FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
“…BE MADE CLEAN”
Jesus’ encounter with the leper who asked for healing reveals how completely new his message was in comparison with the Old Testament and rabbinical tradition. A leper was not merely excluded from society as required by the quite understandable hygienic prescriptions of the Pentateuch, but the rabbinic rules explained that the illness was caused by severe transgression of the law and forbade any sort of approach to the victim of leprosy. If a leper approached other people he was to be stoned.
Now, Jesus permits the leper to approach and then does something unthinkable for a Jew: he touches him. Please will you come to Jesus for him to touch you and bring you healing? For Jesus there is nothing like a permanent “status” or “state of life” that cannot change. For Jesus everyone deserves a second chance. But you have to make the first move and come to him. Jesus does not impose his powers and authority over you; he needs your consent. The inspired writer tells us that he asked the leper: ‘Do you wish to be made clean?’ The first step of healing and deliverance comes from Jesus; for he is the one to initiate the process but the second step, which is one’s consent, is equally very important. Please do not remain in your sins and tell yourself that what you have done is beyond pardon; there is no one who is beyond pardon. You deserve a second chance and Jesus is ready to offer it.
The healing of the leper was not just a case of curing a him and letting him go. It was more a case of giving him back his life. He was practically dead, and now he can live again. He can go home and be with his family members again. He can be part of the society of the living all over again.
Both Jesus and the leper took some quite dangerous risks on that occasion. The leper risked serious trouble by going to where Jesus was with healthy people around him. They could have stoned him. But that goes to show how badly he wanted to be cured. He saw his chance, maybe the chance of a lifetime, to be cured and decided to take it. If he lost his life in the process, that would be just fine. Jesus, for his own part, took a dangerous risk by not only receiving the leper, but also by going so far as to touch him. He did not need to do that. He could easily have cured the man at a distance by merely saying so.
What he did was serious breach of the regulations, and he would have earned the wrath of the authorities by it. He probably would have got into serious trouble with them, except that a miracle was the result. Again that shows the extent to which Jesus is prepared to go in order to bring relief to suffering humanity. He would do it again and again, not only by curing more lepers, but also by healing people on the Sabbath Day, again contrary to the regulations.
That was one of the crimes for which the Jewish authorities would wish for his death. Jesus is prepared to risk everything in our time of need. But are we prepared, like the leper, to risk everything, including life itself, in coming to Jesus? There is a saying: “Nothing risked nothing gained”. It is true even in our relationship with Jesus. Please come to Jesus for he is waiting for you; please can you take the bold step of opening a church door and enter? Jesus is waiting for you. Please come!