He has already once gone to the colony to see them, but hides at the last minute. He makes the decision to once again go. He has heard from Esther of this Rabbi who teaches of love and she believes that this Rabbi can heal them if only they can get to him. He follows Esther to the leper colony and as she goes in to get his mother, they are told that his sister is dying. He sees no other way but to take them to this Rabbi, hoping He can heal their leprosy.
Leprosy was a horrible disease. Those who had leprosy were considered unclean. It was believed that they were cursed; they were cast out of society and had to live in isolation, subsisting on food that loved ones would bring them. They were sick and alone and ostracized. They could not be touched, let alone held and comforted. Even until the Middle Ages, they were often required to wear special clothing or to ring a bell to announce when they came near people. Can you even imagine? Already feeling like the dregs of society, dirty and forsaken and ashamed; only to have to ring a bell and say look at me, the one who can't be loved. It was horrible and lonely and frightening. So in the movie when Judah goes to his mother and touches her against her admonition, I was deeply moved. He did not care that he might become diseased himself. He did not factor in the danger to himself. He only knew that she was alone and afraid and that she would die without him. He then goes into the cave and seeks out his sister, who is distraught that he is there. She would rather die in her diseased state, alone and cursed than to see him harmed.
Alone, diseased and cursed. Sounds so very familiar to me. A people without hope, cursed by sin and seeing no recourse. A Saviour who with no thought to His own welfare reaches out and touches us. Touches us in our sin and our filth. Though we are dressed in stinking rags that are impregnated with the stench of hell, He wraps His arms around us and welcomes us into the family. That the God of the universe, the only Holy One would deign to come down and accept us. Not only accept us, but love us. Not only love us, but take our place. That He would remove the very cloth of holiness and righteousness that He was garbed in and take our putrid, reeking rags upon Himself. Picture that if you can. Holy, righteous, lovely. Shedding that voluntarily on our behalf and then putting on the most foul and offensive attire, drenched in transgression, steeped in damnation. Oh, what love that was. Once, for all, to take our sins upon Himself and carry them to the cross. To die a horrendous sinner's death, the most innocent of all. To shed His deity and take on our humanity in all it's grossness and deformity. God become man, man become wretched transgressor. 1 Peter 2:24, "He personally carried our sins in His body on the [a]cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness," (Amplified). He gave us righteousness for our rags. Life instead of death. Blessing instead of cursing.
What truly amazes me is that God set no other conditions on us. He made that trade, as unfair as it was to Him. Seriously, the life of a holy God for centuries of sin and evil, hatred and wrong-doing. All wrapped up in that package of Jesus, ours for the taking. Here, here is a gift for you. Just open it up and receive it. Don't you love getting gifts? Really, who doesn't like a present wrapped up in pretty paper with a bow tied around it. My birthday is coming up and I can't wait to see what my loved ones have specially picked just for me. Thought and effort and cost go into a gift. You carefully open the package, unless your three and just tear into it! What is in it? And all that is required is that you accept it, you open it and then you give that person thanks.
Have you accepted that beautiful gift that God, through Jesus has given you? Have you opened it up and seen all that is in it? Love and peace, joy and forgiveness. Hope and grace, life and mercy. "Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights," (James 1:17, GNT). He has given us everything, holding nothing back, not even His Son. I don't know about you, but when someone gives me a gift, I tend to want to reciprocate. Not because I have to, but because they have been kind to me, they have taken the time to think of me and to bless me. I want to somehow show them blessing in return. What is it that we can do for our Father? To be truthful there is nothing that can repay what He has done for us. And that is why it is called grace. But we can read and follow His word. We can do what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments. Matthew 22:37-39, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’" (Amplified). And this can further be broken down in Micah 6:8, "But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don’t take yourself too seriously-- take God seriously, " (MSG). Unwrap that gift from the Father. Unwrap it and use it. Don't let it sit on a shelf and collect dust. Don't toss it in a drawer and forget about it. Don't save it for a rainy day. The gift of forgiveness and salvation and life is to be appropriated every day. It is to be spread abroad to all we come in contact with. It isn't to be hoarded, it is to be shared. That free gift becomes like the loaves and fishes, the more who need it, the more there is to be given. It is like the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17. There is a famine and he asks a widow to bring him a piece of bread. She says that there is enough for one meal for herself and her son and then they will die. Elijah promises that if she provides him that meal, that the flour and oil will not run out. It did not and they were provided for. God's gifts, God's provisions never run out. There is never a famine of love or grace or mercy. The only shortage comes when we withhold all that we are given from others. Truly, God's love, the gift that keeps on giving.
Back to Jesus' substitution for us. I am sure as a parent or even a grandparent you have had to change a few dirty diapers. In fact there have been times that that child has so soiled themselves, that all that is left to do is throw away the whole nasty, smelly outfit. No getting that clean. Out into the garbage it goes. You wash and clean that baby and then dress them in fresh, clean clothes. You wouldn't later go back into the garbage, pull out that disgusting mess and place it again on that child. No, that soiled mess stays where it belongs. On the trash pile, in the dung heap. No trading cleansed spotless clothes for tainted unclean rags. No going back to what we were before; unclean, forsaken and unloved.
We will live as written in Psalm 51:7-15,
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise. (MSG)
Information on Lew Wallace found on http://www.christianpost.com/news/10-essential-facts-about-the-history-of-ben-hur-168183/