‘Come and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart’; a leper comes. He’s probably dirty, but he’s certainly untouchable in every respect because of his leprosy. Never mind who he was, everything that gave him acceptance, recognition and respect has been stripped off him. Nobody comes near him. Now he’s just a filthy leper.
Then Jesus comes and something desperate rises up in this man. He defies the crowds (Matthew 8: 1-2) and pushes through to Jesus. He kneels down before Him and just says, “Jesus, You can heal me.”
Then Jesus does something that nobody had done for years. With the most amazing gesture of acceptance and gentleness, He touches the leper, the man no-one else would touch. Quick as a flash, without any hesitation, Jesus says “Yes! I’ll heal you”. And He does.
Straight after this story, Matthew tells us another (Matthew 8: 5-13): ‘When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord”, he said, “My servant lies at home paralysed and in terrible suffering” (Matthew 8:5-7). Jesus said to him, “I’ll go and heal him”.
In some ways a centurion is just as much an ‘untouchable’ as the leper had been. This Roman knew full well that no Jew would ever willingly set foot in his household. He was a filthy Gentile, unclean, unacceptable. But he’s so desperate and has such awe for Jesus’ authority that he believes only Jesus can help.
What an amazing response from Jesus! The centurion doesn’t even get as far as asking Jesus to command healing from a distance. Jesus says, “I’ll go! I’ll come to your house, right away! I’ll come, and I’ll heal your servant now!”
When Jesus says, “I’m gentle and humble in heart … learn from me”. I’m left speechless. This is what Jesus is like. Over and over in the gospel stories, we see Jesus responding to the needy, the sick, the helpless, the untouchable or the distressed with that instant spontaneous “Yes! Yes! I’ll come. Yes! I’ll heal. Yes! I welcome you. Yes! I accept you.” He doesn’t sift through to find those who’re worthy or smart or rich or important. His is a love that comes with a humility that is as winsome as it’s totally mind-blowing.
Prayer: Jesus, these stories show me so much about Your amazing humility and Your warm and spontaneous acceptance of even the most untouchable and rejected of people. Help me to love and accept others as You do and to learn from You. Amen.
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