Today’s reading brings to mind a time in my life when I was frustrated by the “fences” or limitations that I felt had been placed on my freedom by carrying the title of Christian. It was early spring and very late at night as I drove along the winding road that lead to the farm where I lived. As I topped the crest of a hill, my headlights shown on a startled young lamb. I stopped and waited as his chilled little body slowly wandered out of the road. He was mature enough to be grazing but not likely old enough to be fully weaned. I knew that if I left him there he would most likely get hit by the next car that happened by. The poor fellow had most likely found an opening in the fence, had grazed along the road and now couldn’t find his way back into the pasture. At first I thought I would just catch him and set him back over the fence. After several attempts it become obvious the he was having none of that. I followed along behind him as he trotted along the fence. Finally, we came to a gate. I parked the car so the lights would illuminate the way into the pasture. I opened the gate and tried over and over again to get the little bugger to go through the gate. Every time I would get him to the opening he would stand looking into the pasture and let out a little bleat that would be answered by a sheep quite some distance away in the darkness. Just when I thought he was convinced to go through the gate, he would break and run back into the road or along the fence. Finally when he grew too weary to keep resisting he returned back into the safety of the pasture. The poor little guy didn’t realize the danger of being outside of the fold. By being alone he was at much greater risk of being caught by predators. He had probably never spent a chilly night away from the warmth of others. His little stomach probably yearned for the rich satisfying milk he was accustomed to. From the sounds that I heard as I walked back to my car, I was convinced that there was one sheep that had been yearning to feed and warm her young stray. As I drove on towards home I realized that I was a lot like that lost lamb. I had looked for the limits of grace only to find that they extended far beyond my understanding. I too was hungry for the rich satisfying milk and meat of the word that I had previously known. The chill that had settled deep in my spirit had previously been kept away by the warmth of fellowship. I too realized that there was protection within the fold. I knew then that there was one more patient than I who kept showing me the gate. Because he is the gate, the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6)
Leprosy was a disease they apparently brought with them out of Egypt. Like sin, the diagnosis of leprosy was reserved for the priest but the cleansing from it was the work of Christ. Receiving the diagnosis of leprosy was humbling. It caused separation and one had to continually proclaim himself as being unclean. Sin separates us from all we love. We are consumed by its ravenous appetite. Only through Christ can the chains of addiction be broken. Only through Christ can our relationships be restored. Only through the Blood so freely shed for us can we again be proclaimed as CLEAN.