Jesus Heals a Leper

Synoptic accounts of Jesus healing a man with leprosy:

  1. Matthew 8:2-4
  2. Mark 1:40-45
  3. Luke 5:12-16

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One Reply to “Jesus Heals a Leper”

  1. The three accounts of this story in the Synoptic Gospels are essentially the same with a few exceptions. A man with leprosy approached Jesus as said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

    • Matthew records that there were large crowds following Jesus when this man came and knelt before Jesus
    • Mark says the man came and “begged him on his knees”
    • Luke says, “he fell with his face to the ground and begged” Jesus

    The kneeling posture, begging on his knees, even face to the ground, all provides some insight into this story, namely, the man was completely humbled with nothing to lose. His disgrace and shame were already evident by the leprosy that afflicted him. No doubt he was cast out from his village, his family, his means of providing, all because of the leprosy that plagued his body.  At this time the disease was known to be infectious and incurable. I suspect that the man had no particular trouble getting to Jesus because most people would have kept their distance from the leper!

    His bold and courageous action was based on what he had heard and possibly seen, this Jesus could heal. His humble approach is significant. So many times I’ve failed to truly bow before God, somehow thinking I am worthy of standing in His presence. Leprosy, for this man, broke through all of those barriers. Jesus’ reply is consistent: he reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he as cleansed of his leprosy.

    Mark adds the phrase, “Jesus was indignant” (NIV 2011). This appears to be an odd translation of the Greek word in the NIV.  Looking at many translations, the most often phrase suggests, Jesus felt compassion for the man. The modern translation (indignant or angry) in this context is quite interesting for the anger is not directed toward the man, he is quite apparently healed in the process–the anger is focused on the affects of the disease on the man, on the community and how people are treated as a result. On this line of thinking, Jesus moves us far beyond this one person encounter; he is unhappy that such a disease can affect so many in such a negative way.

    Jesus’ response was to heal the man with a “strong warning” (Luke uses the term, “ordered him”) not to tell anyone, but to go to the priests and offer the appropriate sacrifices. By seeking approval of the priests, verification of his cleansing, the man would be able to re-enter society, he would once again be accepted. Mark’s account shows the man ignored the command and “began to talk freely, spreading the news,” while Luke concludes, “Yet the news about him spread.” It would be impossible to suppress this news. We don’t know how long this man was afflicted with the disease, but the advanced stages of the leprosy implies it was quite some time. Of course he would talk about it, people would certainly observe even if he didn’t say a word. Jesus warning or command was an attempt to keep people from putting him on some sort of pedestal that would prevent him from the kind of preaching and teaching he truly wanted to provide. 

    The key difficulty in this passage, and all of the passages about healing, lies in the existence of disease in our world. Why not wipe out disease? Certainly God is capable, even willing to eliminate disease, so why allow disease to permeate our world? This is the key question and one I won’t address this morning, but will take on as part of a separate study. There are so many thoughts on why God allows disease, pain and suffering. The answer is not simple, it requires thinking far beyond our present circumstance. Ultimately, I believe God will eliminate disease and suffering. He’s told us this will happen at some point in the future when Jesus returns, there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain, and Jesus provides the path to this future.

    There are many things I don’t understand, but wrestling with this problem is one worthy of study and contemplation. Lord, help us understand pain and suffering in this world, at least to a degree that would help others find you. So much to learn, so little time, so many people. The challenge is great. It’s a good thing we have God on our side!

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