And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
Jesus has been teaching. Extensively. Passionately. Pouring out truth into the hearts and minds of his listeners who are “…amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Mt 7:28-29) Authority he had in endless measure as he walked as God incarnate in the world among the people he had made and come to save from the defilement of sin.
The salvation Jesus brought was dispensed, then as now, one precious soul at a time in the most intimate fashion. Our Elder Brother sows with words of truth waiting with infinite patience for the seed to take hold. He provides all that is needed for it to germinate and grow within the fertile soil of a hungry heart eager to rid itself of all that is wrong inside and share Jesus’ life of peace, joy and obedience to the Father. To be reconciled to the living God from whence it came.
The passage above tells of a leper who has come to Jesus. We know neither how old he is or how long he has suffered with the disease, although it may have been for some time as Luke’s gospel says that he was “full of leprosy.” He approaches the Lord “…and bowed down to Him…” The Greek word rendered “bowed” reflects an attitude of worship. Although the leper has been suffering from a dreadful infirmity that has forced him to live separate from society and has ravaged his life, even now, his approach to God is one, not of belligerence, anger or accusation but of humility, trust and hope.
Expressed in the leper’s words is confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal; his only doubt seeming to lie as to our Lord’s willingness to do so. I wonder why… Was it a matter of not fully grasping God’s love for him? Or perhaps the leper, blessed with the ability to see his own dark sinfulness contrasted against the blazing purity of God, questioned, like many, the availability of the merciful forgiveness he so desperately needed? We are not told and are left to wonder.
The response of the One who came to explain God to us, who does only what he sees his Father doing, is revealing and altogether lovely. The first thing Jesus does is touch the man.
I imagine, under any circumstances, to be touched by one’s very Creator would be the start of any number of healings for, as Mark’s gospel relates, Jesus was “…moved with compassion.” Imagine what the leper may have found in such a touch, his first in who knows how long! That Jesus’ first act is to touch the man is telling for he always did that which was the most necessary first. Through touch, the leper tastes the compassion of God through his Son. The first answer as to God’s willingness to care for the leper was wordless through a medium transcending words.
To the sense of touch was added both audible words and visual experience. Jesus spoke words of assurance, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately, the leprosy was gone.
No degree of my imagination is likely to come close to what the former leper felt as he found himself free of that dreadful disease! God had used a terrible life circumstance to propel the man to a condition of desperation, a place where only God could be of help. Did he realize this and perhaps later proclaim, “Blessed be the leprosy that drove me to seek God!” How great is the number of those of us who might cry out a similar praise!
There is then Christ’s admonition that the man keep the means of his healing in confidence. That he be content to show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifice Moses commanded “…for a testimony to them.”
As Mark relates, the man went out and freely spread the news far and wide that Jesus had healed him; seemingly a good thing, but one that resulted in severely restricting the Lord’s ability to publicly enter cities, requiring him to remain on their outskirts. Frankly, I don’t know what to make of it.
On the one hand, I sympathize with the enormous challenge of remaining silent after such an incredible transformation. Perhaps he should have been content with simply giving glory to God for his healing. After all, God is exactly who it was that had healed him. I hope this crucial truth did not escape the former leper’s recognition. On the other hand, I would not wish to repay my Master with disobedience in the very first thing he set me to do.
Then there is the matter of Jesus’ directing the man to show himself—not to a priest—but to the priest. I am not learned enough to know if there is anything to be made of in the distinction. Is it possible that the man was to present himself to Caiaphas? that the High Priest himself might wonder, in performing all of the required ritual spelled out in Leviticus, what such a miracle might portend? That Caiaphas might wonder, when Jesus stood before him accused, if there were a link between the cleansing of the leper and the cleansing of the sin of the world through the person of Jesus? Again, I do not know…
What I do know, what I am confident of in this healing of the leper is the willingness of God to care for us in the most extraordinary and perfect fashion. That God uses every circumstance in our lives to drive us to that which we need above all else: himself. That when we seek him and cry out to him for help we need not wonder if God is willing to do all that is needful. That God is, indeed, willing.
© Michael Kimball 2011, 2017 (This writing may be freely copied in its entirety without prior permission from the author.) Listen to the audio version at FatherBound.com.