I taught on this passage, as well as a few other miracle passages of Luke a couple Sunday’s ago at my church – and wanted to extend my lesson (to an extent) here as well.
12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
This is one of my favorite passages because it hearkens back to one of my favorite Old Testament books to study and teach on – Leviticus! I know that may seem ridiculous, but Leviticus is an awesome book! The Law found there just exemplifies how much Christ did for us!
Here we have a man afflicted by a disease of the flesh. A disease that has almost 100% physical attestation. No one can miss how this man has been afflicted. He sees Christ and he sees a way out. Maybe this man can help the leper, maybe not. But the leper is going to try anything. If we read other miracle stories in Luke we find specifics not found in the other Synoptics. Luke was, by all accounts, a physician. He had scoured the records to find the best sources to write his gospel. He is incredibly thorough. Mark is the exact opposite. He’s the action gospel. Everything is immediately this, and then immediately that. You’d think that Jesus and His disciples were sprinting everywhere! Luke takes a more detailed approach. He reminds his readers that he took a slow study of the events surrounding Christ. He interviewed people. He checked sources. He went to locations of interest. This gospel is one written out of evidence – evidence for Christ.
We read in Luke about a man with a withered “right” hand. Mark and Matthew just mention that the hand is withered. We read that Peter’s mother had a “great” fever. You get a sense that Luke did some serious research in writing this account. He interviewed with great intensity to get the closest account he could for his gospel account. When Christ comes to the man with leprosy we read his is “full of leprosy.” This man doesn’t simply have a bad case of dandruff. He isn’t just reacting poorly due to his eczema. He is full of this disease. It affects him through and through. This is important, as it points to a dire dilemma Jesus walks up to. But Christ knows all things and is over all things. He approaches this man regardless of his physical condition.
Let’s think about this again. The Jewish heritage, their law, had been passed down for ages. It reflected in nearly every aspect of their lives. It gave them something to do at waking up, at eating, for dealing with neighbors, for dealing with enemies, how to ask forgiveness for a multitude of kinds of sins, how to make a pleasing sacrifice (though the root of that concept had been lost). Etc. Basically they knew the systematic and ritualistic right from wrong. To have leprosy was to have sin. It covered you. It was a part of you. Either you or your parents caused some an ailment. It was a physical embodiment of sin. There were rituals and finely tuned sacraments to perform to remove such a bodily issue.
Jesus was a rabbi. He was “better” than the common Israelites. He knew His law. THEY knew that He knew His law. There were factions among the religious elite that would have been around. We read that no one was around actually there to see the miracle happen, but we also read that the man (undoubtedly known as the leper) was charged to go to a priest to make offering to God after the healing. So we know that the religious elite would have learned about this. They would have known a healing of a leper had taken place. But what would have stunned them, what would have no doubt enraged them, would have been to see how He healed this man.
You do not touch lepers. Ever. For any reason. It causes uncleanness. It makes you unworthy to be before God. But Jesus. He knows the will of God. He knows the law of God. He is God. He sees this man. A wretch. Not unlike us in many ways. He has compassion. He sees faith that He can actually heal this physical, and spiritual illness. He walks up to the man. He walks up surrounded by His disciples. These big, burly, fishermen. This guy must have thought, “here it comes. They’ve come to kill me.” But Jesus walks up to this man, who has fallen to His face in reverence, and reaches out His healing hand – the hand that helped form the cosmos – and He touches this man. He puts His hand that has shaped stars on this man who has probably never had positive physical contact in years.
The disciples must recoil, thinking that this is the end of their journey. This rabbi is infected now. But no. This man has been touched by God Himself. The skin on his arms and legs immediately – we see that word – clears up. Where normally sickness would spread, salvation overcomes. Rather than becoming unclean by touching this leper, Jesus makes this unclean leper clean. He reverses the effects of sin. This one miracle foreshadows Jesus’ entire mission on earth.
“Wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This passage reminds us that Christ is not turned away from our state of sin. In fact, He is our only way out. It is not what we do that brings us to a good standing with God. It is what Christ has already done! When Christ said, “it is finished,” on the cross He wasn’t just stating the chronological facts. He was using a common Greek phrase used in the court system. It meant “paid in full.” It was used to complete a bill of sale. Christ paid our bill before a holy God. He reached out, and touched a man, me, full of leprosy – and I became clean!
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son!
How often today are we surrounded by the lepers of our society? How often today do we shy away from those who we feel would make us diseased in their pattern? How often do good church-going Christians abstain from work in the world – from real light giving – to keep from mingling with the sinners? I challenge you who read this to ask yourself that, and ask God to show you your lepers. Ask Him to help you to better reflect His Truth by reaching out to those lepers and letting them into your life! He who began a good work in you, can in turn use you to work in other’s lives for His glory! Amen!