I AM. I do choose. Be made clean!
It is so in those days that when something so hideous, something that does not have a cure, and something so repulsive as leprosy would have to be isolated. There was no hope for them. It would be better to sacrifice them away from society, away from their friends, away from their loved ones, so as to save the integrity of the people of Israel. Perhaps they merited to receive such infirmity. They must have done something so wrong so as to incur the wrath and curse of God.
Lepers were left out. They were left out of the company where their very humanity learned to be human. They were left out to the very outskirts if towns, the very outskirts of society, the very outskirts of humanity. They were already less human. Leprosy has already eaten away parts of them and what remained of the supple flesh tenderly caressed, perfumed, and kissed by their own mothers have become a cover of stench, a layer of rotting flesh, an unpleasant sight to behold even by their very own mothers. Leprosy had eaten much of their humanity.
So when this leper heard that there was this rabbi, a miracle worker, along with his disciples, traveling along a road few would take, his heart skipped a beat. Is this perhaps his salvation? Surely, he has paid enough of his sins that heaven has decided that he has suffered enough. So he ran. As he came nearer, he saw them stop. Some of them shuffled and backed away. He was a leper after all. Some looked at their master, wondering what wonder would come from this.
It is always the eyes that betray a man’s measure of another. Some eyes were aghast at his predicament. Some eyes looked with impatient indifference. Some eyes were bristling with excitement. One set of eyes looked at him intently, their gaze penetrating his very being as if his whole life story, his very history has been revealed and read in a moment. To these eyes he was so exposed. No amount of rags could hide the numb wounds and the sticky mess of his flesh. No mask could hinder those eyes from looking through his very defenses, from recognizing the wounds that has marked not only his body but also his very spirit.
In spite of such a powerful presence before him, he did not feel threatened. He felt a little fear. He feared that he was unworthy to be in such presence.
He shrugged the feeling off. This is the miracle worker people have been talking about everywhere. He had done it so many times before this time would be no different. He would corner him like so many others before that out of a tight spot, he would heal him. If he were truly powerful then he an do it. Otherwise, he has uncovered a scam.
He was confused more than ever on what to think of this man. He does not seem royal but there is just something in him that’s amiss. He looks plain and simple but this man has troubled his innermost thoughts already. If he has to do this he must do it already.
He flung himself forward. With a gamble and perhaps a little faith and much more hope, he flung himself forward. He broke through the rule that a leper must not approach a clean Jew. He risk punishment but all the same he flung himself forward. He believed in what others say of this man. He shouted without looking up to those penetrating eyes, “Please, please, I beg you. If you choose, you can make me clean.”
From afar, Jesus already knew his brokenness. He knew of the divide that rent this man apart. He knew his very heart. He heard it beat with excitement from a distance. Then it entered an erratic beat of confusion when light has been cast upon it. Surely, this man no longer knows himself. He has been stripped of his humanity a long time ago. This heart, despite being confused at the sight brought by Jesus’ light, flung itself forward in resignation. It could not immediately accept the sight of itself. More so, it could not recognize the light shown in its eyes. It had too long dwell in darkness. Will it recognize Jesus soon?
Jesus’ heart was moved with pity. Where people, even among his disciples, saw only the leprous man, he saw the child with a supple skin, broken and wounded by years of hate and rejection. He saw a victim. This man is a victim of sin. Contrary to what most Jews believe, this man is not only a victim of his own sin but also of the others’ sin, of everyone’s sin. It is not only a personal stigma, but a social one, a sharper dagger that cuts deeper into each man. His heart was moved with passion against such misfortune. Where his Father had fashioned a soul and made it dwell in a house of healthy flesh, sin and evil had worked out destruction that it had evicted the poor soul from his very self.
Jesus was given an option. He had been given so many before and this time it would be no different. He ha always chosen his Father’s wishes. He has chosen to love everyone, not excluding anyone. Such option pierced his heart. It may be a sign of unbelief that it had been imposed upon him by this leprous man or it would only be the symptom of the devastation within. He wanted so much to heal him.
Two rules were broken on that encounter. One, when the leper broke his isolation and flung himself forward to this group of clean people. Two, when Jesus stretched out his hand to touch him. It shouldn’t be. A teacher, highly regarded by many should not lower himself to this wretched man, if you still could call this sight a man. It is simply out of the social structure. It is taboo. It is forbidden. It is not like us.
Despite what others thought in their minds and felt in their heart, Jesus stretched out his hand. There is already enough divide. He is the bridge for everything. He touched him. His hand full of compassion and care touched the numbness of the leper’s skin. The warmth of his hand touched the coldness of his flesh. It did not stop at a point in the finger where it could have easily been considering the circumstances of this man, but it went through the leper’s helplessness. He reached out and had his palm rest over his head. The leper could feel the heartbeat emanating from Jesus wrists. Grace flowed down from his head down to his neck and deep into his heart.
There was no revulsion in Jesus, only tenderness. Jesus’ eyes looked at him with love. His touch was more gentle and accepting than that of the leper’s mother when he was born. No, this is a rebirth. Jesus accepted him without judging him. He could barely hear the response of Jesus when he said, “I do choose, be made clean!” He felt a rush of ecstasy at the joy of being accepted by this man. He was overjoyed at his luck. His gamble had paid of.
He looked at himself again. Though the rags were the same, his skin has been made new. He tore through those rags which has been his prison for so long, no, for a time they were his only home too. And he jumped. He could see the missing parts have grown back. No, it’s as if they have never been eaten away and were always there just hidden beneath the sheath of filthy rags. He is complete. He is new. And he felt new. His healing is complete.
It could have been exultance or was it plain ecstasy? He forgot about his past life in a snap of a finger. He forgot about everything else. He was too overjoyed, too preoccupied by this fortune. Where he gambled a little bit of faith, he had reaped much more than he expected in a span of a nick of time. He was himself again. Isn’t he lucky? This man, this man who cured him is a wonder. A wonder has touched him and changed him. Such wonder should not be left hidden. He must be exalted!
Jesus was happy at the sight of the cure. He has brought this man back from despair and apathy. He has given him his joy. Yet there is something wrong. He seems too overjoyed. He clung to Jesus and praised him but his praises were empty. It seems his eyes who were so used to the darkness were blinded by the light. He has not seen Jesus.
So Jesus warned him and told him that he can be his witness before the priests. He can be a light to others. But the ecstatic man was too joyful to hear. He went away shouting at his fortune, proclaiming the wonder he has seen with his eyes, but he failed to hear the message.
Jesus was sad. A few moments ago, he was happy to have brought a man back into communion with God. But not too often, man’s heart is easily blinded with wonder it could not see the one behind such wonders.