Have you ever heard the phrase, “Jesus will meet you at the place of your need?” Simplified it means that you don’t have to let your need or situation keep you from Him – rather let it draw you to Him. You don’t have to whitewash or remodel your life before you hit your knees, surrender, and reach for Him. He is NOT afraid, or surprised, or intimidated by anything in your heart, your mind, your body or your soul. In church I had heard that Jesus would meet me at the place of my need. Thank God we learn that Word in church! But what was life transforming with that word…was watching The Word really meet me at the place of my need…as He stepped into my life in my home and in my heart. When I really got it…really realized that He is the living Word…alive always and not just words on a page… I studied the Word and learned so much about Him personally…and began to receive, imagine, and creatively see Him in my life.
So with that purpose in mind, today’s story is creative fiction based on scripture. However the revelation with which I write this story is straight from the throne of God. I write from a heart that knows the touch of my Healer. I pray that you do too. If you don’t know Him…I pray this introduction to Him leads you to seek Him…and find Him.
For many reasons we seek Jesus. I sought Him to know love and acceptance. Maybe with others, trauma or physical needs certainly remind us we need a savior. Basically the whole human race has known sickness or illness. Some have even known what it was like to be an outcast or shunned. I dare say many of us have known shame or condemnation. I know too that disfigurement can isolate many. But I feel sure that all of us, at some point in our lives, have known rejection or fear…and the results thereof.
Just over 2000 years ago…written in Luke 17:11-19, there is a story of a group of lepers who brave public ridicule; shame and punishment just to try to get within earshot of Jesus – close enough to call out for His help. Their story has always intrigued me as being kind of scary and mysterious.
Do you think this couldn’t possibly relate to today? Do you read past that scripture like it was an ancient disease unrelated to our lives? Do you know that Louisiana used to have the only Leper Colony in the United States…one of only a few in the world? The Hansen’s Disease Museum is now in its place. Do you know that Louisiana still has the highest incidents of leprosy in the United States? While treatment is now readily available to prevent the disease from being what it once was, it still has a slightly scary connotation. Can you imagine what it would have been like well over 2000 years ago without medicine? Can you imagine the mistreatment to those stricken with the disease because of fear?
When I read Luke 17:11-19 now, I see men that would sacrifice life if need be to do anything for a miracle from Jesus. So come back with me many, many years ago…and see what I see…
It was dark in the tunnel as Josiah shuffled up through the darkness heading for the entrance to the cave. Being the youngest in a group of ten men, out of respect he let the older men walk ahead of him on the narrow stone steps. “Respect” he grimaced in thought to himself. There was no respect in this life. He was a leper now. So were the other nine men – as well as hundreds of other people left down in the catacombs throughout this leper colony. He used to be a real man – a Samaritan warrior – strong and agile – and he had worked hard to build a small stone house for his wife – his Tamara – heavy with child the last time he saw her. He wondered what the baby was and if they were okay…does she even think of him anymore? After all, 18 months is a long time. That was how long it had been since a soldier raiding party saw the rash on his hands. It didn’t take long for the authorities and community to banish him from all that he had ever known and loved.
He never knew how much he had taken for granted before. He missed his beautiful wife, the sunlight, working with his father and brothers, fishing for supper, enjoying a meal that his mother and wife had cooked, and especially touching the belly that held his son or daughter. There was none of that in his life now. “Sunlight” and exposure were now his enemy. He was banned down in this dark world of lepers.
He had made good friends this last 18 months – even there. There were people that he cared about in the colony. After all, this was his new family. But watching them suffer was so hard. Feeling his own pain as his skin and tissue began to ache, burn, and fall off. As a leper, touch became a memory and unexposed sin was unheard of. There was always a need for more rags for diseased or rotting fingers, hands, feet, face, legs or body. Especially today!
All lepers knew the rules and tried never to appear in public exposed and certainly knew not to get close to anyone. They had to announce out loud publicly to all around them “We are unclean, unclean!” to warn the community that danger of contamination was near. It was always so humiliating – in the midst of their physical pain. But today was special and they were going to ignore the humiliation and pain! Word filtered down into the colony that a man – a prophet and healer – was coming this way on his way to Galilee. So a few of the brave leper men decided to risk it all and get as close as they could to this healer. His name was Jesus and they heard that he could heal anything. This was their only chance!
The ten of them finally reached the cave entrance to the colony. It was early morning and the sunlight, though beautiful to behold, hurt their eyes from the disease as well as from the darkness. They shielded their faces but excitedly talked all at the same time – getting their plan together on how they were going to accomplish finding Jesus.
Josiah said, “Let’s go wait in the shade of the fig tree grove a short distance from the village. We will be able to see them coming from the valley that way!” The other nine men agreed and huddled together they hurried to get in place before too many people were out on the road. They heard that a large crowd always followed Jesus so they wanted to be able to be in place ahead of the crowd – or no one would let them near him. And there was always the danger of getting stoned if the public got too riled up and afraid of them.
The lepers were barely in place under the fig trees when the sound of voices came from down the road. A dust cloud rose that announced it was a large number of people. The ten men hid, waited and snacked on a few ripe figs…a treat to be sure! With their hearts pounding Josiah and the other nine men all looked at each other…trying to be invisible to all…except the one whose gaze they sought!
The voices in the distance became louder and the dust cloud wider as everyone rounded the hill and began the steep journey towards the village. No one was paying any attention to the lepers hiding in the fig trees. The ten men looked over the men in the crowd…whispering to each other, “Which one is he?”
Then all of a sudden they knew which one he was. It had to be him! He wasn’t in front of the crowd of people…there were about 6 or 7 men in front of him and it looked like several men behind and on the side of him. You could tell they were staying close to him. He was wearing white linen and a tan robe. He had long brown hair. And what a wonderful laugh! He laughed at the antics of children that ran around him to catch his attention. He lifted one child and hugged him. He reached out and touched the face of an old woman on the side of him. He stopped and turned around and listened to the story of a group of teenage boys behind him. We were amazed to see that the eyes of everyone were on him. Including ours! He just seemed to draw you to him.
Well, it is now or never they decided and painfully climbed atop a large boulder. Then loudly the ten lepers called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” A minute seemed like an hour as silence fell in the crowd. Jesus turned around towards them. The lepers stood with eyes on Him. He stood with eyes on them. The lepers held their breath! Jesus saw through not only their rags and disease but through to their hearts and He never hesitated. He simply said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
With a dust cloud of their own they got off the boulder — hobbled painfully the first few steps, then each step they grew stronger and stronger as they began to run, and run, and run. They headed towards the priests…free…Jesus said so! As they ran, the rags covering them began to unravel and fall to the ground. Looking down at their hands…their healed hands…they ran even faster with tears of joy rolling down smooth skin.
Jesus watched them go then turned back to his disciples and grinned. The disciples were still watching the lepers run off down the road.
About noon as Jesus walked through the village, He heard someone whisper to Him. He turned around and saw a young man dressed in leper’s clothes – but with healthy skin standing there. Josiah began to praise God in a loud voice and threw himself at Jesus’ feet…and thanked Him.
Jesus watched Josiah reach out slowly to touch His feet…after 18 months without having touch in his life. Then Jesus reached out His hand and touched Josiah. Josiah looked up and Jesus asked him, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one else found to return and give praise to God? Rise and go…your faith has made your well.” Josiah rose, hugging Jesus, and with tears in his eyes began running home…really home!
Jesus laughed joyfully and said to himself, “Run Josiah, run, you have a baby daughter to meet.”
While this may be my vision of what might have happened that day, the point of it all is that Jesus still has real encounters with us…just ask Him.
Creative Fiction 3-story series
Patti Corbello Archer
August 12, 2011