In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of His power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.Luke 5:12-16
Well I have to say I don’t know what to do at this point. There is so much I want to tell you that I don’t know where to start. That is not true because I would normally just work my way through the text. So I do in fact know where to start, but there is so much to comment on. I will just begin making my comments until I think the Gem is too long and I need to stop. This is an interesting pericope. It is used by all three synoptic gospel writers. Only John does not include this in his gospel. There is word for word agreement on most elements.
They (Matt 8:2-4, Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16) all agree on the following elements:
- The leper came to Jesus and bowed down / fell on his knees / fell on his face
- Saying “[Lord] If you are willing you can make me clean”.
- He stretched His hand out saying “I am willing, be cleansed”.
- Immediately the leprosy left him.
- “Tell no one, show yourself to the priest, make offering Moses commanded”
The extra additions come at the end. There is nothing added by Matthew, his is the shortest account. Mark adds the man did not heed Jesus instructions but rather talked about him, spreading the news of his healing everywhere to the point where Jesus couldn’t enter a city publicly any more. Mark’s account is negatively couched in terms of the leprous man. For Mark the focus is this man. Rather Luke returns to Jesus often taking time out to be alone. This is the second time Luke mentions this in a few verses: the end of the previous chapter and now 18 verses later. In this place it seems out of place. I am not sure why Luke brings it up again. See if you can find out. The only thing that I can think is that Luke’s comment has something to do with Mark’s comment relating to not being able to appear publicly anymore. Is there are connection between that fact and the taking time alone? But Luke doesn’t make the link explicit. Also of course it is in the context of many hearing the news and wanting to come to Jesus as His fame spreads. Hence Luke repeats Jesus practice of taking time out.
“In one of the villages” is an interesting statement. I imagine it must have been on the edge of the village. The reason is that lepers were not allowed in the village or city. The leper was banished to a life in the netherworld. Typically lepers congregated on the border regions of Israel with other countries because they were forbidden from entering cities or town or being in close proximity to people. This statement either indicates this man was on the extreme edge of the town or had got so desperate that he was willing to abandon the rules in an attempt to be healed.
“A man full of leprosy” Literally – only Luke uses this term. The sense is “covered with it” or an advanced case. This use of the word leprosy may be just that or one of many other skin diseases? But whichever it was, it was BAD for him. In either case it was a situation involving a contagious skin disease. Luke begins the story with the word “Idou” [behold] meaning “look here”, “this is remarkable”. Even more remarkable in that Jesus TOUCHED him. This man as a leper was forced by law to declare himself “unclean” to others. Warning people not to touch him because they could be infected too. To touch a leper made the toucher ceremonially unclean too. No one dared to touch a leper either for fear of catching the disease themselves or the risk of being declared ceremonially unclean and thus ostracized. Lepers lived their lives with no human touch at all apart from fellow lepers.
Jesus TOUCHED this man. HOW AMAZING. Lots more to say on this but I will leave you to ponder the imagery.
“If you are willing” appears to indicate the man was convinced of Jesus ability to heal Him. His power was not in question in this leper’s mind. He had seen or heard enough to be convinced Jesus could heal him, but would He was more the issue. He didn’t know if Jesus was willing to do it. Would this man heal him or not? I am sure the touch was reassuring. No one had ever done that before. With the touch he must have then been filled with expectation that something would happen.
Examination by a priest was necessary for a person to be declared cleansed of leprosy and allowed back into the community. Following the examination the person was then required to give offerings. The offerings after examination were the sign to everyone in the community that the person was allowed back into society. The offerings were a complicated, expensive, long drawn out process. The process went on for eight days and required two living birds, cedarwood, scarlet stuff and hyssop, flour, oil, and lambs. It was a serious business. You can read all about the details in Leviticus 13:1-14:32. I told you it was a long process.
- What was the purpose of the public testimony mentioned by Luke 5:14?
- For whose benefit was this public testimony?
- Was it for Jesus with respect to the priests or was it for the man with respect to the public?
There is much debate about this. Many feel that it was for Jesus to ensure He was not made ceremonially unclean. I don’t think that was the case at all. I think this is in reference to the leper and the public testimony necessary for people to accept back him back into the community. But you can work out for yourself what you think about it.
“Don’t tell anyone” – why the prohibition? You can work that out too. There are 9 different reasons the commentators come up with as to why Jesus told the man not to say anything. Time for you to pause and think for yourself why Jesus would tell the man not to say anything. I am not intending at this point to comment in the next Gem on the reasons. You do some digging and find out why Jesus would tell the man to say nothing. Unless I get howls of protest before the next Gem I plan to move on to a very interesting story of some very zealous friends who are willing to do anything for the sake of their friend.
The first rule of holes: If you’re in one, stop digging.Anon
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.Anon
Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.Anon
And yes you guessed it, I am light on leprosy quotes and thought you needed some light relief after all this talk of leprosy.Ian Vail