We’re in the middle of a story about a leper who came up to Jesus to ask if He could make him clean. He didn’t ask for healing, he asked to be made clean. Here’s the final verse in the sequence from Matthew 8. This is verse 4.
“And Jesus *said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'”
Jesus reaches out and touches him. The man is instantly healed by the power of God. Then….Jesus states that He shouldn’t go out and tell anyone what has happened.
Once the man is healed, Jesus commands him not to tell anyone about it. Matthew will report on several moments in Jesus’ ministry when He commands people not to talk about His power or reveal that He is the Messiah (Matthew 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9). Some commentators call this the “messianic secret.” It may be that Jesus did not want to draw too much attention to His role as the Messiah too early in His ministry. There are moments in His ministry where people respond to His power with a desire for revolution against Rome (John 6:15). This is what many Israelites hoped and assumed Messiah would do.
However, Christ’s mission was not to overthrow Rome. His mission was to die for the sins of humanity. Asking people not to publicize His power may have been aimed at keeping that mission on track. Part of that might have meant keeping the size of the crowds following Him from getting out of hand (Matthew 8:1). Mark’s recounting of this same incident tells us the man completely ignored Jesus’ command not to tell anyone. Instead, he “began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter” (Mark 1:45).
Jesus gave the healed man one more command. He told him to go show himself to the priest and offer the gift of a sacrifice commanded by Moses. That sacrifice included “two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop” (Leviticus 14:4–8). Once the priest inspected the man and received the sacrifice, the man would be declared officially and ceremonial clean and allowed to return to the community.
It’s possible Jesus includes the words “for a proof to them” because He wanted to give the priests evidence of His power in the healing of this former leper. Prior to this moment, only Miriam (Numbers 12:14–15) and the gentile Naaman (2 Kings 5:14) had ever been healed of such a condition. This was evidence Israel’s religious leaders would ignore or discount when later accusing Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be the Christ.
Interesting commentary here for sure. I love the “formality” of all of this. Jesus wants to be sure that the “rules” are followed. Go to the priest, offer the sacrifice. He wanted to make sure that the rules were followed here.
Jesus brings stability in our lives. From the earliest moments of His ministry He brings stability into the world and into the equation.