Embarrassing bodies and more
I’ve been in plenty of healing meetings where there’s been a call for anyone with back problems to come forward for healing. Knees, shoulders, elbows get their fair amount of coverage too. I’ve never heard a speaker announce, “I feel there’s an anointing for healing from impotence.” Or Aids or constipation. Yet don’t those people need God’s touch just as much?
It was probably about as socially acceptable for the man with leprosy to present himself to Jesus, in the midst of a very large crowd (Matthew 8:1-4) as for someone to shout out their need for healing from gonorrhoea. Yet this man was desperate. Desperate enough to ignore the social stigma and risk severe punishment.
As well as compassion, Jesus had an agenda in healing this leper. It had begun way back in Moses’ time, when God gave long and precise instructions of what the priests were to do when someone got healed from leprosy – see Leviticus 14. But as far as I know, no priest had ever got to use this lengthy piece of legislation, since leprosy was incurable – until this moment. Jesus wanted the priests to understand that God had planned for this centuries before; that God was on the move, that Messiah had arrived. Other versions of this story in Mark and Luke tell us that the healed man did not obey, so the priests missed that opportunity.
That aside, this man did not allow social dogma to govern his actions. He knew his need, and went directly to Jesus. I wonder how much courage it took to engage Jesus, to challenge his willingness to engage with a social outcast.
There are few of us who don’t have some issues we are embarrassed about. An unsavoury history. Skeletons in the cupboard. Relatives who flout the norms. An unmentionable health issue. A bad habit. Needs… Things we don’t feel able to share with others. Things we most certainly would not like to be made public. And neither should we feel pressurised to do so.
One thing is certain. Jesus was willing. He reached out towards the man, engaged with him, healed him, wanted to use his testimony. The stigma was irrelevant. Jesus wanted to bring change to this man’s life.
Whatever our issues, Jesus is not embarrassed to deal with them. He is willing to touch every area of our lives we are willing to entrust to him.