And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
Leprosy was a disease like no other in Bible times – it was quite different from what we call leprosy today, where people lose part of their limbs and appear disfigured. The leprosy described in the Bible refers to a multitude of skin diseases that typically began small but spread to cover larger areas of one’s flesh. Leprosy in the bible is a picture of sin, which typically begins small and then advances to bigger things and then finally results in death. Like sin, leprosy is contagious - affecting not only the one who commits the sin, but those around him. (Jas 1:13-16: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.)
Before we begin our study into today’s portion of scripture, it is important to understand a few things about leprosy from the scriptures. We read the following text in Leviticus:
Leviticus 13:45-46: And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. 46 All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.
The Jews believed that a man or woman contracted leprosy as a result of sin in their life – whether by thought, word or deed. It was considered as the result of the judgment/ wrath of God visited upon a sinful person by the Jews. God dedicated 2 whole chapters of Leviticus to talk about the effects of sin. Here we find instructions on the need for holiness and how small sins can lead to bigger things ending in death. Sin results in decay, defeat, loneliness and sorrow, while holiness leads to fellowship with the lord and happiness.
While we are not given any details about this leprous man or how he came to be afflicted by it, we can be sure of some aspects of his life until this point in time:
1. In the day he was pronounced leprous, he was also pronounced unclean by the priest. From that point onwards, he would be an outcast, not permitted to enter the city gates and unable to come near, much less touch another person.
2. Anyone or anything which he touched was considered unclean. So, he could not touch anyone and no one would touch him.
3. He was required to make sure his head was never covered and that the lower part of his face, until his upper lip was covered, and this would be a sign for others that he was unclean.
4. He was required to shout “Unclean, Unclean” at the top of his voice if others came near him on his road or dwelling place outside the city at any point in time. He was cut off from other people and lived a lonely life.
5. He could no longer access the temple area or any of the rituals that Jews were required to observe. In effect he was cut off from his God.
Now turning our attention back to the passage in Luke, we can begin to understand the magnitude of the leper running to Jesus:
· He entered a city which he was forbidden to do
· He came near the person of Jesus
· He did not call out Unclean. Unclean” but discreetly came running to Jesus
· He did not care about what those around him thought of him, whether those who were unclean like him outside the city gates or those who looked at him suspiciously as he ran through the streets of the city
It is amazing how he did not give a long oration but prayed just a few words from his heart: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean”
At this sincere request, Jesus not only gives him a word to cling to Ï will; be clean” but also reaches out and touches him! The first time anybody clean had touched him since so many years or decades!
If we feel we have lost connections with our Father in Heaven, if we have sin (small or big) in our life, like this leper we can run into the Lord’s presence right now and cry to the Lord from the bottom of our heart for cleansing.
In today’s twisted world, some Christians mistakenly believe that just believing in the name of Jesus is sufficient to enter into heaven. We all like to quote Jn 3:16 but not many read what the Bible says in the same chapter a few verses down:
John 3:35-36: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Those who are living with or compromising with sin will not make it into Heaven. Heaven is not a place where those who find ingenious excuses to compromise with the word of God can sneak in – be not mistaken. Now is the acceptable time to run to your master and cry out for forgiveness and cleansing …
Can we like the Leper cling on to our promise/ word of God given to us personally? If the Lord has spoken He will do it in your life. It may be an instantaneous answer to your prayer like this leper or the lepers we read about in 2 Kings 7 who went into the Syrian camp and brought back news of a great victory. Or it may take a few years or even decades… like in the life of David (1 Sam 16 to 2 Sam 5) who received the anointing and the promise when he was a boy but had to wait until he was thirty years old before he ascended the throne in Judah as King!
God uses a leper who desires to be clean rather than a city of unclean people who call themselves clean! God is looking for people who can believe his Word and cling on to His promise rather than a seemingly wise man who questions and belittles the word of God in thought or word.
V14 amazes me the most in this portion of scripture is that until this time no Jewish leper had been healed of leprosy. The instructions in Lev 14 – almost an entire chapter on how a leper could be pronounced clean by the priest was seemingly given to Moses around 1467 BC, just for this day when Jesus would heal this leper! What a God we serve – he truly has seen us and provided for us long before we came into this world. Take heart, be strong, be clean!
May the Lord richly bless you as you draw near to Him these days!
Picture of a person with leprosy (Hansen's disease)