Passages: Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15. What can we learn from this episode and apply it to our lives today, particularly those who pray regularly for healing?
Touching a leper shows Jesus’s compassion. Personally, it moves me.
The translations are mine, but if you would like to see many other translations, please go to biblegateway.com. I include the Greek text to bring out the nuances, but readers may scroll past it, if they wish.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy
|1 As Jesus came down from the mountain, a large crowd followed him. 2 And look! a leper came to him and fell down before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you are able to cleanse me.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See to it that you tell no one. Instead, go show yourself to the priest, and bring the gift which Moses ordered, for a testimony to them.”||40 Next, a leper came to him, begging him and kneeling and saying to him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion and stretching of his hand, Jesus touched him and said to him, “I’m willing. Be cleansed.” 42 And instantly the leprosy departed, and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sternly warned him and quickly sent him away 44 and said to him, “See to it that you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for your cleansing bring what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them. 45 But he left and began to proclaim freely and spread the news widely, so that Jesus was no longer able to go into a city openly, but he was outside in isolated places. They came to him from everywhere.||2 And so it happened that while he was in one of the towns, look! A man full of skin disease! When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can cleanse me!” 13 He reached his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” And instantly his skin disease left him. 14 And he commanded him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and bring an offering for cleansing, just as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” 15 The report about him spread around all the more. Great crowds were coming together to listen and to be healed from their illnesses.
16 But he was withdrawing into the deserted places and praying.
|1 Καταβάντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί. 2 καὶ ἰδοὺ λεπρὸς προσελθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων· κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι. 3 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ λέγων· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· καὶ εὐθέως ἐκαθαρίσθη αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα. 4 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς, ἀλλ’ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκον τὸ δῶρον ὃ προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.||40 Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν λεπρὸς παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν [καὶ γονυπετῶν] καὶ λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι. 41 καὶ σπλαγχνισθεὶς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἥψατο καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· 42 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα, καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη. 43 καὶ ἐμβριμησάμενος αὐτῷ εὐθὺς ἐξέβαλεν αὐτὸν 44 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ὅρα μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς, ἀλλ’ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου ἃ προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς. 45 Ὁ δὲ ἐξελθὼν ἤρξατο κηρύσσειν πολλὰ καὶ διαφημίζειν τὸν λόγον, ὥστε μηκέτι αὐτὸν δύνασθαι φανερῶς εἰς πόλιν εἰσελθεῖν, ἀλλ’ ἔξω ἐπ’ ἐρήμοις τόποις ἦν· καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτὸν πάντοθεν.||12 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας· ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν, πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐδεήθη αὐτοῦ λέγων· κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι. 13 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ λέγων· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· καὶ εὐθέως ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. 14 καὶ αὐτὸς παρήγγειλεν αὐτῷ μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν, ἀλλ’ ἀπελθὼν δεῖξον σεαυτὸν τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου καθὼς προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς. 15 διήρχετο δὲ μᾶλλον ὁ λόγος περὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ συνήρχοντο ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀκούειν καὶ θεραπεύεσθαι ἀπὸ τῶν ἀσθενειῶν αὐτῶν· 16 αὐτὸς δὲ ἦν ὑποχωρῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις καὶ προσευχόμενος.|
The standard translation is leprosy, and healing this disease was one of the signs that the Messiah had come. Scholars nowadays say the word was generic for skin diseases. But let’s call the man “leper” for convenience.
A leper was required by law to wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” in order not to contaminate someone else (Lev. 13:45).
45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Lev. 13:45)
Skin Disease, Mold in Leviticus 13, 14 from a NT Perspective
Why did Jesus command him not to tell others? He did not want to excite popular excitement about Jesus miraculous work. Jesus downplayed the miracles (Luke 4:35, 41; 8:56; Matt. 9:30; 12:16; Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He really wanted to teach. Miracles are the sign that back up teaching. Teaching is the main thing. Miracles without teaching is just a show.
The offering for recovery from skin disease was two live kosher birds and other items (Lev. 14:4-6). Then the cleansed person has to shave all his hair and beard, wash his clothes, and take a bath (v. 9). Later they must offer two male lambs and one-year-old ewe lamb and other items. Together they must have been expensive, and the leper could not work, so he must have had grateful relatives who supplied him with the offerings.
“for a testimony to them”: It is all right to tell the priest—a doctor today—that God healed you. Let him take the x-rays and examine your blood and other things. Then he will see that you are healed. It is your miracle testimony to him.
One last comment: Jesus followed the law of Moses about offerings before he died on the cross (though no record says that he offered any sacrifices). It is a sure thing that when he was resurrected and healed people with skin diseases through his disciples, he never told the healed persons to go to the temple and offer the sacrifices prescribed by Moses. The gospel was going out across their known world, far outside tiny Israel. There was no longer any need for the Levitical temple system, which was put under God’s judgment and was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45).
Application for Ministry Today
We can learn a lot, when we follow Jesus and what he did. In this section I number the points for clarity and order.
1.. Jesus was moved with compassion. This is important to note because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the heart of the Father. He wants to have compassion on us too.
Do I Really Know God? He Is Compassionate and Merciful
2.. Jesus was willing to heal a man who was a total outcast, alone and rejected. God is willing to heal people today. We need to seek him to find out what his will is.
3.. The man’s kneeling and falling and falling on his face shows desperation. How desperate are you for your healing? But don’t gin up fake desperation. And don’t believe the lie that if you did not get healed this time, then you were not desperate enough, so now you must get yourself worked up into a psychological state of fake desperation. No, just be restful and peaceful and trustful. The leper’s story was that he was truly desperate. His story may not be yours–or it could be.
4.. How do we pray for the sick? Let’s find out. Jesus commanded the man to be cleansed. He did not pray a long theological (yet intimate) prayer to teach the disciples, as he did in John 17. Instead, he commanded wholeness, in order to heal the man and teach the disciples how to pray for the sick. He said, “Be cleansed!” The skin disease disappeared right in front of the Lord and the man himself. He was cleansed. No doubt the man felt the improvement in his own body. Often healings can be felt. We should never discount the physical sensations when we pray for broken bodies. Let’s keep our eyes open to watch God heal people before our very eyes and in their bodies.
Further, as Jesus’s did, so should we. We should command wholeness and restoration, in order to see illnesses leave. But we do this in his name, which means we stand strong and speak firmly in his granted authority, not our own. We can also ask the Father for his healing power to come down on the sick person. This is to ask for the Father through the Son to instruct the Spirit to distribute the gifts of healings, as he promised to do in 1 Cor. 12:4-11.
4. Gifts of the Spirit: Gifts of Healings
So praying and commanding in Jesus’s name is the biblical way. We follow Jesus in this regard.
5.. Jesus also touched the leper, which was a legalistic no-no. Jesus was rendered ceremoniously unclean by the law’s standards. However, Jesus was Lord of the law. He ignored religious scruples and went right to the heart of the matter–the man’s need for compassion which brings healing through the will of God and power of the Spirit. Compassion and love is better than sacrifice or empty legalism (Hos. 6:6 cf. Matt. 9:13; 12:7).
5.. Mark finishes this story by saying that Jesus went away to isolated places, and Luke adds that the Lord was praying alone in those places. Everyone needs to up their prayer life, particularly those who pray regularly for people to get healed. Or you could be the one whose body is broken and needs healing. Either way, get to know your loving heavenly Father through prayer. Praise him no matter what happens to your body, if you are in need of healing. Praise him if you are a prayer warrior and see no healing this time. Both the needy and the warrior must seek him, no matter what happens.
6.. As I write in all the healing posts:
Let it be noted that Jesus never went in for “decree and declare.” (Name one time he used such verbiage during his prayer for the sick. Nor did the disciples use those formulaic words in Acts).
Instead, God the Father through his Son who was anointed by the Spirit performed miracles of healing. Jesus clarified that he does only what he sees his Father doing (John 5:19). He lives because of the Father (John 6:57). He speaks only what the Father taught him (John 8:28). He does what he sees the Father do (John 10:37). What Jesus says is just what the Father told him to say (John 12:49-50, 57). Perhaps the most important verse about miracles: “Many good works I have shown you from My Father” (John 10:32). (In John’s Gospel, “good works” = miracles, at a minimum.)
And so the Father through his Son who was anointed by the Spirit, performed all miracles during his Son’s ministry (Acts 10:38). The Son obeyed and followed his Father.
7..We too should develop life in the Spirit (Gal. 5), so we can hear from the Father through the Spirit, in Jesus’s name and authority granted to us. We will never heal as Jesus did, because he is the Anointed One without limits (John 3:34). But after the cross and the Son’s ascension, the Spirit can distribute the gifts of healings (plural) as he determines (1 Cor. 12:11), not as we “name and claim” or “decree and declare.” Let the Spirit work, and you listen and obey, and then rebuke a disease (not the person) or pray for healing.
4. Gifts of the Spirit: Gifts of Healings
Kenneth Copeland Gets a Pacemaker
Is ‘Decreeing’ Biblical for Christians?
For further comments, please click on these links and scroll down to the right verses: