And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
(Matthew 8:2-4 ESV)
After wrapping up His Sermon on the Mount and coming back down the mountain, a leper came to Jesus asking to be healed of his terrible disease.
Leprosy was (and is) a horrible disease. It causes extremities to shrivel up and eventually fall off. Since it was contagious, lepers were excluded from society. They were forced to live outside of city walls, away from the rest of the community. As such lepers had no life at all. They could get no job. They had to beg for sustenance. They were, essentially, dead already.
So it was a very bold move for this leper to break the law and approach Jesus. But it was also a sign of just how desperate he was. There was no cure for leprosy. The disease never improved. As such, lepers essentially spent the rest of their lives waiting to die as the disease continued to take over their bodies.
The leper came to Jesus in total humility. He knelt before Jesus and called Him “Lord“. Notice that the leper had no doubt about Jesus’ ability. He knew Jesus could make [him] clean. Yet he made no demands or presumptions – he left his fate entirely up to the will of Jesus.
Interestingly, in asking to be made clean the leper is expressing not only his deep desire to be freed from the disease but also from penalty of his disease. He wants to be accepted again and to be part of community. He does not want to be an outcast any longer. The emotional pain he felt must have been great – possibly worse than the disease itself.
Not coincidentally, those who are excluded from God’s kingdom because they didn’t allow Jesus to cure them of their disease – sin – will be great. Unfortunately, such despair will last for all eternity.
It was against the ceremonial law to touch a leper. But that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus stretched out his and touched him. This would have shocked any and all onlookers. Jesus, being God, did not have to touch the leper to heal him. But as Jesus often did, He used remedies that went beyond what was necessary to not just heal but to also communicate love and compassion.
Jesus was willing to touch this man when no one else would. By touching him Jesus validated him and instilled in him a sense of humanity and worth – something this man had certainly been lacking for years. His life was forever changed for the better because of Jesus.
After healing this man Jesus instructs him to say nothing to anyone but to show himself to the priest and make the necessary offerings according to the law [Leviticus 14:1-32]. Jesus often told those He healed to say nothing because He didn’t want to cause any trouble with the authorities.
Israel was an occupied territory at this time – occupied by Rome at the height of its power. If the people got too excited about Jesus they may have tried to install Him as ruler in place of the Romans which would have created a dangerous situation. Jesus’ command, as everything He did, was given out of concern for others.
This leper was powerless to help himself. No doctor could help him. Society’s solution was to eliminate him and forget about him. But Jesus saw this man as someone who needed to be loved and cared for.
As such, He did not require anything of this leper. The man simply had to receive Jesus’ blessing. This is exactly how God works. God is a giver [John 3:16]. He wants to bless us. If we approach Him humbly and willingly, like the leper, we can experience His blessings too.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.