Our newest sermon series, Jesus and the Other, explores the revolutionary way Jesus interacted with people, breaking the human-constructed barriers of class, race, gender, religion and marginalization due to physical or mental health. The following monologue depicts the perspective of the "other" in such an encounter: Nicodemus (John 3:1-21).
Written by Rick McKinley, Read by Ben Thomas
We had heard about You. Heard about the Rabbi Jesus. Words spreads quickly around here, especially for those of us who carry the name “Unclean” from our disease.
That all-powerful disease that takes everything from you. This stigma born on our skin. We were a walking illustration for the other Rabbis of what sin does to a person. It starts small, they would say, like the first white spots on a leper’s eyelids, but soon it spreads along the skin, the entire body infected, the nerves unable to feel. What is left is not a man but animal, they would say. We were what sin is, to the Rabbis at least!
All of us lepers, walking illustrations of sin, for every Rabbi. Some Rabbis would throw rocks at us to make us go away. Most wouldn’t buy or eat food from the markets of villages in which we lived on the outskirts.
But we heard differently about You. We heard that not only had you healed a man in our condition, but you reached out and you touched him!
We had not been touched by another human since the day the first spots appeared.
Leprosy had taken over my body rather quickly, and due to the lack of feeling in my hands and feet, I soon was covered in open sores. Cutting myself but not knowing it, slicing my foot on a slate rock over and over without the gift of pain to remind me to recoil.
Most people detest pain, but pain serves a great purpose. It warns the body of danger. Without it you become like us, white-spotted and wounded.
Once the spots arrived on my body, I was forced to leave my family and retreat to a designated place outside our village where those with my condition lived. Together we formed the saddest little community one could ever imagine.
There were rules and regulations for us when we ventured into the village, rules that were meant to protect the clean from the unclean. People here believed merely getting close to us would be enough to transmit our deadly disease.
Required to have our heads shaved and uncovered to reveal our condition, our tunic torn, and our face covered, we were walking monuments of lament. The purpose was to clearly warn people to run the other way.
And they did.
When approaching a crowd, we had to yell, “Unclean, Unclean.”
For the others with me this was mortifying, but me being a Samaritan, I was used to being labeled unclean. My life seemed to be nothing more than a lonely and terrifying presence of how horrible a person could become. Unclean by race and Unclean by disease.
But we had heard about You. Heard of the man you healed. It really was the most incredible thing; to see hope actually form within the hearts of our little community of death.
I was afraid to hope if I am honest.
I had tried all the ceremonial washings, the sacrifices, everything written in the Jews’ Laws. But nothing worked. I was terrified to hope again because the disappointment of not getting better was as crushing as the day I was first diagnosed.
That day I met you, a relative of a man who was living in our leper community had come to us. Getting only near enough so we could hear her voice, she told us that your disciples were coming through our village!
We quickly covered our faces. Most of us needing walking sticks, we wrapped our wounds best we could and we began the journey to see You. The crowds gave way seeing us parade down the streets calling out for You.
Then we saw You, at least a form of You a hundred feet away. We stopped, and we began to cry out to get Your attention, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
You simply told us to do what the other Rabbis had told us to do over the years. Go to the Priest. My heart sank, as did the others’. How many times had we tried this over the years? Going to the priest, sacrificing, going through these motions of someone else’s religion. I didn’t want to go, but the others convinced me that perhaps You knew more than You were letting on.
We turned and began the journey to the Priest, but not more than a quarter of a mile or so, I had the most beautiful sensation.
I realized I had a sharp pebble in my sandal, because my foot began to hurt! That beautiful feeling of pain had returned to my left foot! And soon the others were experiencing the same thing, feeling again!
Then the scales on our skins were brushing off like ash, revealing soft and smooth new skin like a babe underneath the ash. We couldn’t believe that it was happening.
Wounds healing, skin perfecting itself before our eyes, we moved from being stunned to weeping and stripping off our tunics down to our underwear, seeing that our entire bodies had been fully restored!
The one small difference between the ten of us was that the color of my skin, fully restored in all its beauty, was still a different color from the other nine.
I turned quickly, and ran back to You. I assumed the others would follow, but turning my head over my shoulder I realized I was alone. I didn’t care, in fact I had hardly thought of it. I flew through the village and rushed through the crowd, crashing to the ground at Your feet! My heart warmed that the dirt was painful on my knees.
Overwhelmed with thankfulness, my soul overwhelmed with feeling whole.
I owed You my life. What once was walking monument of lament was transformed. Hope that I had written off was alive in me again. Through tears I held your feet and wept my praise upon Your sandals.
You asked about the others. I had no idea where they had gone or why they did not return. For those other men, they would quickly merge back into society, while I would still be the foreigner, the Samaritan, the other, but none of this mattered to me.
My body had been made whole, but a larger wholeness was growing inside of me.
“Rise and go,” You said in a voice of love,
“Your faith has made you well,” you said.
That was it...faith.
I hadn’t realized it before, but that was the thing my disease had taken away. Faith. Faith that life could be more than walking death. Faith that pain was a gift in a world of beauty. Faith that there is something more than being numb inside and out.
Faith that God had remembered His creation, had wept for our brokenness and sent YOU our King to heal, redeem and restore us!
You touched my soul, not simply my skin.
Going back to my home, and feeling the warmth of my wife’s arms around me, my children’s bodies wrapped around my legs, this was a moment I had tried to not think of, because I knew it would never come. But here I was!
In You death is turned to life, and hopelessness is wiped away.
Now I am a man with praise ceaselessly falling from my lips like the scales fell from my body that day.