[This is the second installment of the People Jesus Touched series.]
Jesus is seated on a hillside, perhaps overlooking the Sea of Galilee in the distance. Throngs of people have gathered to hear Jesus, whose fame is increasing every day. The people crowded in and around Jesus to hear him and to see him. Perhaps on this day, they’ll be able to see a miracle like has been rumored. Jesus begins to teach. They listen with bated breath to his every word. All eyes are on him.
People from the city, the villages, and the country have gathered to hear this rabbi teach. Young and old. The schooled and the simple. The wealthy and the poor. Clean and the unclean.
Ah, the unclean. The ceremonially unclean, though not necessarily because of sin, they’ve been separated because of their uncleanness. Separated from their community until they no long suffer from their condition. On this day, it’s a man with some sort of skin disease and is unclean because of it. He’s come to hear this rabbi teach, but only from a distance. Close enough to hear. Not so close to cause an issue with the other people.
The people are amazed at his teaching. It’s different from anything (& anyone) that they’ve ever heard before. This rabbi speaks and teaches with authority.
As Jesus leaves this place, the crowd parts, making a path for him. He passes near this skin-diseased man: this man who has been cut off from his people for an unknown number of days or months . . . or years. A man who may not have known the touch and acceptance of his fellow man in quite some time. A man who has not lived in community with others in all that time. All because of this skin disease that has made him ceremonially unclean.
Seeing Jesus so close to him, he falls to his knees, desperately crying out to this man he calls “Lord”, a man of authority. Lord – if you’re willing, you can make me clean.
Then Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched him. I’m willing. Be clean. Don’t tell anyone, but go tell the priest so you can be declared clean to the community. (My paraphrase.)
But this man can’t do it. He can’t keep this news to himself. He’s been cured. Made clean. Restored. Made whole. Accepted.
What made this man so sure that if Jesus was willing, he could make him clean? What excited him so much that he could not help but disobey a direct command from Jesus? — he had to blab about it everywhere he went.
Many people know that the word gospel means good news. But for this guy on this day, gospel meant great news. And great news is not meant to be bottled up. Great news is meant to be shared. To be told. To be celebrated.