God’s Love

Sometimes I (Nate) imagine I'm a participant in one of the Gospel stories. Here’s one I put into writing based on the story of Jesus healing a leper in Mark 1:40-41

"The feeling was shame. I was on the outside. My past experience wanted to control me, but I heard an internal voice, I felt called, even commanded to go to where Jesus was. That meant risk — risk of rejection by the crowds. What if they violently oppose me? They will certainly yell at me. Moms will pull their children away from me. I’ve been through it before. Will I willingly place myself at risk again? Maybe it would be better to just ignore this tiny bit of hope that has been oddly planted in my heart. I’ve heard He heals.

Staying at a distance, I could see the movement of the crowd around Jesus. Finally, I thought, what’s there to lose?  I can’t make anything happen, but if I stay here, I can keep something from happening. So I move towards the crowd.

It isn’t long until the fringe of the crowd begins to notice I’m coming their way. They can hardly believe it. This doesn’t happen. Lepers walk away from people, not towards. And then it started — “what do you think you are doing?” “Don’t come any closer!” The men grew angry; more in the crowd turned my way and noticed. Moms did start to pull their children away. I could see some raise sticks and rocks. “Get back!” 

I couldn’t help but cry, “Please, please! I beg you, let me come to Jesus! Please!.”

Some pulled back and little by little a corridor opened — a path in the crowd opened and at the other end was Jesus. The first time I saw him, my hope surged. I began to yell louder — he was still a ways away. “Please, please.” I cried both to the crowd and to Jesus. Some in the crowd despised. Some turned away. In a few I could see tears — mostly among the women. I think they felt compassion — and I think they felt they were far enough away from me that they were outside harm.

I gained momentum.  “Please, please — I beg you — let me see Jesus!” 

When I knew he could hear me, my voice became louder — my tears were uncontrollable. I was shaking. “Jesus, Jesus — please, please, I beg you, I beg you! I beg you! Please. If you choose, you can make me clean”

Then it happened. He turned. 

It was like everything around me stopped. The crowds froze. They looked at Jesus. They looked at me. 

My voice was loud, but I was absolutely broken. “Jesus. Please. I beg you. If you choose, you can make me clean — you can take this away.” “This” meant so much more than leprosy. I’ve been alienated. I’ve lost everything. I haven’t touched my wife, my children for years. My friends are other lepers. I could be restored. It all depended on Jesus. 

“Jesus. I beg you. If you choose, you can make me clean.”

He walked towards me. I crumbled. I couldn’t even look at him. But as I sobbed in my pain, fearing what might happen, fearing that he would yell at me or ask me what I thought I was doing, I couldn’t look up. I just sobbed, and through the tears, I kept saying “Please, please, I beg you.”

He touched me.

It’s hard to describe that moment. I felt his hand on my chin. Do you have any idea what that means to be touched? He touched me. 

My sobs began to break, I was able to breathe. He lifted my chin. I dared raise my eyes. Slowly, from his hand, his arm, I saw his feet, to his robe, to his beard. Could I let myself look in his eyes? What would I see? Then I saw his smile. He was smiling. He tilted my head just a little more. And our eyes met.

Immediately, I felt loved … and I loved. There was a sense that I really didn’t care what happened next. This man would be the focus of the rest of my life. I knew somehow that not only did he care about me, but he cared for me. I had no idea what anyone else was thinking or saying. Time froze. Our eyes locked. My breath began to return. 

He wiped my tears. He took my face in his hands. He stood me up. And then, as if wiping something off from my shoulder to my hands, and then off my back, he drew me in a cleansing embrace and said. “I do choose. Be clean.”

I looked at my hand. Where there once were only scabs, new skin appeared. Where there was only the space where a finger had been lost, a new finger grew — right before my eyes. Fingernail and all. The only skin I could see was my hands, the rest was clothed in rags. But from what I could see, I knew my entire body had the fresh, soft skin of a child. I was healed.

The crowds could see what I could not. And their praise began to swell. “Look, look at his face! Look at his feet — they are whole.” They all cried out in praise. And Jesus just laughed. 

A stranger from the crowd put his robe on me. My skin was healed, my filth was covered. And as the crowd began to embrace me, I saw Jesus smile, turn and, with his friends, He walked away."

Divine love is absolutely unconditional, unlimited and unimaginably extravagant. -David Benner