5 – Exchanging Places
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
- Leper: A person suffering from leprosy
- Implore: To beg desperately
- Leprosy: A serious illness which affects the nerves and the skin
- Charged: A command, not a financial charge
- Priest: A Jewish religious leader who served in the temple
- Offering: A sacrifice to God
Have you ever felt lonely or without many friends?
Why do you think Jesus was asking people not to say publicly who he was?
In order to understand this story correctly you need to know a little bit about the illness which the man was suffering from. It is an illness which affects the nerves, which means it’s possible to hurt yourself without realising. In order to stop the illness from spreading to others, people who suffered from leprosy were forced to live far away from others, separated from society, with almost no contact.
When this person came to Jesus, it is very likely that everyone ran away, or at least kept at a distance. But look at the wonderful way Jesus responds. He doesn’t pull back. He does the opposite – he touches the man. This man had probably not been touched by another person for a long time. Through the words of Jesus, he was made better immediately.
Jesus did not want people to know who he was until the correct time came, so he told the man to keep quiet about his experience, but the man fails to do this. He shared it with anyone who would listen. As a result of this, because of people’s attention, Jesus was unable to go into the towns, and had to remain in lonely places – the exact places where the man would have been forced to live. Jesus exchanged places with the man, so that he could be healed. That’s just like what we see when Jesus dies on the cross, suffering the judgement of God in our place.
How do you think these events would make the leper feel?
How should the love of Christ change the way we treat people? What sort of people does our society consider to be dirty and try to avoid?
that God would help you to love other people no matter who they are, by putting their needs before your own.