to Jesus. The city was so full that there was hardly room for Jesus. He went out to an open field, where droves of people came to Him to listen and to be healed.
Sometimes He drew back into the stillness of the wilderness. There He could be alone and pray to His Father.