by Rev. Randy Brown
Well, we’ve come to the end of our five part series on the power of touch. You remember that several weeks ago, we talked about the scripture where Jesus asked the question, “Who touched me?” And, then there was that servant of the chief priest, who was touched by Jesus after Simon Peter had swung the sword, and cut his ear off, and Jesus did emergency surgery and put his ear back on. Then we talked about where Jesus appeared to his disciples, and they were somewhat curious, and Jesus invited them to come and see. Last week, we looked at a little different thing, of what things we should not touch; don’t touch the unclean things out of second Corinthians.
Today we have another story, where Jesus touched a leper, an undesirable person. We don’t know what his name was, but at least in our five part series, this was the second time that Jesus kind of goes outside the box and touches someone that most of us would cross on the other side of the street to avoid. Jesus doesn’t do that. This man was an outcast. He had the disease of leprosy. He came to Jesus, just like the woman who had the issue of blood came to him. And, where her approach was to go try to go unnoticed, and just touch the hem of his garment, and to receive the healing from that: this man’s approach was a little bit different.
Now, before he got to Jesus, because of his leprosy, the law required that he wear ragged clothes. The law required that he did not take much personal care of his personal hygiene. So that he would be easily identifiable and that he could live in the streets of the city, as long as it wasn’t a walled city. But so that he could also have a chance to go to the temple, but he had to sit behind the petition that while the service was going on, no one would see him there. This man approached Jesus differently; he came straight to Him. He was tired of his skin disease. He was tired of all the diagnoses. He was tired of all the home remedies. And, he wasn’t exactly sure who Jesus was, but he decided he’d take his chances.
So, he comes up face to face with Jesus, and he says, “Jesus, if you’re willing, if you’re willing, you can make me whole.” There is a benefit to honest doubt. Honest doubt will do us more good, than false faith. For he just simply said, “I’m not sure about this Lord, but I’ve tried everything else. If you’re willing, you can do this.” He didn’t say, “If you can.” He didn’t say, “If it’s not too much trouble.” He said, “If you will. If you want to.” And Jesus stopped. The words of the scripture says, “He was indignant.” That means Jesus got upset. How dare you say, if I want to. Of course I want to, because the reason I’ve come is to seek and to save that which was lost. The reason I’ve come is to make well. “I want to”, he said. I want to do this. And, He reached out, and He touched him.
And, the touch brought about the healing that the man had longed for. How about you? Are there places in your life where you’re struggling? You really want to just cry out, “Lord, if you want to, you could change this.” A friend of mine calls him the D’s and F’s of life; discouragement, disillusionment, frustration, failure. What about the D’s and F’s of your life? Jesus says, “I want to. Be made clean.” The man’s request was granted. His prayers were answered. His dreams came true. Jesus touched him.
Now, the rules changed for this man. Before, he could stay away, and no one cared. He had to stay away a certain distance. Now Jesus tells him to do something else. Jesus says, “I’ve made you clean, but you need to go to the priest and you need to have yourself declared; ceremonially and ritually clean. Then you need to take your offering to the temple, as a sacrifice, and you need to do that.” Can’t you just hear that man? This man was an unbridled evangelist, as it turns out, and we’re going to talk about that in a moment, but he just wanted to go and tell people, what Jesus had done for him. And Jesus says, “No, you need to go to the temple. You need to do what’s required by the law.” The man said, “But Jesus, you’re the great physician and that priest, he don’t know anything about medicine.” He doesn’t know a thing about medicine. The law says do this, so do it. And, by the way, when you’re out doing things, don’t say anything about it. Don’t tell what happened.
Now, that sounds so unlike Jesus. Aren’t we supposed to go into all the world, and spread the gospel? Aren’t we supposed to tell what God has done for us? Aren’t we supposed to be ones that are spreading the news, and spreading the word? This man goes, after being told not to, and he does just the exact opposite. Ecclesiastes tells us, there’s a time for everything. There’s a time to speak, and a time to stay silent. Now, notice Jesus said, “Don’t say anything.” You know, I think sometimes we can say more, by not saying anything. I think that’s part of what Jesus was getting at here. You’ve heard it said, and read it; we’re to go, and preach the gospel. If need be, use words. We preach by the way we live our lives.
But, the other thing was that Jesus was staying outside the city, and he could go in the city, and come out of the city, relatively unnoticed. But, if it was found out that he was outside the city, then people would be flocking to him, and He wasn’t ready for that yet. He just wanted to kind of come and go at a leisure pace, and to preach and to teach at a leisure pace. It boils down to this; have you ever felt so strong, that God wanted you to do something? That God had a specific task for you to do? If I asked for a show of hands, everyone of you’d raise your hand. God wanted me to do this. Whether it was to say a kind word, or do a kind deed, or whatever it is. God’s wanting me to do this particular act. But, the problem is, sometimes we do it before God’s timing is ready. Have you ever gotten ahead of God, done it your way and at your time, instead of His? That’s what this man did. He got ahead of God. He did it his way, on his timetable, instead of God’s timetable.
Timing is everything. Let me ask you a question? When you’ve gotten ahead of God, and gotten off God’s timing schedule, how’d it work? I know how it worked. You made a mess of it, didn’t you? Well, how do you know that Preacher? Because I’ve done it too. The time would be there, but we have to do the right thing, in the right timing. This man just got ahead of God. So many times we get ahead of God. I won’t speak for you. So many times I get ahead of God and do it in my way. Nineteen seventy-eight I took my first appointment, as a United Methodist preacher. First Sunday I was there, beautiful blonde girl got out of a car. I was like, “I’m going to get to know her.” And, I did. If I would have asked her that day to marry me, and be on this journey together. She would have looked at me, and said, “You’re the biggest fool I’ve ever met.” A few years later, that wasn’t the answer to the question. You see, timing is everything. A few years later, it was, “I will.” You gotta wait for the right time.
This man didn’t do that and he would teach us a lesson, timing is everything. Let’s go back for a moment, to that touch. We have in common, with the man, that sometimes we mess up the timing. We’ve got something else in common with this man. Jesus has come to touch our lives. No one is off limits. He has come to mend the brokenness of our life. He’s come to heal the hurts of our life. He’s come to comfort the pain of our lives. He’s come to guide the path of our lives. He’s come to order the steps of our life. He’s come to call us his own and to catch us when we fall. He’s come to pick us up when we stumble. He’s come to make us humble, when we get too proud. He’s come to lift us when we’re humble. And, he’s come to forgive us with every sin we commit. He’s come to touch us.
We need Jesus to make us whole. We need him to touch us – In our homes, and in our marriages. In our living, and in our attitudes. In our giving, and in our helping others. I want to ask you a personal question this morning? Where are you hurting? What’s eating away at you? When we come for holy communion, in just a moment, get honest with yourself and honest with God. Make an honest assessment of your life. Humble yourself. In humility, I want to ask you to pray a prayer. It’s the same prayer that this man prayed. And, the prayer is, “Lord, if you will, you can clean up the mess in my life.” As you pray that prayer, and as you reach out to take the bread and dip the bread into the chalice, know that God is reaching out to you. As you’ve prayed the prayer, “God, if you’re willing,” hear that still small voice say, “I will. I will.” As you reach out, know that He is reaching out to you. In the moment of reaching out, and him reaching out to you, I pray that you will feel His touch on your life.
You say, “Oh Preacher, that’s for everybody else. I’ve done this, that, and the other.” No, nobody is off limits. This leaper was not off limits to him, and neither are you. No one is off limits; not even you. That’s what the book says, and the book never lies.