(I shared these thought for the Lord’s Supper with my congregation on March 29. Of course, it was presented before an empty room and videotaped for our online service.)
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13 (NIV)
Leprosy was a terrible disease; there was no cure for it and some forms of the disease were highly contagious. It was a disease that affected the skin but it also destroyed the nerve endings and those who suffered with it would often unknowingly damage their fingers toes and noses. This man obviously had an advanced case of it and possibly lost much bodily tissue.
If a person contracted leprosy, a priest declared him a leper and banished him from his home and city. The victim of leprosy was forced to live apart from others and to cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” when others approached, so they would not be defiled. This meant that lepers were unfit to participate in any religious or social activity. Because the law said that contact with any unclean person made a person unclean, too, some people even threw rocks at lepers to keep them at a safe distance. Even the mention of the name of this disabling disease terrified people. The leper was sent to live in a community with other lepers until he either got better or died.
We are now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and we are struggling with the inconveniences of social distancing and limited interaction with others. This is nothing compared to the emotional, physical and religious separation experienced by those who suffered with leprosy in Bible times.
Yet this man knew there was a way to be cured and he fell at the feet of the one who could heal him. Rather than shun the man, Jesus reached out and touched him and healed him completely. Only the Son of God could conquer this dreaded enemy and make the man thoroughly clean.
As bad as social distancing is, there is something far worse. Spiritual distancing also separates us but not just from others around us, it separates us from God and if left unhealed, the separation is eternal. Spiritual separation is caused by a disease too, it is a disease of the soul and it is called sin. We have all been exposed and we have all been infected.
There is only one cure for this disease and the spiritual distancing that results. Only the healing touch of Jesus can miraculously take away our sins and restore our relationship with our heavenly father. Like the leper we must realize our inability to cure ourselves and humbly come to Jesus. He provided the cure by sacrificing himself on the cross.
The communion meal is a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made to heal us of our sin. The bread is His body, given for us; the juice is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus invites us to eat this meal with Him whenever we gather, whether in one place or in dispersed places joined together by an internet connection. He invites us to remember, He invites us to thank Him, He invites us to examine ourselves and He invites us to proclaim His death until He comes again.