Contagious, Part 2- Power

[From Matthew 8:1-4]

Have you ever wondered how the disciples reacted the first time they saw Jesus touch a leper?  It seems normal for us that Jesus would do something reckless like that, but disciples probably thought Jesus had lost his mind.

“Jesus, no!”

“Jesus, don’t be stupid!”

“Now you’ve gone too far Jesus.”

“He’d better wash his hands…”

I probably would have been saying the same thing if I was one of the disciples.  Leprosy was an extremely contagious disease that was spread by direct physical contact, and lepers were forced to live on the fringes of society so they didn’t infect people who were healthy and clean.  Even the most compassionate people kept their distance when ministering to lepers.

Longenecker-LEPROSY

But not Jesus. He was never one to help from a distance.  If he was ministering to a tax collector, he ate in his house.  If he was talking to fishermen, he climbed in their boat.  If a mute man needed healing, Jesus stuck his fingers in his mouth.  And so of course when a leper comes and asks Jesus to heal him, Jesus leaves no space between himself and the leper.  Not only is he infringing on the leper’s space, but he’s also infringing on everyone else’s sensibilities about what is safe and what is appropriate.

“That’s gross Jesus.”

“I’m not sitting next to him at dinner…”

I think it’s easy for us to dismiss Jesus’ more reckless actions because, well… He’s Jesus.  He just does stuff like that, and he can get away with it because he’s God.  We know he’s not going to catch leprosy, just like we know he’s going to rise from the dead on the third day.  This stuff doesn’t shock us anymore.

But that’s not even the most shocking part of this story.  What I think we often miss is that, not only does Jesus not contract leprosy, but the leper contracts cleanness.  Jesus doesn’t get sick, and the leper gets healthy.  There is a contraction going on here, but it is backwards of what we are trained to expect.  The healthy don’t contract sickness; the sick contract health.

We don’t often think of health this way, as if we have to contract it.  We contract sickness, but recover to health.  But in a broken world of sin and death, maybe leprosy is the norm. Many people’s lives are falling to pieces in much the same way as the leper’s body is.  Yet all it takes is an encounter with Life to contract something foreign, something unnatural, something… healthy.

This is the power of undiluted Life.  Jesus’ life is more powerful than death.  His health is more powerful than sickness.  His wholeness is more powerful than brokenness.

This Life—the Life that lives inside us through the Holy Spirit—has the same power over sin and death that Jesus had.  This means that you, with whatever gifting and talents that God has given you, are empowered and equipped to go and be contagious for the Kingdom.  This means that those without life can contract Life from you when you make contact with them.

Remember, you don’t have to think of yourself as an evangelist to be contagious.  Your words are not contagious.  What is contagious is the Life.  The words of an evangelist contain Life, but so do the hands of a helper, the words of an encourager, the house of someone who is hospitable, the lessons of a teacher, the prayers of someone gifted with faith and prayer…  If we are in Christ, Life is oozing out of us, or it should be.  It should be impossible for us NOT to contaminate our world with this Life in us.

This is the Christianity we are called to—a Christianity that touches lepers.

Of course, there aren’t any lepers in my town, and I doubt there are any in yours.  And that makes me wonder who Jesus would be drawn to here. Who would Jesus touch while everyone else cringed and covered their faces?

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I can’t say for sure, but I bet it would be whoever makes us good, clean, religious types say,

“Now you’ve gone too far Jesus.”

“He’d better wash his hands…”

“That’s gross Jesus.”

“I’m not sitting next to him at dinner…”

Who makes us react that way? The poorest of the poor?  The hoarder?  The drug addict?  The immigrant?  The dementia patient?  The ‘sinner’?

Jesus was no more scared of catching leprosy from a leper than we should be of catching sin from a sinner or addiction from an addict.  He wasn’t scared because he understood the power of Life.

As a Church, I’m not sure that we understand this power or believe that we have it.  Imagine how the world would change if we did.

“In him was Life, and that Life was the light of all mankind.”

 

 

 

 

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