Adapted from Set Apart
by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
The Life Giver
As the leper struggled through the crowd, his bell announced his shame. “Unclean. Unclean.” All the clean ones moved away, avoiding his pain at all costs. The leper worked his way through the religious throng, desperate to find the presence of Jesus.
Jesus looked past his rotting flesh and saw the hope that sloughed away with every rejection, every head that turned away, every face that registered disgust and fear.
Jesus looked past the stench of decaying skin and saw the little spark of life crusted over with loneliness and hurt, almost extinguished.
He heard the anguished cry: “If you will, you can make me clean.” He restored the leper’s disease-ravaged body, but more than that, He restored his shame-ravaged soul. The fearless, compassionate touch of the Savior clothed the man in dignity. Jesus gave him more than a reprieve from death. Jesus gave him LIFE. (Matt. 8:1-3)
They hauled her through the streets, her guilt on display for all to see. No place for her to hide, no shelter from accusing glances and condemning words. She was a perfect target for their collective righteous outrage. A perfect target for the stones they itched to throw.
They dragged her into the presence of Jesus. Just how far would He carry His theme of mercy and compassion? Surely this woman would find mercy’s limits. Surely He would have no choice but to join them in their stone-throwing censure.
In Jesus’ presence, the stone-throwers discovered that His compassion never fails, His mercies never come to an end. He unmasked the surface righteousness of her accusers and set her free—FORGIVEN. (John 8:2-11)
The Heart Cleanser
He was so close, and yet He might as well have been a world away. To reach the presence of Jesus, she would have to wade through the conglomerate of very, very religious ones—the perfectly righteous men—who were His dinner companions today. She would drown in their scorn. Surely she could not keep her head above the waves of their belittling hatred that were sure to swallow her up. So close! So close!
The longing could not be contained. She had seen the mercy in His eyes when they fell on her that day. He didn’t say a word. No one knew but her. When she read the forgiveness in His face, saw the mercy in His glance, she had been born again. A clean slate. A fresh start. A heart flushed out and free of sin’s debris. Healed from wounds that festered in her soul. New.
Whatever it took, she would bring Him her most precious possession. She would break it at His feet and pour out everything she owned as her worship and adoration. She would wash His feet with her tears, as He had washed her heart with His mercy.
Breaking through the rigid righteousness of the religious, she found the gentle mercy of the Savior. At Jesus’ feet, she who had come to lower herself in His presence, found herself lifted up in the presence of her enemies. She left that day, CLEAN.(Luke 7:36-50)
Jennifer Kennedy Dean is Executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Jennifer’s most recent book release is Set Apart: A 6-Week Study of the Beatitudes. Her book Heart’s Cry has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. You’ll find articles and daily quotes from Jennifer at the National Day of Prayer website. Live a Praying Life has been called a flagship work on prayer. Jennifer was widowed in 2005 after 26 years of marriage to Wayne Dean, her partner both in life and ministry. They are the parents of three grown sons. Jennifer makes her home in Marion, KY.