Jesus heals a leper

(Mat 8:1-4 NIV)  When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. {2} A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” {3} Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. {4} Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

What is leprosy?

Leprosy is a painful and dreaded disease. Its symptoms ranged from white patches on the skin to running sores to the loss of digits on the fingers and toes. For the Hebrews it was a dreaded malady that rendered its victims ceremonially unclean–that is, unfit to worship God (Lev. 13:3).

Anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. Therefore, lepers were isolated from the rest of the community so that the members of the community could maintain their status as worshipers. The leper leads a very humiliating and lonely life.

(Lev 13:45-46 NIV)  “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ {46} As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

Leprosy was a disease which the Jews supposed to be inflicted for the punishment of some particular sin, and to be, more than other diseases, a mark of God’s displeasure; and therefore Christ, who came to take away sin, and turn away wrath, took particular care to cleanse the lepers that fell in his way.

Significance of this miracle

The first miracle recorded in the first gospel is about Jesus healing a leper. The healing of a person from leprosy has special significance. It is more than healing. It is cleansing. While the cure of other diseases is called healing, that of leprosy is often called cleansing.

The healing of the leper is not the first miracle performed by Jesus. We know that the first miracle performed by our Lord was the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Yet Matthew chose to put this miracle first because of its significance. The biggest miracle that God can perform in our life is to make us clean.

Never too late for God to help

Verse 12 says “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.” It speaks of a man in the advanced stage of leprosy.

Because leprosy destroys the nerve endings, lepers often would unknowingly damage their fingers, toes, and noses. This man with leprosy had an advanced case, so he undoubtedly had lost much bodily tissue. Still, he believed that Jesus could heal him of every trace of the disease.

Do you have a problem that you think God cannot help because it is in the advanced stage? Why not have the faith of that leper? Trust that God can help you even in that problem.

Jesus touched the leper

In verse 3 of the passage we read that Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. Why did He have to do so? When Jesus touched the leper, he was still not healed. The leper was healed when Jesus spoke the words “Be healed”. No, Jesus did not touch the leper to heal him. He touched him to show His acceptance of a man who felt rejected.  The gospel of Mark, which recorded this same incident, mentions that Jesus touched the man because He was filled with compassion for him.

(Mark 1:41-42 NIV)  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” {42} Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

We may feel rejected by people but Jesus wants to reach out to touch us. He wants us to know that while we may be rejected by society we are never rejected by God.

By touching the leper, Jesus would have made Himself ceremonially unclean. The touching of the leper is symbolic of how Jesus would rescue us from sin by taking our sin upon Himself and making Himself unclean for our sake.

(2 Cor 5:21 NIV)  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Asking God’s will before we ask for a miracle

The leper was wondering whether Jesus was willing to heal him. He believed that Jesus was able but was He willing? You see, it takes both the ability of God and the willingness of God for a miracle to happen.  It is possible that God did not want to heal him?

The Apostle Paul was stricken with a disease (“thorn in the flesh”). He beseeched the Lord to help him but God did not want to because the sickness serves the important purpose of preventing him from being proud from the many revelations from God.

(2 Cor 12:7-9 NIV)  To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. {8} Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. {9} But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The leper approached Jesus to ask Him for healing. But he puts God’s will above his own. It is like saying, “Lord I really want to be healed but more than that I want Your will to be accomplished, not mine.”

Coming to God in humility when we ask for a miracle

When we come to God to ask for a miracle, we must also come with absolute humility. We must not assume for a moment that we deserve the miracle from God because of how good we are. The leper came to Jesus and knelt before Him, begging Him.

Give glory to God when you receive a miracle

{14} Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

For the cleansed leper to show himself to the priest was essential. One reason often suggested for this is that Jesus wanted to observe the ritual prescribed in Leviticus 14.

If you read Lev 14, you see the requirement of the healed person to perform sacrifices to show his gratitude to God that he had been healed (the burnt offering).

That means that when Jesus does a work in your life, He expects you to show your gratitude.

Has God done something wonderful in your life? We can never repay God fully but what have you done to show your gratitude?