Man full of leprosy
Both Matthew and Mark simply call this man a “leper.” Luke, being a physician, records that he was “full of leprosy,” being more precise medically as to his condition. He wasn’t in the beginning stages of leprosy but had been afflicted with this condition for some time for it to have advanced to this state. One can only imagine the physical and emotional toll this disease caused in its victims and it’s victims family. Mosaic Law required that the man thus afflicted be separated from everyone else (Lev. 13:4, et. al.). He also had to go around announcing his condition by declaring himself “unclean” (Lev. 13:45).
The leprosy of the Bible was apparently a term that encompassed a wider variety of conditions than the modern term leprosy conveys. When we think of leprosy today, we usually think only of Hansen’s disease which causes a loss of sensation in the nerves which leads to disfigurement. While today this condition can be treated, it does not heal itself. In the Bible, however, occasionally this disease would go away after some time (Lev. 14:1-3), not so of Hansen’s. The plague of leprosy could also be found in a woolen or linen garment (Lev. 13:47ff), which also would not be true of Hansen’s disease.
Though never expressly stated in the Bible, leprosy can be a type of sin. Leprosy made one unclean (Lev. 13:3). Sin also makes one unclean (Is. 6:5-7). Leprosy was deeper than just skin level (Lev. 13:3). Sin is also deeper than just the skin, it comes from within man, from the heart (Matt. 15:18). Leprosy required separation for the preservation of purity (Lev. 13:4). Sin requires separation to maintain purity (II Cor. 5:4-7). Leprosy could ultimately only be removed by a sacrifice of blood (Lev. 14:23). Sin can also only be removed by the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:12). So in many ways, the account of the healing of this unnamed leper also teaches us about sin.
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him (Matt. 8:1). Jesus’ fame had spread abroad and the multitudes knew Jesus could heal their infirmities (Matt. 4:23-25). The leper came at the same time as this great multitude, even though the law required him to announce his uncleanness (Lev. 13:45). When the leper knew Who Jesus was, he sought Him out. Undoubtedly, there were many who saw the leper and recoiled in disgust at his appearance. Perhaps some, recognizing their own need for healing, overlooked the leper’s condition and paid no attention to him. But the leper disregarded all that the world thought of him that he might see Jesus.
Please note the leper’s confidence in Jesus. “Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matt. 8:2). He did not say, “If I had enough faith” or “If it were only possible.” He was confident that Jesus could heal him and did everything within his power to see Him. It seems that he had heard Jesus’ teaching, or, at least, had heard about His teaching and knew of His power. We need to show the “same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” because we are not of them that draw back to perdition but of them that believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 6:11; 10:35-39). Let us have the leper’s confidence.
Notice also the man’s humility. He fell on his face before the Lord and besought the Lord for an answer to his need (Mark 1:4). As he prostrated himself before the Lord, in front of all the multitude, he worshiped Him (Matt. 8:2). Far too often today men seek to find Jesus without humility. They refuse His word, and substitute their own (Matt. 15:9). It is “My will” not “Thy will” be done (Matt. 26:39). But the Lord resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10).
I will. Be thou clean.
Jesus’ willingness to cleanse the leper is not to go unnoticed, either. Jesus was not only willing but reached out to this disfigured, mangled body, and he put forth His hand and touched him (Luke 5:13). In a similar fashion, the Lord left the glories of heaven, made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself and was made in the likeness of men, partaking of flesh and blood that He might deliver us from sin (Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:14ff). As under the law of Moses the priest could pronounce someone clean (Lev. 14:14-20), our High priest is moved by our infirmities (Heb. 4:15) and touches our lives with forgiveness (Heb. 2:17,18).
“Immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Luke 5:13). Jesus’ miracles were immediate. Simon’s mother-in-law was immediately healed (Luke 4:39), as was the young maiden (Luke 5:54,55) and the nobleman’s son (John 4:50-53). Can you imagine the sight of a man long deformed by leprosy being instantaneously healed! Body parts may have been restored that were not there before, right before everyone’s eyes! In the same fashion, sin is immediately forgiven, as well. Right before everyone’s eyes, the sinner is made a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). The penitent alien sinner is immersed beneath the water and a new man emerges (Rom. 6:1-4). Let us learn the lessons of the leper.
Eric L. Padgett