If you live in the United States or any other developed nation, you will probably never see a person with leprosy. It’s a horrible skin disease that actually eats away at the parts of the body it has infected. People who are afflicted with leprosy watch their fingers and toes slowly dissolve. Eventually, they die from the disease. To make matters worse, leprosy is easily spread to other people, so no one wants to be near a leper. When a person gets leprosy, he soon loses all his friends. In the Old Testament, God made a law that required all leprous people to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever they were in a public place where other people might be infected (see Leviticus 13:45).
The Greek word translated leprosy was used to describe various skin diseases in Jesus’ time, so it’s possible that this man whom Jesus healed was not suffering from the disease we refer to today as leprosy. However, there’s no doubt he had a very serious physical problem, and his situation was desperate. He fell on his knees before Jesus, begging to be healed. From the reports he had heard of others being healed, he knew Jesus was able to cure him. But he didn’t know if Jesus wanted to heal him. Jesus, however, was moved with pity for the distraught man, and assured him that He did want to heal him. A second later, the leprous man felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time: the touch of another person. As Jesus put His hand on him, instantly his leprosy was gone. Imagine how he felt as he looked at his new skin!
Some people think that Jesus healed people only to prove that He was the Son of God. Certainly Jesus’ healings did prove that. Because God the Father had given Him authority over all things, including disease, Jesus simply spoke and the leprous man was instantly healed. We read today, however, that Jesus was “moved with pity” over the leprous man’s situation. Jesus healed this man because He loved him, not just to prove that He was the Son of God.
For all Christians, this healing story, along with the many others in the Bible, affirms that God cares about our health and will one day give us brand new bodies that will not be subject to sickness and disease. For some Christians, like myself, the stories of people whom Jesus healed inspire us to trust that we don’t have to wait until heaven to experience physical healing. Jesus never told anyone who came to Him requesting healing, “Rejoice, because in heaven you’ll be healthy.” In every case, He healed sick people, often crediting their faith. When we remain ill, we often claim that it must not be God’s will for us to be healed, but more likely, our own lack of faith is to blame. Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23). Praise God that we can trust God for healing, and praise God that even if we fail to trust God for healing, He doesn’t condemn us.
According to the Old Testament law, the priests were responsible to determine whether or not people had leprosy. If a person thought he might have contracted the disease, he was supposed to be examined by a priest. If the priest declared him a leper, he had to obey the laws of leprosy, removing himself from contact with non-leprous society. Likewise, if a leprous person was healed, only a priest could make the official determination and allow the former leper reentry into normal society.
Jesus commanded this leper to obey that law and show himself to the priest, taking along the required offering, as a testimony of his healing. It was probably the first time that priest ever performed that part of his job, declaring a leper to be cleansed! I wonder if he had to look up the appropriate scriptures just to find out what he was supposed to do!
Q. Why did Jesus tell this man He healed not to talk to anyone on his way to the priest?
A. Because Jesus didn’t need any more advertising. If the former leper started spreading the news of what happened, Jesus knew He would soon be mobbed with people, and it would actually hinder His ministry. Sure enough, the man didn’t obey Jesus, telling everyone what had happened, and Jesus was then unable to publicly enter any nearby towns. Several days later, Jesus did sneak back into Capernaum where He had been living, but was soon discovered. Within a short time, the house where He was staying was crammed with people, inside and out (see Mark 2:1-4).
Q. Wouldn’t it be horrible never to be touched by anyone? Sometimes parents feel like they must have leprosy, because their kids never hug or kiss them (especially when their kids are with friends). Have you hugged your parents today?
Application: In one way, we were like this leper. We had a spiritual disease that prevented us from ever hoping to enter the society of heaven. But Jesus cleansed us! Now we can look forward to enjoying eternal life with the many others like us whom Jesus has cleansed of sin.