Cleansing a Leper
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
The Leper’s Plea
The Leper’s Plea
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is not a rotting infection as is commonly thought. The disfigurement that comes from Leprosy comes because the body’s warning system of pain is destroyed. The disease acts as an anesthetic, bringing numbness to the extremities as well as to the ears, eyes, and nose.
It has been called by doctors the “painless hell.”
The Leper in our story
In the parallel account in Luke he is described as “full of leprosy.” This man in our story has not been able to feel for years, and his body was full of leprosy. Meaning mutilated from head to foot, rotten, stinking, repulsive.
The leper’s life is lonely. Forced to live outside the city. Any time someone would come close to him he would have to yell, “unclean, unclean.” In Jesus times the rabbinical teaching had made things even worse for the lepers. If a leper even stuck his head inside a house, it was pronounced unclean. It was illegal to even greet a leper. Lepers had to remain at least 50 yards away if they were upwind, and 2 Yards away if downwind. Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, says that lepers were treated “as if they were , in effect, dead men.”
The leper was well aware of his condition. There were no illusions as to who he was.
The lesson of leprosy
Leprosy is often used in scripture as a picture of our sin. The spiritual reality for all of us is that we are spiritual lepers. This is what this image is supposed to communicate to us, but unlike the leper, we are often unconscious of our sin and the pervasiveness of our sinful condition.
The more unaware we are to our condition, the more full blown our leprosy is. That’s why it’s all the more important when we share the gospel to alert people to their condition.
Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones taught that it is a spiritual necessity to have a sense of sin.
“Oh,, my friends, have you yet felt this? God have mercy upon you if you haven’t. You may have been inside the church all your life and actively engaged in its work, but still I say that unless you have at some time or other felt that your very nature itself is sinful, that you are, in the words of St. Paul, ‘dead in sin’ then you have never known Jesus Christ as a Saviour, and if you do not know Him as Saviour you do not know Him at all.” - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The leper knew how bad off he was, but he also had confidence in Christ. “If you will, you can make me clean.” The leper believed Christ could cure him. He just didn’t fully understand if he would.
Sin tells people two lies. One is that we are not sinners. That nothing is wrong with us. The second is that when we do see that we are sinners, we think that we are so bad that we are beyond help.
The leper wasn’t too far gone for Jesus. And where the Leper had some doubts about whether or not Jesus would heal him. We have no doubt in the gospel. Jesus is faithful and just to forgive those who confess their sins.
The Lord’s Answer
The Lord’s Answer
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
We see Jesus’ answer in His compassion.
“Moved with pity.” This was a visceral reaction on jesus’ part. He felt it in his gut. We all understand this when we have a desperately sick parent, sibling, or child. It was gut wrenching compassion. He did more than understand the leper’s pain. He felt the weight of it.
Just like the leper. He didn’t just understand our sinfulness, he felt the weight of it on the cross.
We see Jesus’ answer in His touch.
“Stretched out his hand and touched him.” The Lord delighted in touching needy people. There were at least 8 touches recorded in the Gospel of Mark. But Jesus didn’t have to touch anyone. he could have healed people in any way He chose, but he touched them because he delighted to do it.
So this leper, we can assume has not been touched by a soft healthy hand in years. if he did have a wife, he had not known her touch, much less her embrace, for many long years. If he had children there had been no kiss, no touch, not even once — and now they were probably adults. Whatever his family status, he must have longed for a touch
Why did Jesus do this? It was his natural reaction. He wanted the leper to feel his willingness and sympathy. The touch said, “I’m with you, I understand, I love you.” Those may be the human emotional reasons for the touch, but there is a deeper theological reason behind it. The touch of Christ’s pure hand on the rotting leper is a parable of the Incarnation. Jesus in the Incarnation took on flesh, became sin for us, and thus gave us his purity.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus touched our flesh and healed us.
This is an important lesson for the church. We will never affect others as Christ did unless there is contact and identification. We have to be willing to take the hand of those whom we would help.
We see Jesus’ answer in His words.
“I will, be clean.” In these simple words of Jesus we see the answer to the plea. If the leper was wondering if Jesus was willing to heal him he knew now. He was. And not only that, but by the very power of his words he heals. The mighty power of the Lord on full display for all to see as he speaks just a few words, and the rot begins to melt away. mutilated appendages begin to grow back and heal. Scarring and disfigurement on the lepers face disappeared.
The Leper’s Cure
The Leper’s Cure
Immediately the leprosy left him
The healing was sudden and complete. Instead of unclean! unclean! can you imagine the man screaming “I’m clean! I’m Clean!”
This is what Jesus Christ can do for you, for anyone, in an instant. The healing of Jesus Christ for sin is instantaneous and complete.