This is part one of a 3 day post…in order to understand why the leper returned to Jesus praising God, you must understand his plight before Jesus healed him.
I had heard of him. News spreads fast…good news and bad news. It was all good news. His name. Jesus. The news. He was healing people. All kinds of people. When something good happens around here, it’s news. And when something bad happens it’s news. I know about that, too.
It’s hard to describe. How I got where I am. It’s one of those things you never expect, and hope all your life will never happen to you. I was an ordinary guy. Like you. Had a wife. Kids. I loved them. They loved me, too. It was an ordinary day. You see I’m a carpenter. Nothing fancy. Just simple stuff. I went into my carpentry shop, a modest shop, nothing to brag about, and went to work. Just like every other day. I like what I do. Love working with my hands. Starting with a bare piece of wood and turning it into something useful. And so, on this day, wow, how I remember this day, I was working on bedpost. Had almost finished it. I happened to look down. Something caught my eye. It was a spot, uh, barely swollen. Now you might think little of such a thing. See a spot on your skin. It’s inflamed. Swollen. In my day, you wouldn’t. I looked closer. I dropped the tools I was working with. Before I could think I was gripped by fear.
I sat there for a moment. Spellbound. Speechless. Alone. Afraid. Surely not. Oh I hope not. God, don’t let it be. I knew what I had to do. What would my wife say? The bedpost would have to wait. I dropped everything. Like you do when the phone rings and the doctor says it’s cancer. Like you do when your teenager says she needs to talk, and she’s pregnant. I dropped everything. I ran home. I never run. Today I ran. To my wife. I love her. I love my children.
She was going about her morning routine like always. She didn’t expect to see me. When our eyes met she saw the fear in mine. And my eyes brought fear to her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
I held out my arm. “Look. Tell me this isn’t what I think it is. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me.” She stepped back. I held out my arm. She looked. Tears filled her eyes. She shook her head. Yes, I think it is. Leprosy? I didn’t want to say the word. It seemed like saying the word made it worse. Maybe if I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t be so. Maybe if I didn’t say it out loud, it would go away.
We’re Israelites. And so I said goodbye to my wife. I knew I wouldn’t see her again, for at least seven days. I made my way to the synagogue. I’d been to the synagogue many times. Great times of worship. This time I went with my head down, walked slowly. I never dreamed of going to the synagogue like this. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. What would the priest say? What would he do?
Though I didn’t want to go, I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew the law. The priest would look at me. He’d look at the sore. The one tiny sore. If it only appeared to be skin deep, then there was hope. He’d isolate me for seven days. Seven days is much better than a lifetime. I arrived at the synagogue, waited for the priest. I sat there, much like you’d sit in a doctor’s office waiting for him to give you the report. I sat there. Did anybody else notice? I tried to cover my hand.
If at the end of seven days the sore hasn’t spread, then the priest will give me another chance. Another seven days away from everyone and everything. Then he’ll look at it again. If it’s started to fade, then the priest will declare me “clean.” I’ll wash my clothes, thank my God, and go home to my wife and kids. I don’t fault the priest for this. I understand. I wouldn’t want my wife to get this, my kids to get infected. It’s right for me to be isolated. It’s good. I know that. But it’s hard. At the very least I won’t see my wife and kids for a week or two—at the most—a lifetime. I’ll take a week any day.