He staggered along the road, pulling his cloak tighter around his face. "Unclean! Unclean!" The man's disfigured form was covered with a dirty, black robe, and at the sight of him, people turned their faces in horror, children ran or hid in their parents' robes. Detested. Shunned. An outcast.
It hadn't always been this way. Once the man was part of a family, an active partaker of society, worshipping freely at the temple and mingling with the people in the streets. Now he was experiencing a living death.
The white patches on his skin had started innocently enough, but when the priest later announced the dreaded word, leprosy, all his dreams, plans, and life fell apart.
For years, he was exiled into a community of "unfortunates", dying with those who were infected with the same disease. The man watched as fingers, toes, and skin rotted and fell off. Yet, he felt nothing. All sense of touch and feeling had died long ago, and perhaps that was the worst thing of all. He could barely remember his mother's touch, a friendly greeting in the street, the rocky sand under his bare feet, the sting from a slight cut. All feeling was gone, and so his hope for life.
When he heard of the Miracle Maker, a curious hope rose within him. The others saw his eagerness and laughingly scoffed, "It's impossible; stop your dreaming." They turned back to their living graves, while the man continue to hope.
He left quietly in search of the Healer. No one would miss him, and what did he have to lose? He had lost it all already. For days he traveled, hoping he would somehow find this Jesus along the roads of Judea.
His rotten feet bled from the stones and long walks, but he felt no pain. He pressed on, filled with desperate hope.
One day, a cloud of dust rose above the horizon. The man's heart jumped within him. They said great crowds followed the Healer. They said people brought their sick and demon-possessed to the Healer. He quickly picked up his stumbling pace. Then the man stopped. Crowds. Would the Healer have time to see him? Would He heal him? The man almost turned in humilation. What would make this Jesus different from everyone else? Why, leprosy was the most dreaded disease! He probably wouldn't even allow the man to come close to Him. Would He want to heal him?
But lo, the crowds were almost upon him. There was no turning back. He staggered forward. "Unclean!" he yelled in a raspy voice. His courage faltered as he saw the horror and fear. Where was the Healer? Then he saw Him.
He had to be Him. He stood still as the crowds receded in terror, His eyes watching the man with deep feeling. The leper made a few more unstable steps, then fell to his knees, covering his face. "If You will," he croaked, "You can make me clean."
With his face to the ground, he could not see the amazing expression of pity that spread across the Healer's face. The overwhelming silence continued, except for the crying of frightened children. The man's heart sank. Tears came to his eyes as embarrassment filled his inner being.
Suddenly, he felt it.
A touch. A human touch. Nerves that had been dead for years tingled at the hand's imprint on his shoulder. A warm flow swept through his rotting, decaying body, and he was immediately aware of the rocky stones underneath his knees and hands. He felt a dry breeze twist around his humble form. Feeling. Touch. A healing touch. He heard a soothing voice say, "I will; be clean."
He raised his face, his eyes wide. The Healer stood in front of him, compassion and love on His countenance. Quickly, he looked at his skin, his arms, his hands. He touched his face, feeling the stroke of his fingers against his smooth face. "I'm clean," he said softly, shocked. "I'm clean!" he said in a raised voice, unbelievable joy filling his heart. "I'm clean!" He danced on the road, soaking in the warm sunshine. "Clean! 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." Mark 1:43-45