This past week has been one long blur, resulting in a combination of medicines and my body’s need for healing sleep. At times, I was so miserable that all I could do is lay still trying to avoid my progressively worsening cough. I couldn’t breathe. Literally, I couldn’t get the air I was in taking to filter to my lungs. The Dr. said I had asthma induced bronchitis. Nice to know, I guess, but I just wanted to feel better. From experience, I knew that it would not take long until the miracle of modern medicine would work it’s magic and I would soon be back to good health. I did let my mind wander to the days of pre-medicine though, and tried to imagine what it would have been like for many who, experiencing the same type of sickness I have just suffered, had no hope for cure. Perhaps they had access to medicinal herbs or lived close to one of the major cities where some sort of medical knowledge might have been helpful, but for the most part, there was no known cure for many of today’s common illnesses.
I then let my mind journey even farther back through time, to the days when the streets of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Judea were nothing but tired and worn trails of dust. They were also the only way that the cities of Israel were connected to each other. More than likely, caravans carrying wares to be sold in the market along with travelers making their way throughout the countryside could be seen on these streets on any given day. Another guaranteed sight, if one were to be walking the streets outside of any of the cities of Israel when Herod reigned in Judea on behalf of Rome, would be the various people for whom illness had driven them outside the city gates. In order to keep the greater populace living inside the confines of the city walls safe and healthy, those people having contracted leprosy, tuberculosis or other forms of highly contagious diseases were forced to find refuge along the highway or catacombs outside the city. The chronically ill were additionally forced to cry the word ‘unclean’ to passerbys so that no one might mistakenly come in contact with them. Think of this existence. These poor people were already feeling miserable, had been forced from their homes – in most cases, alone – they had to rely on charity for food, and if that wasn’t enough, also had to announce their uncleanness and unworthiness to all who might pass by them. The physical, mental and emotional toll on these individuals must have been overwhelming.
At some point, during this time period, word of unusual events started spreading throughout the country. For this small window in time, there lived One who might actually be able to help these ostracized folks. Eager to share what they had seen, men, women and children ran from city to neighboring city yelling and crying out the name of Jesus. This name, the wonderfully, powerful name of Jesus fell on the ears of the sick, laying outside the city. Maybe they felt hope and the possibility for a real life again. Maybe they had become so hardened that skepticism was the only emotion they could feel. Regardless of their reception of the news, the fact that something unusual was taking place in Israel could not be escaped. The documented love that Jesus had for the sick can be found in the New Testament eyewitness accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. John even ends his writings by saying in John 21:25, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
I let my mind wrap around the incredible surge of feeling that might have been felt by those who experienced the actual, physical touch of Jesus. For the outcast living outside the city, this touch meant even more as they had not experienced a touch from anyone in a very long time. No hugs, no handshakes, no pat on the back in passing, they were unclean and unable to be touched. The touch of Jesus not only healed these people permanently from their illness, but it radically changed the course of their life. Take a moment, let your mind roll around the opportunities that presented themselves to the sick through just that one touch by Jesus. As I lay trying to recuperate this past week, I savored the thought of feeling Jesus heal me of my cough. I stand in awe of His power and can only imagine what His personal touch felt like.
I will testify though, that I am better today and I give the credit for my health to only God. The prayers of a few close friends, availed much and I am confident that I felt the touch of God. We do not live during the time that God opened the doorway from heaven and allowed His Son, Jesus, to physically walk the earth. We do, however, live in a time when we, who believe and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, have His Spirit living in us. Jesus is not here, in person, to minister to the lost and sick, so it is up to us as His ambassadors to take his message to those outside the city gates. If the city is represented by the Church, in our times, then we must leave the safety and confinements of the church and go where the sick, unwanted and unloved live – outside the city gates. As Christians, we can bring the life changing, healing touch of the Master to those who truly need it but have no idea how or where to find Jesus. So many people wander outside the gate. They may not shout the word, ‘unclean,’ but they undoubtably feel unclean. Only those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, can ever feel clean and whole.