Jesus loved everyone with whom He came into contact. In today’s passage, Jesus is face to face with a very motley crew, and yet He loves every one in a tangible way.
First, it’s the leper. Leprosy was a contagious disease that killed off the nerve endings in your body, leaving you without feeling. And without feeling, you never knew if you had hurt yourself. That means that the smallest cut or turn of the ankle would be left untreated and fester. Often lepers were known for missing the tips of their extremities from these unnoticed infections. Given the contagious nature of the disease as well as the Old Testament laws against interacting with them, people avoided lepers. Pharisees, who prided themselves on their obedience to the Law, wouldn’t even allow their shadow to fall on them or anything unclean. But not only did Jesus interact with this man with leprosy, he “reached out His hand and touched the man.” And in so doing, Jesus proved that it was His cleanness that was contagious, not the disease, and so the man was healed AND made clean.
Next, it’s the centurion. A Roman soldier in charge of 100 men, this was one of the oppressors of Jesus’ people and a gentile. Given the natural anger and fear one feels toward one in an oppressive class as well as the Old Testament laws against interacting with unclean gentiles, people avoided centurions. But not only did Jesus interact with this man, but He offered to go into the man’s house. The man showed his faith by announcing his unworthiness to have Jesus come to him like so many others had to – he was, after all, a man with soldiers under his authority – but also that a simple announcement that his servant was healed was all it took. And so Jesus healed his servant and proclaimed this centurion an example of faith.
Then came Peter’s mother-in-law, many who were demon-possessed, and others who were sick. Not one was a Pharisee, or a disciple, or an Apostle. There seems to be nobody with whom Jesus would not interact, nobody He wouldn’t heal, nobody He wouldn’t love. Would that we could be as open to those “unclean” in our society.