Christ the Healer: A Leper

Christ the Healer: A Leper

Christ the Healer: A Leper

Please read Matthew 8:1-4Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16.

CONTEXT. According to Matthew, right after Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He was immediately pressed into service. He had no choice but to go right to work. “When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came…” (Matt. 8:1-2). Jesus spoke with authority, and He healed with authority. People just knew that His words and actions weren’t just for show. He wasn’t merely trying to make an impression. His words and actions didn’t even hint at hypocrisy. They revealed His true nature, who He really was. His words and actions reveal that He was the true and only “author” of all that He did and said. He had true authority.

LEPROSY. In those days, this was a general term used for a variety of skin diseases. Leprosy was a much feared illness, because it was highly contagious, had no known cure, and involved intense physical and social suffering. Because leprosy was considered a direct punishment for sins, lepers were considered spiritually unclean. Lepers could not participate in worship at either the Temple or in local synagogues. The lepers were outcasts, not allowed to be seen in populated areas. They were rejected and shunned and banished to leper colonies outside the villages. People were so afraid of contracting the disease that whenever another person approached a leper, the leper had to announce himself. People would usually throw rocks at lepers so they would keep their distance. Leprosy was a skin disease that destroyed nerve endings. So there was always disfigurement of various body parts, usually the nose and fingers and toes. A leper couldn’t feel his extremities, so the fingers and toes would either be permanently injured or would just wear away. The inevitable disfigurement and disability would only add to the misery of a leper’s life. There was no human touch, no human interaction, no worship of God, no way to earn a living, and nowhere to hide. Because it was incurable, leprosy was a hopeless life sentence of isolation and pain.

In modern times, one form of leprosy is known as Hansen’s disease. It is now treatable with the right medication. In developing countries without this medication, leprosy goes untreated and lepers are shuffled off to leper colonies, just like in biblical times.

THE HEALING. a. According to Luke, this man had an advanced case of leprosy. He no doubt was extremely disfigured, had lost a lot of body tissue, and couldn’t use his extremities. He was no doubt totally covered in rags to hide and protect his sores and his open nerve endings on his ravaged skin. This particular leper was in a hopeless condition. When this man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, called Jesus “Lord,” and told Jesus that if He was willing, He could cure him. Jesus had compassion on this pitiful man, said He was indeed willing, and without hesitation touched this untouchable. The man was immediately healed of his leprosy. In Jesus’ eyes, there was no one who was untouchable. In the people’s eyes, Jesus cured the incurable.

b. According to Jewish law, the priests were charged with managing the lepers. They would make sure the lepers were banished if they contracted leprosy, and they would make it publically official when the leprosy is healed or in remission. Jesus told the healed leper to follow the Law and appear before the priest to certify a healing had taken place.

c. Jesus instructed this healed leper to keep a lid on the miracle. Don’t tell anyone but the priests, He said. But the man didn’t take Jesus seriously, and disobeyed his orders. His healing was such extraordinarily good news that the healed leper couldn’t contain himself. He proceeded to tell everyone what Jesus had done for him. Word of Jesus’ power soon spread so fast that huge crowds began to surround Jesus wherever He went. According to Mark, Jesus couldn’t publically enter any town now. Jesus had to either sneak into a town or remain in secluded areas when He didn’t want to face a throng of demanding people. Even then, the crowds would often find Him, no matter where He went. This was no doubt one of the reasons Jesus had instructed the man to be quiet about the healing. Jesus didn’t want His popularity to impede His ministry or constrict His freedom of movement. Undoubtedly too, Jesus didn’t want to be known as merely a miracle worker or faith healer. There was so much more to Him than that.

SURRENDER. As the leper approached Jesus, the man proved to be a good example for all of us. The leper humbly submitted to the will of Jesus. The leper began with surrender. Various translations put Matthew 8:2, etc., this way… “he threw himself down before Him in worship;” “he knelt before Jesus;” “he bowed with his face to the ground;” “he prostrated himself before Jesus.” The leper was a living visual aid to what it means to be “poor in spirit.” (Matt. 5:3). Placing ourselves in the position of surrender before God, submitting to His will and power, puts us where the Lord wants us. Surrender is not like a one-a-day vitamin taken each morning, although that’s a good start. Surrender needs to be the status of our heart throughout the day. Surrender is not limited to our position before we ask for a healing, either. Surrender is our thinking as we kneel in spirit, walking through each day, come what may.

MORE HEALING. Soon after this healing of the leper, Jesus proceeded to heal a Centurion’s servant long-distance, a demoniac by sending those demons into a herd of pigs, and a paralyzed man who was dropped through the roof of a house on a stretcher. Jesus is wonderfully unpredictable. We can’t afford to put Him a box with His healings, or we’ll miss something powerful. His power is never quaint, and is not to be assumed, stereotyped, or accepted with nonchalance. Jesus heals who He wants, when He wants, in the way that He wants. True then, true now. Jesus has an astonishing array of methods He uses to heal people. He can not be constrained. He remains unpredictable.

BALM OF GILEAD. By healing lepers in particular, Jesus literally answered Jeremiah’s rhetorical question from Jer. 8:22. Jeremiah is lamenting that the people of Judah are habitually sinful, that they might even be beyond healing. Jeremiah is asking if God could possible forgive and forget and heal His people. Aren’t you there, God? You’re known for your healing grace. Can you still heal? Is there no balm?

Gilead was an area west of the Jordan River, and is what would now be considered the country of Jordan. Gilead was famous for its perfumed ointment that would soothe and heal many skin ailments. The city’s big business involved extracting balsam from the balsam poplar tree to form a balm that enjoyed many healing properties. This aromatic resin was an all-purpose application, a cure-all for various skin disorders. Jeremiah wants to know if God could provide a spiritual balm that would heal Judah’s wounds, their incurable sores of disobedience and sinfulness. Yes, there is a balm in Gilead, and its name is Jesus. He literally healed the skin disease of leprosy, providing a physical cure for an incurable skin disease. And He spiritually heals all manner of terminal sinfulness as well.

NOW. Who would be considered the lepers in our modern era? Is there anyone who would be untouchable, undervalued, or banished from society? Is there a class of people, or a group of outcasts, who should be touched, affirmed, cared for? If Christians don’t minister to the outcasts, who would? As little Christs, we need to offer the touch of Jesus to the lepers of our time.

The Big Question: What do we learn about Jesus from this story