A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
I saw District 9 at the cinema earlier this week. It’s a film set in an alien colony in South Africa, which starts out as a humanitarian camp, set up to provide for aliens who had become trapped on earth. Over the ten years of the camp’s existence, it gradually evolved from something that was meant to benefit the aliens into a slum, a shanty town, in which the aliens were forced to live in absolute squalor. As the colony expanded, people become more and more hostile to the aliens, which they nicknamed “prawns.” Having initially been keen to help the extra terrestrials, as a consequence of mistrust and ignorance, people began to despise them and thought that they should either be destroyed or sent back to their own planet. It amazed me how in just ten years, the whole situation could change; the aliens were initially given a warm welcome and put up in a humanitarian camp, but ten years later they were despised and living in squalor.
Yesterday, we looked at the rule in Leviticus which states that lepers had to live on their own outside the camp. Just as the original purpose of the District 9 camp had been forgotten over the ten years of its existence, people had forgotten that the Leviticus rule was imposed for very practical reasons. People in the first century AD were using it as a basis to victimise lepers, people who were suffering from a disease that they didn’t really understand.
Jesus, however, has a different approach to this particular leper. He reaches out and touches the man, and he is instantly healed. This action would have shocked many people, not simply because the man was cured, but because Jesus had actually touched someone who they considered to be ‘dirty’.
Jesus came to show the world how to follow God. Whilst the laws in Leviticus had a specific purpose at a specific time, people had lost track of what they were for. By the first century, people were using the law of Leviticus to justify the victimisation of lepers. Jesus, on the other hand, shows compassion for the man, touches him and heals him. Whilst society was saying to reject this man, to isolate him and have nothing to do with him, Jesus drew him to himself and showed that he loved him as he loves anyone else.
Do we always have compassion for those around us? Do we reject people for reasons we can’t really remember? How would Jesus handle these relationships? Let’s try today to show love and compassion to all we meet.