“When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 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 8:1-4 ESV
In reading over this passage, we can make four significant observations.
Though Jesus’ teachings were somewhat unorthodox, he had this allure that attracted many people to follow him.
The leper, weakened and wasting away by a highly contagious disease, unapologetically and humbly kneels before Jesus with utter faith.
The leper was UNTOUCHABLE! Physical contact with a leper might expose a person to this painful, life-wrecking infection. In this case, Jesus MAKES CONTACT with the man by bodily TOUCHING him. He healed the man immediately!
Jesus commands the man to tell no one. This is the first instance Jesus says to “tell no one” of the miracle that had taken place. Instead, to see the priest so that the priest could approve him back into society.
Let’s get some context. Jesus is in a season of demonstrating His authoritative kingdom power. He wants to establish Himself as Messiah by performing many miracles and revealing that the kingdom has arrived. He is showing His strength in healings, discipleship, and overthrowing Satan’s strongholds. Amazingly, Jesus’ one true mission here is to minister specifically to the marginalized, disappointing the messianic expectations of many who followed him.
The Old Testament provides specific guidelines for examining and treating these people with various skin diseases. Not only was leprosy a disease, but it also made the leper and anyone who touched him ceremonially unclean. (See also Leviticus 13:45-46, Numbers 5:2-4, Leviticus 15). Jesus was unaffected, and the man was healed immediately! Jesus wanted this man to show himself to the priest. He commands the man to do what the law required, to return to society even though this miracle would attest to the authenticity of his message concerning the kingdom’s arrival. Jesus didn’t want to draw crowds who simply came for miracles.
Jesus was unaffected or undaunted by this man. If He was DISGUSTED, He did not make it known. According to the Answers in Genesis site, “Leprosy has terrified humanity since ancient times… While people with leprosy traditionally suffered banishment from family and neighbors.”
“If one even so much as came in contact with or touched a leper, they too would be seen as defiled. Thus, people avoided lepers like the plague. What’s more, many believed that leprosy was a divine punishment for the act of slander. Thus, those who had leprosy were not only shunned, but judged by society. We can see how scandalous it was for Jesus to lay hands on and heal a leper. Not only did he risk defiling himself, but he was also showing his power over sin (Life Giving Water Blog).”
This is a compelling topic in a day and age of taking considerable precautions to not infect ourselves or spread infectious diseases. This story of Jesus healing the leper reveals Jesus’ heart. No matter what was afflicting this man before him, He loved him equally to the blind, the sick, the cast out, and the tax collector. He was not “grossed out” or “disgusted,” or thinking, “I might catch what he has.” He treated this man with dignity, respect, and compassion, bringing healing without shunning or judging him. The unseemly act of Jesus touching the untouchable, with the risk of defiling himself, revealed his power over sin and death! What a challenging thought during a pandemic!
Practice or Application: Let’s work to bring the healing power of Jesus Christ to others today, much like Jesus did in this story of the leper. Who do you know who could use a healing touch? Is there someone or a specific group you avoid? What might God be calling you to do in these instances? How can you show love to the sick? Being fully human with emotions, what do you think Jesus did with the feeling of disgust?
Walking in the way of Jesus, with the heart of Jesus!