Jesus ain't afraid to get a little dirty

The hitchhiker was sitting in the shade on the side of the highway on a brutally hot day. I had a million things to do that day and as I sped past him I gave him only a casual glance. Maybe someone else will give him a ride to where he's going, I thought to myself. But before those words were even fully formed in my brain I realized that I was that someone.

After a few exit ramp maneuvers I was back to where I had seen the hitchhiker, seeing him still sitting there in the shade. He had long matted hair, was dirty from head to toe, and his outfit looked like it hadn't been changed in days. I rolled down the window and asked if he needed a lift - as if he was just hanging out on the side of the road for fun - and he happily jumped in. Introducing himself as Michael, he told me that he was trying to get back to Boone, NC, after spending a long weekend in Wilmington to see a girl he was interested in. I told him I couldn't take him that far but I could get him a little ways down the road. He was grateful to accept my offer.

I'm not gonna sugarcoat this - the dude stank. Really bad. He'd been hitching for two days and had slept outside overnight. The heat was unbearable and he was wet with sweat and grime. Showering had not been an option for this guy, but truthfully that might not be so abnormal for him. You see, Micheal was a 21st Century version of a hippie. He was working at a primitive farm, which he explained was a farm where no electricity used for anything. This applied for living conditions as well. He had spent the past few years traveling, sleeping where he could find shelter, and basically living off of others. He and I couldn't have been any different.

Strange as it may sound, I really, really liked this guy.

Long story short, I took him to KFC to buy him lunch, ran a quick errand, and then came back to pick him up so that I could drive him as close to Boone as I could before heading to an afternoon appointment. Along the way we talked about all sorts of things - music, life, relationships - and I had the chance to share with him about my relationship with Jesus Christ. Salvation did not visit Michael that day, but I am grateful for the chance God gave to me to share the gospel with him. Oh, and when he got out of my car, the smell stayed in the fabric of my seats for weeks!

Jesus never had a second notion about spending time with those who were less than desirable to the rest of the culture. Matthew 8:1-4 records the account of Jesus being approached by a leper who begged for healing. This was noteworthy because lepers and non-lepers did not mix. There was this huge fear of contracting the dreaded leprosy skin disease and often lepers would be isolated in colonies so that they could be separate from everyone else. If a leper did need to venture into town for any reason, he was required to shout "Unclean! Unclean!" as he walked down the road so that people would know that he was coming and could stay as far away as possible.

So here's Jesus, confronted by a man with leprosy, begging Him to make him "clean". This word "clean" is loaded with meaning. Jewish tradition forbade anyone to worship in the temple or synagogue if they had a skin disease or any other ailment that labeled them as ceremonially "unclean" (such things as touching a dead body or a woman having her menstrual cycle also led to the label of being unclean). Unless the afflicted was able to overcome his disease and therefore be declared clean by a priest, he was regulated to the sidelines for as long as his condition persisted. Since there was no known cure for leprosy, this man who approached Jesus was asking for a miracle.

And that's exactly what he received from Jesus.

But it's what precipitated the actual healing of the leprosy that was just as incredible as the miracle itself. Matthew 8:3 says that Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man with leprosy. I'm sorry, but in Jesus' day, you did not do that - otherwise you were considered unclean too. Add to that the fact that Jesus was a Rabbi (Jewish teacher) and that made it all the more incredible that He would have anything to do with this diseased man.

By reaching out and touching this man afflicted with leprosy, Jesus was telling him that He did not consider him unclean or an outcast. This is the same thing that Jesus screams out to the world today: "I can handle your imperfections, inconsistencies, and your junk! I'm not afraid to love you with a love that defies all comprehension!" Indeed, Jesus handled all of our junk on the cross, dying to redeem and renew us.

Jesus is still reaching into peoples' lives to make the dirty clean. He's not afraid of what you've done or where  you've been. The leper knew he wasn't worthy to approach Jesus and neither are we. Yet Jesus never laid out a prerequisite that we be good enough to come to Him - that could never happen. No, Jesus simply asks us to come. He can more than handle  your life-dirt.

1 comment:

Noland Mattocks said...

Thanks Sterling. A great lesson.

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