OK. So we made it through the Sermon on the Mount. Absolutely amazing!
So Matthew 8 starts out with Jesus healing a man with leprosy and continues this incredible story of Jesus’ walk on earth. Let’s dive in.
Matthew 8:1-2 says this, “When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a man with leprosy came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
The large crowds that have been following Jesus from town to town grow even larger. They have been impressed by His teaching, as well as drawn from many miles in every direction to see His supernatural healings and casting out of demons. A little description of what’s coming next. Matthew 8—9 will describe several instances when Jesus healed the sick and freed the demon-possessed. These records are not necessarily given in chronological order. It was common in ancient writing to collect information by topic, and not necessarily grouping events according to time. Matthew chooses to group Jesus’ miracles mostly into one section of his book. The reason for including these events is to show Christ’s power over both the “natural” and “supernatural” worlds. These are all evidence that Jesus is truly the Messiah.
Jesus’ reputation as a worker of miracles and healer had spread far and wide (Matthew 8:1). Many people without any other hope came to Him for help, including the man with leprosy in this verse. The Greek words used in these passages are lepra and lepros, which are references to scales of the skin. By the time of the New Testament, these words translated into English as “leprosy / leper” were used of a collection of skin diseases. The worst of these, actual leprosy, is an extremely slow-growing infection which causes the skin to become lumpy and turn gray or white. Eventually, it can lead to open sores, disfigurement and deformities of the nerves and mucous membranes.
The Lord gave Moses very specific instructions about keeping those infected with leprosy from spreading the disease to others (Leviticus 13), including keeping all lepers isolated from the community:
“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45).
This is another example of Scripture demonstrating God’s knowledge and understanding, even when it’s not spelled out for us. This is in the same way a clinic poster describing proper hand washing demonstrates understanding of disease, though it doesn’t explain every detail of how germs work. Modern science understands that leprosy—or Hansen’s Disease—is not especially contagious. When it is contracted, it’s most likely due to breathing infected particles coughed or sneezed out by someone with symptoms. A person covering their upper lip is, in effect, blocking the main form of transmission. The reason for isolating those with leprosy is not due to severe contagion, but to severe consequence: in the ancient world, there was no cure and anyone who contracted the disease would have it for life.
For Jewish people, leprosy carried a terrible social stigma. Beyond the health and isolation aspects, it was superstitiously thought to be a disease inflicted by God as a punishment for sin.
The man who approached Jesus wanted to be both medically and ceremonially clean. To be “clean” is the request he expresses—the man never refers to His disease by name. He wanted to be welcomed back into the regular community of Israel, in addition to being healed of his disease. He expressed both great boldness and great faith, along with genuine humility in making his appeal to Jesus. He was bold to risk coming so near, but he was also convinced that Jesus could heal him. Still, he did not demand to be healed. He simply acknowledged that Jesus could heal him if He wanted to. In that way, the leper provides a model of how to approach God with our requests for healing, as well.
The highlighted sentences above say a lot. He expressed boldness and faith. He was convinced that Jesus could heal him. So….in your life….do you approached Jesus with boldness and faith? Do you believe He can heal?
Good questions to start or end the day aren’t they?