Yesterday morning was slow, but I was slammed in the afternoon.
Reading in Mark brings me across 1:40-45, his account of the man with leprosy. Just before this passage, Jesus told his disciples they were going to move on to the next city--so Jesus could preach there also. This is where they encounter the leper, which makes perfect sense because that was where lepers belonged. They were banished because they were ceremonially and societally UNCLEAN.
This man comes to Jesus begging to be healed of the leprosy, and Jesus brings him so much more. Yes, Jesus takes away the leprosy because his compassionate healing heart was willing to do so (1:41). But then the last phrase of that verse is the greatest part to me today. Jesus says to the man, "I am willing. BE CLEAN!" This had to be some of the greatest news to this man. This shows Jesus' ability to heal more than the physical ailment.
For, who knows how many years, this man had to go among the streets of the town screaming, "UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!" Though leprosy was not something this man chose out of his own free will, he was still seen as ceremonially and societally unclean. The shame he must have felt as an outcast is more than I can really imagine.
But Jesus did not only heal the disease, but he says to the man, "BE CLEAN!" SO to say, "Now go into the town, and know that you are NOT unclean. You are clean. You are to be known as clean. You are not an outcast! You are ceremonially and societally CLEAN!"
I cannot imagine the freedom this man must have felt to know he was no longer unclean. Yes, he was miraculously healed of leprosy, but this man has now been told that after so many years, he is NOW acceptable, valuable and approachable. He is no longer UNCLEAN.
I also see a lot of people who are ceremonially and societally unclean, and I know that homelessness is not contagious; nor is poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, divorce, jail time, and sin. I know these things are not contagious, but I have seen many of these people made to be ceremonially and societally UNCLEAN! I cannot imagine the freedom God would bring to these people through healing of their ailments and situations. But my heart aches more at the fact that these people are falsely determined and branded UNCLEAN! I believe Jesus would walk among these people, yes, healing their ailments, but not only that. I think Jesus would go beyond that to say, "I am willing. BE CLEAN!!"
Now the question is: Will I be the only reflection of Jesus these people may ever know?
Jesus tells the Disciples, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, naked and you did not clothe me.” Then they ask Him the same thing I could here at the university. “God, when did I ever actually see you hungry, thirsty or naked here?” There are no least of these here, God. They pay good money to be here. These people don’t ever go hungry or thirsty, and it is illegal to be naked in public should they even desire to do so. Where are the least of these among me here?
God would answer me to tell me I am swimming in a sea of people who are hungry, thirsty and naked in their soul. How am I meeting those needs? What do the least of these look like in the culture around me?
Are we only hungry for food? Do we only thirst for liquid? Do we only need clothing to cover us? I am sure our hearts would bleed with all sorts of answers to that question. Of course we hunger and thirst for all sorts of things. Many of us hunger for purpose. We thirst for passion. We are hungry for some sort of understanding. We are thirsty for someone to recognize us; for someone to affirm us in our pursuits and existence. We all want to be clothed in someone’s concern for us. We desire to be covered by some sort of care from anyone. We are all hungry, thirsty, and naked souls.
More importantly, the least of these surround me on all sides each day. But Jesus’ question still lacerates my heart today. “What have I done for the least of these among me?” Not much! This kills me not only because it’s a condition on my heart, but because is literally my JOB to do something for the least of these among me.
I fear that I refused to give to them what they needed. I fear I did not clothe many if any friends in affirmation. I fear I did not feed many if any friends’ hunger for understanding or purpose. I fear I did not quench many if any person's thirst for passion or someone else’s active concern for them.
I fear there were too many hungry, thirsty, and naked souls I passed by for an entire year with miniscule interest. I fear the least of these among me saw me too BUSY for their hopes, fears, concerns, aspirations, dreams, doubts, disappointments, and loneliness. And its my job, not only as an pastor but as a Christian. I must love more.
I MUST QUIT SERVING PEOPLE AND START SERVING THE LEAST OF THESE AMONG ME!
CAN I SEE THE LEAST OF THESE IN EACH PERSON I SEE AND MEET?