The Lesson of the Lonely Leper
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16
We have all become too well acquainted with distance during this strange and unprecedented time. During a time when the world could use a giant hug, we are all forced to stay far away from one another. I find it interesting that during all this, God has almost forced His people into a quiet place- an intentional solitude of sorts. I don’t understand the why behind the wilderness, I just trust that in the silence there is a lesson to be learned.
I am reminded of the story of Jesus healing a man full of leprosy in the book of Luke. A man diseased, alone, outcast, and desperate was begging to be healed. There was no cure, no vaccine, no hope. He was forced to stay away from people in order to not spread the infectious disease. He was instructed to cover his face and deem himself unclean. Social distancing was part of his vocabulary long before Covid19 came into being. Leprosy was one of the cruelest of fates because it was the loneliest of them all. Doesn’t this sound relatable? This year, we were forced into isolation, cut off from the outside, pushed into solitude. So many are searching for a cure, pleading for healing, and losing loved ones at arm’s length.
This man found the cure. He was alone, but he ran to Jesus.
In the middle of his anguish, he fell on his face and begged for mercy and healing. The funny thing is, Jesus didn’t shun him or tell him to stay at least six feet away. He didn’t even run the other direction. Jesus reached out His hand and laid it upon the leper and he was healed. Clean hands touched a sick body and he was made whole.
I am not sure why Jesus commanded him not to tell anyone. The bible doesn’t even say the man shared the news with others. I am not a theologian, but I bet it was known through the way he walked after he was cleansed. I am sure the ex-leper didn’t hide his face any longer. I can almost guarantee he frequented the restaurants and coffee shops and waved at all the onlookers. It was his new life that spoke for itself. Sometimes simply the way we live after we have encountered Jesus is enough to make others want to change too. We do not always have to tell the world in elaborate ways. There are times when the way you live can tell the story of what Jesus has done in your life far better than you shouting the news from a rooftop. Everyone wanted the kind of healing and freedom this man experienced, everyone wanted to take off their masks and find the real version of themselves. That came about by seeing first-hand how one man’s life was changed by running to Jesus.
Another key point to grasp here is that while crowds of people drew near to hear Jesus and also find healing, He withdrew to desolate places to pray. There is a lesson in loneliness, friends. Some of the greatest stories ever told come from quiet wilderness wanderings. Jesus intentionally put Himself there. He chose to be lonely because He knew crowded lifestyles, corporate healings, and large scale miracles are not all there is to walking with Him. Oftentimes, those quiet and desperate moments are where we gain the most perspective. It is where personal growth happens and where we can get so close to Jesus that when we walk out of the desert we are different. When we make it to the other side of the lonely area, the place we fell on our face before Him when there was no one else around but Him, people will know we have been changed. Even Jesus knew that there is power in withdrawing to the desolate places to pray.
What are you learning in this season that seems so isolating? What will you take away from the example God Himself gave us about intentionally withdrawing and reconnecting to the source? What lesson can you learn from the lonely leper who knew getting close to Jesus was the only thing that would change his life? It is just you and your Savior in this wilderness and He is the only One that can heal you. Maybe Jesus is withdrawing into the lonely places to find you as you run toward Him. Will you walk differently after this? Will people know you have been in His presence simply by the way you live? I know it seems like it, but this is not a punishment, it is a gift. Draw close to Jesus. He is familiar with the changes that come in the quiet and lonely places.
Rachel Skirvin is a lover of travel, nachos, and the gospel. She is a graduate of Urshan College and will most likely always call it Gateway. She is pursuing her master’s degree in counseling and human services and is currently serving at The Pentecostals of Cooper City in South Florida.