FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.
In Luke 5:12 Jesus is uniquely approached by a leper. Leprosy in Biblical times was a terrible thing. We're not exactly sure what Biblical leprosy was. While it may have described what is known today as "Hansen's Disease," the word probably included other skin diseases, as well. Whatever it was, once a person caught it, it was considered incurable, and those diagnosed with leprosy were banned from society. Lepers were considered unclean and must be separated from the rest of society.
To the rabbis, the cure of a leper was as difficult as raising a person from the dead. In all Biblical history only two people had been cured of leprosy—Miriam, who had leprosy for seven days as a punishment for speaking against Moses' leadership (Numbers 12:9-15), and Naaman, general of the army of Aram, a Gentile from Damascus (2 Kings 5). When he obeyed Elijah's instruction to wash seven times in the Jordan River he was healed. Healing a leper had not been done in Israel for seven hundred years, and was thought to be a sign of the Messiah.
But to come to Jesus for healing is a risk in itself. The leper will be beaten if he doesn't strictly observe the rules to keep his distance from "normal" people, at least six feet, and some people will throw dirt and stones at him if he is twice that distance. He decides he must risk it. If Jesus can heal him, he must risk any punishment, however severe. He must!
So now, all of a sudden, he rushes across the street to where Jesus is standing, and falls down with his face to the ground before Him. You can almost hear a gasp from the people around Jesus, and they involuntarily take a step back, hands to their mouths. Let’s go to the text itself:
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him.
When you think about it, his statement is remarkable for its faith. Here is a man who states his belief that Jesus can do what only Elijah could do—heal a leper. It isn't a matter of ability, the leper is saying. It is a matter of will. Jesus is ABLE to heal him, the man boldly states. Is He WILLING to do so?
Jesus is standing. The leper is kneeling, face to the surface of the street, inches from Jesus' feet, already violating the law of distance that lepers were to keep. And then Jesus begins to stoop. Jesus is moved by the boldness of this man’s faith. Before the eyes of the onlookers, Jesus begins to stoop down and reach out his hand. He extends His fingers until they rest on the unclean leper's head. A murmur goes through the crowd as Jesus touches the unclean man, and then total silence as Jesus speaks quietly: "I am willing, be clean!"
Luke records, "Immediately the leprosy left him." A moment before, he was covered with leprous sores and lesions, "full of leprosy," and now his skin is clear, unblemished. A dramatic and instant transformation has taken place in him.
A gasp goes through the bystanders. The man is healed! The leper is healed! 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."
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Think about this a minute. Only two lepers had ever been healed and healing a leper was to be something only the Messiah would be able to do. Instead of just wowing the crowds with this amazing feat, Jesus routes the cleansed leper to his priest to perform the appropriate sacrifice for the healing of a leper.
No priest had performed the appropriate sacrifice for such a miracle for a long time until now. I believe Jesus sent the leper to the priest in order to spread the message even further than a simple word of mouth from the crowd might have done. Whoever the lucky priest might be who would get this walk-in request would, no doubt, call the press, radio and CNN in order to let the world know that he was going to actually perform this sacrifice for the first time in centuries.
This, then, was a clear and specific sign that Jesus was God’s Messiah. Healing a leper is an amazing thing. If Jesus can pull this off, then just maybe He is able and willing to heal other things in your life. Are you willing to ask?
Monday, December 11, 2006
FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.