They really didnít understand it.
But, of course, they really had no means to. How could they possibly know that
it was contagious only after long periods of very close contact? The only thing
they knew about it was what it looked like and what it did to a person in the
advanced stages. That they knew well. They understood how it maimed and
disfigured. And that was enough for fear to take over.
Iím talking about the disease of leprosy. In a world and a time in which the disease has all but been eradicated except in small pockets, we perhaps cannot appreciate the fear that accompanied this word in the ancient world of Jesus. It was a red flag word. It brought about the same responses as the word Plague did in the 1200s, or Small Pox in the 1700s, or Aids in the 1900s. It frightened them. They felt largely helpless against it, as indeed they were.
What happens when fear takes over is people do not act, they react. And reactions to leprosy were both swift and cruel. In times not far removed form our own people would be put to death by heir own family. It seems incredible to us today, but on the edge of every large city in the ancient world huge pits were dug, and in those pits lived the lepers of the community.
And if, by some remote possibility, they did escape this hovel and venture out into the streets, they would be quickly greeted with shouts of ďleper,Ē accompanied by stones to make them keep their distance. In Jesus' day a leper by law could not get within fifty yards of a clean person. So this was the heart of the matter. Not only did these wretched poor people have to endure the trials of an incurable affliction, they also were isolated from society and kept from the community of faith. The horror of disease, a lifestyle of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness--where could they find hope? The only friend a leper had was God himself. In this life they were doomed. It was walking death.
This, then, is the background of the leper we meet this morning. What can we learn from this manís tragic story?
1. The Loneliness of Leprosy
2. Our Suffering Moves Godís Hand.
3. Our Lord Is Willing to Heal.
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