My name is JOAB. King David of Israel once cursed my family by saying:
“May Joab’s family never be without one suffering from a skin disease” – and so here I am – generations later: a leper for more than 30 years all because my great-great-great grandfather killed Abner: a commander of King David’s army.
At first my leprosy wasn’t very bad. My family did their best to cover up the first few signs on my skin. Gradually, as the white, flaky areas started to spread, it was impossible to hide – so my loved ones bowed to the law and sent me away.
I understood the need for my exile out of towns and separation from any contact with others.
Because, of course, leprosy was contagious. But beyond that, these signs of inflammation and disease of my skin indicated that I was a sinner – or so it was thought at the time. Something inside of me was decayed or unclean – and that was showing itself on the outside of my body in the form of the disease.
That’s the real reason a leper like me is expelled from society and from contact with anyone. Any person who even got close to me would be rendered unclean themselves – you caught both the disease and the underlying sin at the same time.
So I, and everyone else like me – lived in isolation in the wilderness. The disease was bad enough – but the isolation was worse.
The feeling of being unclean, contagious, untouchable – all leading to the feeling of being UNLOVABLE—was the real horror.
I examined myself over and over again and asked: “what had I done? What inner disorder is showing itself on my skin?”
It did not matter that I could not figure that out. After a while, you just feel horrible about yourself. You start seeing yourself as one disgusting mess.
I happily did what the law required of us untouchables – I shouted: “Unclean – unclean” whenever anyone got close – to warn them – that I was no good, that I was toxic, that I was to be shunned at all costs.
Most people just alerted their paths to avoid me and the other lepers with me. Sometimes people would shout obscenities at us – just to make sure we would stay in our place of exile and not come any closer.
Most just had fear in their eyes. One time I heard a person damn me to hell – saying that’s exactly where I belonged for having done what I did – even though they, nor I, knew what that something was.
One fateful day, I heard someone say: “Maybe the prophet from Nazareth could help these wretched souls. After all, he has been curing so many.”
Another said: “Who knows. I hear the Nazarene eats and drinks with sinners. Why should he not start to hang out with lepers and other despicable people?
It could not have been but a few days later that I came out of the cave I used for shelter to the sound of a group of travelers coming by. I did my customary shouting: “Unclean – unclean!”
Then I saw him. I knew who he was immediately – such a stunning man – walking with such confidence, yet his bearing communicated such peace.
Then his eyes met mine – and there was no fear at all in those eyes. Just compassion and love. It was so clear, in just this connection of our eyes – that he felt sad about my state – and he understood my isolation.
For the first time in a very long time – I felt courage and hope. Going against everything I had been taught by the Jewish Law – I ran up to him and fell on my knees in front of him and boldly said:
“Lord if you wish – you can make me clean!”
My actions and words got everyone to stop in their tracks – and they listened to what he would say.
I think I actually stopped breathing when he reached out and touched me. TOUCHED ME! He touched the unclean, contagious, untouchable, unlovable ME.
You cannot possibly know what it is like to feel so vile and then to suddenly be touched in the way that he touched me – the feeling started with the touch of his hand to my skin – but that touch went way deep – possibly even touching my very soul.
And then he spoke those words that I will never forget: “I do will it – be made clean!”
My shame left me immediately. And then my skin was transformed. The tears of joy must have told him how grateful I was.
HE – just smiled and embraced me. And every one of his fellow travelers embraced me as well. We were all laughing and crying at the same time. He, this man they call Jesus – was laughing and enjoying it the most --- for I was lost, but now I was found. Once unclean – but now clean. Alone – and now would know loneliness no more.
What a joy. What a gift. What a day!
Jesus had restored me to communion again because he had compassion on me.
And you know what – he has the same compassion for anyone who suffers in anyway what-so-ever: physically, mentally, spiritually. . . .
And so my advice to you – is to be bold. Just say: “Lord if you wish – you can heal me!”
Give him that chance to also restore you.
And then be imitators of Christ – looking for ways to include people rather than exclude them – looking for ways to lift them up rather than put them down – looking for ways to love them rather than to shun them: do everything for the glory of God!
So my name is Joab – and that is my miraculous story – and I am sticking with it. Peace to you and yours: And blessed be the name of the Lord!
Moments in time...