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JESUS HEALS A MAN WITH LEPROSY

Luke 5:12-5:16
Key Verse: 5:12b

Luke begins chapter 5 with a record of Jesus’ call to Simon, and later writes of Jesus’ call to Levi. In between he recorded Jesus’ healing of a man with leprosy and of a paralytic. These two healings well reveal Jesus as the Messiah. Only the Messiah would cure of leprosy and make a man with leprosy clean. In healing a paralytic, Jesus demonstrated his authority to forgive man’s sins, a unique distinction of the Messiah. In the calling of Simon and Levi, Jesus came to each of them, which was Jesus’ initiative. This is a biblical truth. Also, the event of the two healings shows how we should come to Jesus for his grace and mercy. Today we will study about Jesus’ healing a man with leprosy according to Luke’s description.

First, a man with leprosy came to Jesus (12). Look at verse 12. “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.” Matthew and Mark wrote “a man with leprosy” (Mt 8:2; Mk 1:40). But Luke described the man more particularly as “a man who was covered with leprosy.” In the RSV translation, he is described as a man “full of leprosy.” This shows the severity of the man’s leprous condition. Of all ills that can afflict the body of a man, leprosy is the most severe. It simultaneously affects every part of the constitution. It brings sores and decay upon the skin, corruption into the blood, and rottenness into the bones. This man was in the severest stages of leprosy. No part of his body seemed to be fine, but the whole body, ugly and hideous. His leprosy was both disfiguring and fatal.

As a man with leprosy, he was legally forbidden from appearing in public. Lepers were quarantined (Lev 13:46). To prevent accidental contact with others, they were required to cover their faces with rags and to call out, “Unclean, unclean!” (Lev 13:45). But this man came along while Jesus was in one of the towns. It was not his intention to break the law. And he also did not mean to spread his horrible disease of leprosy to others. In fact, until that moment he had probably not appeared in public, lacking the courage to do so. But as soon as he heard of Jesus, divine courage arose in him. He had to come to Jesus, entrusting all other things to God. On hearing of Jesus he was not fatalistic about himself any more, despite his fatal human condition. He was not bogged down by what others thought of him. He had to come to Jesus no matter what.

There must have been several lepers’ groups, each group living together in a different quarantine. Luke wrote about two occasion of Jesus’ healing of leprosy. In chapter 17, ten lepers met Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. They stood at a distance and called out together in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Their group spirit was right and great. Jesus healed them all, hearing their calls. Coming to Jesus together is good. However, the man with leprosy in this passage came to Jesus alone. Probably, he also wanted to come to Jesus with his fellow lepers, but they themselves did not want to. Rather, they may have pressured him not to go to Jesus and instead stay with them. Yet, he did not yield to them. He determined to come to Jesus, overcoming any peer pressure and any obstacles.

Although he was covered with leprosy, it was fortunate that he could walk, most probably limping due to his numbness of his legs. Somehow, he walked and came to Jesus by himself. He knew that he should not miss this chance.

What did he do when he came to Jesus? Look at verse 12b. “When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him…” Matthew wrote, “he knelt before him and said…”, and Mark, “begged him on his knees.” According to Luke, “he fell with his face to the ground and begged him.” His coming to Jesus was an act of faith. Nevertheless, when he came to Jesus, he was so ashamed to stand with his disfigured body before Jesus that he buried his face in his rake-like fingers and fell to the ground. This was his total submission before Jesus in his unworthiness. It was his full surrender to Jesus.

Falling with his face to the ground he begged Jesus, calling him, “Lord.” He begged the right one. In the movie “Ben-Hur” when Judah Ben-Hur discovered that his innocent mother and sister were wrongly arrested by Roman soldiers, he went to beg a Roman officer, his old friend Messala, to set them free. Then Messala responded, “When I begged you to help me in controlling the Jews, your country people, you said, ‘I cannot.’ Now, do you beg me?” Judah Ben-Hur was begging the wrong person. We should beg the right one. Here the man with leprosy begged the right one, the Lord.

He said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He knew what he should ask for. He could have asked for some other things, such as the filling of his hungry stomach, a three-piece-suit, good relationships with his fellow lepers, or the wellbeing of the leper’s community, etc. But he asked for the healing of his leprosy and being made clean. He correctly and keenly knew his reality. He was a man covered with leprosy. He knew how miserable he was in his human condition. Since in God’s providence he encountered the right one for him to beg, he unambiguously presented his request, the cure of his leprosy. We can imagine the intensity of his begging, “Lord, Lord…” Luke 18 tells the account of a blind man. He also had an opportunity to encounter the Messiah Jesus. Jesus wanted to know what he truly wanted. So he asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” At this the man answered, “Lord, I want to see” (Lk 18:41). Jesus was very glad to hear his crystal clear reply and gave him sight. This man with leprosy was also one who knew what he had to ask for before the Lord Jesus. So he said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He did not doubt Jesus’ power to heal. Yet, he was not sure whether Jesus was willing. When one has a clear prayer topic, his or her begging and request is intense. The LORD God says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call on me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (in BBE, “Let your cry come to me…)

Luke 18 tells of a man named Jairus whose only daughter was dying. Despite his high social position as a synagogue ruler, Jairus came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house for the healing of his dying daughter. At that time Jesus was with a crowd. But at the humble and earnestly plea of Jarius Jesus turned his way to Jairus’ house leaving the crowd behind. Jesus heard Jarius entreaty and raised his daughter even from death (Lk 8:40-56). We remember Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel. In her barrenness and bitterness of her soul she wept much and prayed to the Lord for a son, pouring out her soul to God (1:10,16). God heard such a prayer and gave her a son Samuel. When she offered Samuel to the LORD according to her vow, God granted her three sons and two daughters (2:21). We are inspired by the prayer of Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 331-387). When her son went astray, she prayed for him with tears every day. Yet, there was no sign of his returning to God even after many years of her prayer. At a critical time, she heard a bishop’s encouraging words, “…it is not possible that the son of these tears should be lost,” and, encouraged, she kept praying. Finally, her son converted and was baptized in 387, the year of her death. Since we have the Lord Jesus, the right one to beg, when we pray, pouring out our heart and soul to God, we can be blessed and our family members and God’s flock of sheep be abundantly blessed. May we learn from the man with leprosy the intense begging in reverent submission.

Second, Jesus healed him (13-16). How did Jesus respond to the man who was covered with leprosy and fell with his faced to the ground and begged him? Look at verse 13a. “‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.’” Since the man had become a leper, no one had touched him. He was an untouchable man, completely isolated from normal people. But when he came close to Jesus with faith, even within touching distance, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. This was Jesus’ complete welcome of this man. Jesus not only allowed him to approach him, but also himself touched the man, although the law forbade such an act. Jesus is the Lord of compassion beyond law and human regulations. In human society, there are untouchable and unsociable people. We like people we like; we abhor people we do not like. But Jesus is different. His touching the man with leprosy shows there is no one untouchable and unsociable to him.

And then Jesus said, “I am willing. Be clean!” Jesus could have merely commanded, “Be clean!” That’s Jesus’ usual way of healing. But here, Jesus alluded to the leper’s own words and request by saying, “I am willing”. This was his overflowing willingness. This is the only case Jesus spoke such words in his healing. Nobody was willing even to look at the man with leprosy. But Jesus was willing to look at him. Jesus was willing to listen to him. Jesus was willing to touch and to cleanse him, even right after he set the direction to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus was willing to heal him so that he could become a normal man. Jesus was willing to bring him back to his kingdom.

Then he commanded, “Be clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. His skin became as lovely as that of a baby. At the touch and command of Jesus, he became a new creation. This is the mercy of the Messiah. One clear sign of the Messiah is to cure of leprosy (Lk 7:22). All human beings are in need of the Messiah’s mercy.

Look at verse 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.’” Jesus told him to follow the law. It was not just for the sake of keeping the law. It was to help the man be restored to full social and religious fellowship with his people. Jesus came to fulfill the law. And he knew the spirit of the law. That is love. When he goes and shows himself to the priest, if he passes the priest's inspection, considered cured, he must bring the required offering (Lev. 14:1-7). That offering consisted of two clean, living birds. One had to be killed. In its blood the other bird had to be dipped and then released. The blood of the slain bird was also sprinkled over the healed man--seven times, in fact. He was then pronounced cured.

This offering reminds us of Jesus’ own sacrifice to cleanse the sin-covered souls of mankind. In the Bible, leprosy is frequently compared to the symptoms of sin. Just as leprosy eats into the body, sin eats into the very constitution of the soul. It corrupts man’s mind and heart. It decays man’s conscience and will. It makes a man dirty. It wounds and bruises and forms pus in one’s inner man. But the strange thing is that while leprosy disfigures man’s body, it does not cause any pain. The more leprosy spreads in and corrupts one’s body, the more he feels no pain. Because of this numbness, many a man commits sin without hesitation, saying, “I am okay.” But he is not okay. He is in the tragedy of death without knowing it. A sin-sick man becomes like a man with leprosy. Some days he feels unclean both in his body and soul. This uncleanness makes a man most miserable. But Jesus shed his own blood on the cross so as to cleanse us and accept us as his children. We are truly happy when we are cleansed of our sins and accepted as his children and grow in his holiness. The animal blood of the sacrifices Moses commanded was the shadow of Jesus’ own blood. The blood of the animal cleansed people outwardly. But the blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences (Heb 9:13-14). Since we have this Jesus who shed his blood for us, the words of Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace.

Look at verse 15. “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.” The Messiah Jesus was not swayed by popularity among the people. As for him, to go to a solitary place and have time with God the Father was most important. He must have prayed for the cleansing of sin-stained souls of all mankind. It would be through his death on the cross in obedience to the will of God. If the Messiah needed to go to lonely places and pray, how much more do we?

Thank God for Jesus the Messiah who made clean a man who was covered with leprosy. The Messiah touched the man and was full of willingness to cure him of his leprosy, when the man came to him with faith. Thank God for his own sacrifice for the cleansing of our souls. He welcomes us with his open arms and cleanses us of our sins when we come to him by faith. He is the Lord, the right one for us to beg. May we approach him with confidence in reverent submission (Heb 5:7) and pour out our hearts and souls to him so that our requests for ourselves and our loved ones be granted.

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