Help for the Hopeless

Bible Reading: Matthew 8:1-4

The phrase “social distancing” became a part of our vernacular during the Covid pandemic, as we were told by health organizations to stay at home and away from others as much as possible. We were likewise told to keep a six-foot distance between us. We learned something of being isolated from each other, as children were kept home from schools and employees were forced to work from home. As difficult as that was, it was still nothing compared to what the leper had to go through. 

We can imagine how it started for him. He had developed a sore or swelling on his skin which would not heal. Per the Law, he went to the priest who examined the diseased area. Having determined it to be leprosy, the priest’s pronouncement of him being “unclean” would have been accompanied by detailed instructions to wear torn clothes, keep his hair disheveled, and cry out “Unclean, unclean!” as a warning wherever he went. No more could he hold his wife, or children in his arms, or even touch them. He was an outcast to society, so much so, that according to the customs of his day, he had to maintain a six-feet distance from others. If the wind blew towards a person from him, that person was to keep 150 feet away. One rabbi bragged he wouldn’t even buy an egg on a street where he saw a leper. Another boasted how he’d throw rocks at lepers to keep them away. The only thing more defiling than contact with a leper was contact with a dead body. For this and other reasons, leprosy was thought to be a picture of sin. The leper was despised and rejected, ostracized by society, especially by religious people. No doubt he sometimes longingly wished for things to be the way they were before leprosy, yet there was no one who could fix things for him. At least, not until Jesus came to town. 

One advantage of being diseased was it put this man in such a state of neediness he was compelled to look to Jesus for help. Human frailty has a way of doing that. Another advantage of being a leper was it worked to clear a path for him wherever he went. People parted as the Red Sea, as he made his way through the great crowds to get to Jesus–he having somehow heard the news regarding Jesus’ healing powers. 

It was a bold move on the leper’s part. A plan born out of faith and desperation. “If only I can make it to Jesus,” he must have thought, “He’s my only hope!” And so, Jesus remains the sole hope for all the lost and desperate. Others were no doubt startled by the leper’s audacity. Surely, they must have thought, Jesus will rebuke the fellow and turn him away—but that’s not what happened. The leper fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). The leper did not doubt Jesus could heal, he only wondered as to his willingness to cleanse him. His faith was rewarded in Jesus’ ready response. “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:3). 

How long had it been since he had felt the touch of a fellow human! Yet Jesus reached out and touched him and cleansed him! How many times had the leper declared those words, “Unclean, unclean!” So many, they’d worked to shape his reviled identity. He was “UNCLEAN!” But by the mere touch of Jesus, he was miraculously brought into a new reality, as Jesus declared unto him “BE CLEAN!” 

Charles Spurgeon has commented on this: “The sinner is in a plight more miserable than the leper; let him imitate his example and go to Jesus, “beseeching him and kneeling down to him.” Let him exercise what little faith he has, even though it should go no further than “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean”; and there need be no doubt as to the result of the application. Jesus heals all who come and casts out none. 

“Jesus heals all who comes and casts out none.”

Charles Spurgeon


There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus–
No, not one! no, not one!
None else could heal all our soul’s diseases–
No, not one! no, not one!

Jesus knows all about our struggles,
He will guide till the day is done;
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus–
No, not one! no, not one!

No friend like Him is so high and holy–
No, not one! no, not one!
And yet no friend is so meek and lowly–
No, not one! no, not one! [Refrain]

There’s not an hour that He is not near us –
No, not one! no, not one!
No night so dark but His love can cheer us–
No, not one! no, not one! [Refrain]

Was e’er a gift like the Savior given?
No, not one! no, not one!
Will He refuse us a home in heaven?
No, not one! no, not one! [Refrain]

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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