Social Distance – Who dares to cross the line?

Jesus touching a man's hand with leprosy
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“Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 

Matthew 8:1-4 (NLT)

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A Reflection

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Thou Canst Make Me Clean”, p. 262*

Away from his friends and his kindred, the leper must bear the curse of his malady. He was obliged to publish his own calamity, to rend his garments, and sound the alarm, warning all to flee from his contaminating presence. The cry, “Unclean! unclean!” coming in mournful tones from the lonely exile, was a signal heard with fear and abhorrence.

In the region of Christ’s ministry, there were many of these sufferers, and the news of His work reached them, kindling a gleam of hope. But since the days of Elisha the prophet, such a thing had never been known as the cleansing of one upon whom this disease had fastened. They dared not expect Jesus to do for them what He had never done for any man. There was one, however, in whose heart faith began to spring up. Yet the man knew not how to reach Jesus. Debarred as he was from contact with his fellow men, how could he present himself to the Healer?

And he questioned if Christ would heal him. Would He stoop to notice one believed to be suffering under the judgment of God? Would He not, like the Pharisees, and even the physicians, pronounce a curse upon him, and warn him to flee from the haunts of men?

He thought of all that had been told him of Jesus. Not one who had sought His help had been turned away. The wretched man determined to find the Saviour. Though shut out from the cities, it might be that he could cross His path in some byway along the mountain roads, or find Him as He was teaching outside the towns. The difficulties were great, but this was his only hope.”

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ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

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When you finally decide to give your life to Jesus it is a beautiful thing: the hope of things finally changing for the good. It’s an opportunity to become a new creature; the ability to say goodbye to the old you, and hello to the new you. What a wonderful experience, and what if Jesus wants to do more than clean up your life? Does making us “white as snow” mean what we think it means to God?

1) Read Matthew 8:1; James 1:22;
James 2:26

In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus recaps in practical terms what the law is about and how to live a godly life. Some consider it the greatest sermon ever recorded. After He concludes His sermon Jesus then comes down from the mountain and encounters someone in need. Have you ever noticed that after you’ve done or experienced something amazing about God that a test challenges? If so, share your experience with us on social media using #MessageMag.

2) Read Matthew 8:1-2; James 1:3-4

The person that Jesus encounters isn’t given a name. His condition names him and frames him. As a leper, his condition weighed on his life like death sentence. Leprosy relegated people to the outskirts of society. Hypothetically speaking, Jesus left church and runs into someone whose physical problems distance him—emotionally and socially—from society. Often, following Jesus puts His followers in community with people whose lives are in shambles. Is this your experience? Is your life in shambles and surrounded by people just like you? Share if you would on social media using #MessageMag.

3) Read Matthew 8:2-3

The request the man has is to be made clean. He is also wondering if Jesus is willing. Why is he questioning Jesus’ willingness? Maybe he thinks that what is wrong with him somehow affects Jesus’ willingness. Do you find it difficult to believe that God will do good things for you when there is still bad in your life? Take some time to pray and meditate on this.

4) Read Matthew 8:2-3

What the man with leprosy asked for is worth looking at also. Notice that he didn’t ask to be healed. He asked to be made clean. This suggests that he was Jewish and wasn’t just looking for just the leprosy to be removed, but he wanted to return to society. He was tired of his outward challenges affecting his inward desires. Can you relate to this? Have you ever wanted to get back to who you once were? What is it that you desire to get back to? Share with us here on social media using #MessageMag.

5) Read Matthew 8:3; Psalm 34:1

Jesus is willing. Take a moment and get a pen and paper. At the top of the paper write “What God was willing to do.” Then write a list of experiences where you now know that God was willing to do something on your behalf. Mine would start off with something like “God was willing to protect my family when I wasn’t around.” This is a list praises of what God was willing to do.

6) Read Matthew 8:3-4; Philippians 4:6

Jesus doesn’t ask for the Father to heal this man. Instead He commands the man to “be clean.” The Bible says that the man was cleansed at that moment. We live in world of people that often don’t allow for others to grow beyond their challenges or mistakes of yesterday. Jesus on the other hand, specializes in instantaneous transformation. The struggle is often accepting the change that He has promised in His word.

7) Read Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9;
Psalm 103:12

The man is able to go and be declared clean. All because he ran into Jesus. People can talk about what he once was, but when they look at him, he is his own testimony of change. When Jesus washes you white as snow you can live a life where you don’t have to defend your past because God has mapped out your future.   

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.

2020 May June cover
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
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