It was a face everybody turned from in horror: deformed appearance, and very little expression in the dull, unblinking, sand-crusted eyes. The man had nothing to live for. This was the face of a man with leprosy.
From the day he was forced to leave his wife and children because of his illness, people ran away when he warned them by shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” This was the rule God had given to Moses, and everyone followed it. He didn’t wonder about the rule. The truth was, he didn’t want anyone else to get this terrible disease.
Through the years this man had caught glimpses of his family from a distance, but he couldn’t hug them. He had almost forgotten how wonderful a warm and loving hug could feel—almost, but not quite.
From time to time he heard rumors of someone called “Jesus” who was supposedly going from town to town healing people. It seemed too good to be true, and too outrageous to be believed, as most rumors were. And yet, in his desperate situation, the leper chose to believe. What could it hurt to believe in a good rumor?
Finally, one day, the leper’s chance came. He pulled his rags over his face and crept behind a large rock, watching from a distance as Jesus and His close friends moved slowly down the dusty trail into town. Soon they were close enough to the leper that he knew he had to make his move or lose his chance forever. He jumped up and hurried toward Jesus, waving his hands in the air and shouting to get the attention of the miracle worker.
He skidded to a stop and knelt down right in front of Him. He didn’t dare look into Jesus’ eyes. He just said very humbly with his face to the ground, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40).
As the man knelt there with his face to the scorching sand, he sensed the heat rising to his head. But his face, which could not feel anything, felt no pain. Suddenly, however, the man did feel something, something he had wanted to feel for so long. Somebody touched him! He was aware of a warm hand on his back.
The man began to remember how good the hugs of his family and friends had felt so long ago. He held his breath. Surely Jesus was more powerful than the disease, for Jesus was not afraid to touch him. Did this mean Jesus would heal him? The leper’s heart raced with hope.
Jesus said gently, “I am willing. Be clean!” (verse 41).
All of a sudden the man started to feel that the sand was hot on his face.
He held out his hands and saw that the white, nerveless areas were gone. He touched his hands to his face and felt his nose with his fingertips for the first time in years.
Then Jesus gave the man a stern but gentle warning. Perhaps Jesus put His arm around the man’s shoulders as He spoke. He asked the man to show himself to the priests so they may see that the sores were gone, and to offer a sacrifice for purification. Jesus also charged him not to tell anyone what had happened.
The man may have nodded. But this was too good to keep secret. He must have jumped and danced in and out of the shops on his way to the Temple, touching the things he hadn’t touched for so long—cool brass pots and rough woven baskets; soft, flowing silks and the warm necks of donkeys. “Jesus did this,” he must have explained. “Jesus made me well again.”
Finally the man walked into the doorway of his home. Can you imagine how his family must have gasped? And then, at last, I am sure his wife and children put their arms around him for the first time in many years. Together again.
Home at last.