I am reading through the gospels as my morning devotion time. This morning I was in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically chapter 8, when I was struck by verse 2, …and there was a leper who came to him [Jesus] and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the lectionary scripture for today talked about the lepers too, Luke 17:11-19. Instead of one leper, Luke shared the story of ten lepers who called out to Jesus. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! (Verse 13). One leper or ten, every one struck me with something rather unusual, courage.
Imagine for a moment these lepers in their world. They were ignored, laughed at, ridiculed, left for dead, and despised. They were the outcast of that society, who were ostracized and rejected, because they had leprosy. I can imagine their friends and families probably treated them the same way too. They were embarrassed to be around them, ashamed to be seen with them or call them one of their own. They were hurt.
How many people who are left feeling ashamed and rejected, have enough courage to go before the One that can heal them? How many people are willing to go in front of the very people who rejected them and ask their leader to have mercy on them? These lepers did. The leper in Matthew and the lepers in Luke came to Jesus, called out to Him and asked for mercy and to be made well. They knelt down before the Lord and asked to be healed, sacrificing their lives and humiliated hearts for the chance to be cleaned.
It’s incredibly humbling to see these lepers, who were made to feel unworthy of any love, compassion, honor and time, from the world…I don’t even know what to say, as tears come to my eyes. It’s incredibly humbling and admirable to imagine how these lepers found the faith and the courage from deep within their souls to call out to Jesus and ask for help. Jesus answered with an overwhelming yes, and one filled with love, compassion and mercy.
How far have we come since then? From those struggling with mental illness, being accepted for being different, look different, act different, believe differently, love differently, and are different? Don’t forget those who are not loved, are neglected by family, forgotten by society, or struggling to find acceptance even when it’s unfounded. How far have we come today?
Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, Zach Harrington, Carl Joseph Walker – Hoove, Jackson Ramsey, Ashley McIntyre, every single one had courage and strength, they just couldn’t live to see their physical healing come to pass.
Incidentally, yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s brutal death in Wyoming.
There are people out there today, struggling, fighting and hoping for healing. They are wondering how much more they can take before their voice is gone. How far have we come today? May the leper in all of us, find the strength and courage to speak up for those who can’t.
“Lord, if you chose, you can make me clean.”