Hopelessness is a difficult thing, and this feeling that your situation will never improve is usually accompanied by a deep loneliness.  Rarely does someone who is surrounded by people who love them feel hopeless, even if the situation is hopeless.

One of the most remarkable things about Jesus was his ability and—more importantly—his willingness to bring hope to the hopeless.

  • When is a time that someone has brought you hope?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Luke 5:12-16.

This man was an untouchable.

Leprosy is a horrific skin disease that was, in Jesus time, incurable and thought to be highly contagious.  It weakens the victims’ entire body, discolors the skin, harms the vocal chords, causes a loss of sensation in the extremities, has a terrible odor, and leads to sores on the face.

In that day and place, a person with leprosy was forbidden to touch or even live near anyone who did not have leprosy and, if someone got too close, was required to shout “unclean” in order to warn the person to stay away.  The religious leaders taught that if you touched an unclean person, then you would become unclean like them.

So added to the terrible physical trauma of leprosy was isolation. You wonder how long it had been since this man experienced the touch of another person’s hand on his hand, the last time he had been hugged by a child, kissed by his wife, felt the embrace of a friend, or the last time he had even been bumped into.

  • When is a time when you have felt isolated and cut off?  What pulled you out of that isolation?  Or if you currently feel isolated, what would pull you out of it?

People were to avoid all lepers, and all lepers were to avoid people, especially religious leaders who could not afford to be unclean.  These leaders prided themselves in being so holy, so close to God that they where unapproachable to any of the marginalized people of the day.

But Jesus was a different kind of a religious leader.   The great irony is that the only religious leader the leper could approach was God himself!

Jesus was the most approachable human being that ever walked this planet.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, little kids, brilliant scholars, lawyers, widows, and uneducated fishermen all sought him out and were welcomed.

  • What impact do you think Jesus willingness to not only heal but to reach out and touch this “untouchable” man made on him?

  • Who are the untouchables in our society, the people who we’re told either implicitly or explicitly we should avoid?

At Eastside our vision is that we would Pursue God in our weekend services, Build Community in our small groups and on serve teams, and Unleash Compassion here at home and around the world.

In the last year $3.2 million Eastside dollars were invested in Compassion causes globally and locally; 5,000 Eastsiders helped build homes for families in need in Mexico and 801 of us traveled to Mexico to serve; and 3,224 people served in our local communities, loving on kids in low-income schools, appreciating first responders, cleaning up local parks, bringing meals to victims of domestic violence, putting together hygiene kits for homeless individuals, advocating for foster youth, and serving survivors of human trafficking.

  • If you’ve been involved in unleashing compassion locally or globally this year, share about that experience with the group.

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which we abstain from food in order to focus our minds and hearts on God and draw closer to Him.  In this chapter, God is telling us through Isaiah that fasting alone is not enough, that if you simply abstain from food and act unjustly, God isn’t going to listen to you.

Verses six and seven here are especially noteworthy: “Is not this the fast that I choose: … to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (ESV)

You notice that God doesn’t say to help people from afar?  He doesn’t say to send money to a soup kitchen, vote to build a homeless shelter, or donate your used clothes to Goodwill.  Those are all good things, but that’s not what God is telling us to do here.  Instead, he says, “You share your food when you see someone who is hungry.  When you meet someone who doesn’t have a place to live, you invite them to live at your house.  When you see someone who needs clothes, you give that person clothes.”

John Ortberg writes, “In a contagious world, we learn to keep our distance. If we get too close to those who are suffering we might get infected with their pain. It may not be convenient or comfortable. But only when you get close enough to catch their hurt will they be close enough to catch your love.”

Nobody ever touched a leper, because if you touched one, you might get infected, but when Jesus touched this man with leprosy, Jesus did not get infected.   Jesus infected him with life and hope and joy.

Once you get infected by Jesus’ touch you move through your school, your workplace, your neighborhood, and your own home with contagious joy that flows from a deep gratitude.  This isn’t obnoxious, pushy religion but rather a peace, a healthy confidence, and a humble heart full of compassion that touches those around you.  When God has changed your life, when Jesus has infected you, it’s hard to keep it quiet. It’s hard not to want to touch the world the way Jesus has touched you.

  • Has Jesus’ touch infected your own life?  If so, what impact has that had on how you engage with those around you?

  • What can you do in your own life to be more approachable, like Jesus was?

  • What could our group do together to reach out to people who are neglected and marginalized?