Jesus Cleanses a Leper Luke 5:12-16
At the time that Jesus began his ministry, Israels God had been made into nothing more than a petty, vindictive legalist. In their minds, God was giving them points for their good deeds and deducting points for their bad deeds. The religous system had turned God into someone who didn't care about people or the suffering they were enduring. They painted him as only being concerned with what they could do for him. They were taught that their problems were bigger than God. This is partly why Jesus attracted such crowds. His teaching was so radically different. Suddenly the people were seeing that God was someone who cared about the m and their suffering. Jesus coming changed everything as they knew it.
After Jesus finished recruiting his first disciples (which we looked at in our time together last week), he continued his ministry of teaching and healing around the region of Galilee. We do not know where this event took place, but, what we do know is that from this point on, Jesus ministry took on a drastic change. This was the first of Jesus miracles that really caught the ire of the religous elites around Judaism. As Jesus cleansed a leper in an astounding way.
In the text before us today we see:
An untouchable leper. (v.12)
An unflinching Savior. (v.13)
An urgent command. (v.14)
1.) An untouchable leper. (v.12)
1.) An untouchable leper. (v.12)
When this man encountered Jesus he was...
A.) A societal outcast. (v.12)
We need to understand a little more about leprosy before we go much further in order to understand the magnitude of this miracle.
There are several skin conditions in scripture known as “leprosy”, some more severe than others. The word itself simply denotes“an infectious skin disease.” This could be anywhere from simple eczema to what we now call leprosy today which is something called “Hansens Disease” which in this day was called “elephant disease” which can be fatal.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding “leprosy” and just how contagious it was, and the fatality it could result in, God gave explicit instruction in Leviticus 13-14 for how the people were to deal with various forms of leprosy.
If a person was thought to have leprosy, he was to be put in quarantine for 7 days. If after those seven days his condition had not improved, he was quarantined for another 7 days. If the persons infection had improved then he was considered to be clean and could go back to normal life, but, if the condition worsened, he was pronounced to be “unclean” until the infection disappeared (indefinitely).
If a person was pronounced to be unclean, he could not approach anyone else, including family members which required him to live outside of the city or town away from people.
The person would have to wear only tattered and torn clothing, keeps their hair shaven, cover his mouth and shout “unclean, unclean” anytime he saw someone coming toward them.
45 “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
A person with leprosy was thought to be incurable apart from an act of God .
By the day in which this account takes place, the extra biblical rabbinical teachings had made matters even worse. They went beyond what the law required and said that a person with leprosy had to:
Remain 100 cubits away from people if they were upwind and four cubits away if downwind. ( A cubit is roughly 13 inches)
If a leper even stuck his head inside of a home, the house and everyone in it was pronounced to be unclean.
It was illegal to even greet a leper.
Lepers were literally treated like “dead-men walking.”
Can you imagine just how lonely this condition made a person
Speak of the conditions during COVID-19 and we can get a picture. Suicide went up exponentially due to the isolation.
B.) A symbol of sin.
Compounding all of this mans problems the general consensus of the jewish people is that this man had contracted leprosy because of some great personal sin.
They thought this because in the Old Testament, there are examples of God giving someone leprosy because of a sinful act.
Miriam (Numbers 12:6-10)
Gehazi the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 5:25-27)
King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:19)
But, that was not the normal cause. They were presuming upon and misunderstanding the scriptures.
Application: That being said, leprosy does serve as a “type/picture” of sin. It serves as an illustration of our condition apart from Christ cleansing atonement. Sin has invaded every square inch of us from the depths of our souls to our physical bodies. We were born and lived infected by sin and without Christ we are dead.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
If we could look upon our sinful condition the way God does, we would see ourselves as the walking dead trying to cover our sins with filthy rags.
6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our wrongdoings, like the wind, take us away.
C.) A sensitivity to his condition.
This poor man understood just how dire his condition was. Notice the text says that he was:
“full of leprosy”- This likely denotes that he had the severest kind of leprosy (Hansens Disease). This kind of leprosy causes severe disfigurement but not because of the flesh rotting away (which we used to think). The disfigurement takes place because Hansens Disease deadens the nerve endings in the extremities including the ears, eyes and nose. The disfiguring comes from incidents that occur because of the lack of feeling (reaching into the fire, washing with scalding hot water, etc.) In some third world countries even vermin have been known to chew on lepers and them not know it. As one Dr. put it, the disease is a “painless hell.”
This poor man had likely not been able to feel for years and his body displayed mutilation, stench and rotting from it.
He knew the exact state he was in when he fell at Jesus feet and cried:
Luke 5:12 (NKJV)
12 ...“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
This man saw himself as having no hope apart from the Lord Jesus. Nothing and on one was going to stop him from coming to the healer. This man fell at Jesus and acknowledged him as Lord, and didn't asked to be healed, he asked to be made clean.
He was asking for physical and spiritual cleansing. He knew he was dirty and defiled physically and spiritually.
Application: This is the way we must come to Christ for salvation. Seeing ourselves for what we are, unclean sinners. Outcast from God because of our sinful condition. Realizing he is the only one who can make us clean so we can come into God’s presence.
18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
2.) An Unflinching Savior. (v.13)
2.) An Unflinching Savior. (v.13)
This poor man was desperate when he came to Jesus. Now here he is laying at Jesus feet, begging for mercy when Jesus reached out his hand and gave him:
A.) A compassionate touch.
Who knows how long it had been since this man had been touched by someone else who wasn't also a leper. How he must have longed for that touch. People went to great lengths to avoid touching a leper, but not Jesus.
Touch-to take hold of, cling to, or bind. This wasn't a superficial touch, Jesus wrapped his arms around this man.
Imagine the delight that soared through this man as Jesus wrapped his arms around him. This now meant that Jesus would be ceremonially unclean, but the leper would feel loved.
Why would Jesus do this?
To make this man feel his willingness and sympathy. By touching the leper Jesus was in a sense saying “I see you, I understand your condition and I love you.”
Application: We cant miss the theological implication to Jesus touching this leper though. Jesus touching this leper pictured why he came. It pictured both the incarnation and the cross.
Jesus took on flesh, became sin for us, and gave us his purity in return.
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Application: Jesus became like us in order that he could touch and heal us from our sin. Just as Jesus leaned down and touched the foul smelling decaying flesh of this leper, so he did for us.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
B.) A consent to heal.
Notice, Jesus didn't just touch the man, but he answered the man. Remember the man asked
Luke 5:12–13 (NKJV)
12...“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 13 Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing;...”
Jesus was willing to do something for this man that no other man would/could do. Understand, Jesus could have said, no. Jesus could have left this man in his pitiful condition. But he didn't leave him that way.
Application: Perhaps this man on his knees before Jesus broken over his condition reminds you of a time when you were in that same state. Broken from your sin, reaching up just to touch bottom, crying out to him
“Lord, are you even willing to save me?” and he gave you the same answer “I am willing”.
Perhaps that is the state you have found yourself in this morning, friend my job today is to tell you from the pages of Holy Scripture. Jesus is willing!
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
9 ...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
C.) A cleansing pronounced.
This phrase “be cleansed” tells us something about Jesus.
When someone had leprosy, a priest had to be the one to examine the spot on his skin and pronounce the leper unclean. Likewise, if the person found his condition to be healed, only a priest could pronounce (announce) him as clean.
The priest could examine the leper and announce that he was clean, but he couldn't make the leper clean.
Application: Only Jesus could do that!
Notice when Jesus said “be cleansed” the bible tells us that instantly this man’s leprosy was gone. His healing was instantaneous and complete.
He went from being “full of leprosy” to it being completely gone. His body may still have held the scars, but the sickness was no more.
Application: This is what happens when Jesus saves the sinner today. The moment you place your faith in Christ you are instantaneously changed. Your body may still bear the marks of your sin, but the sickness of sin is gone.
(Jesus is a true and beter priest than any man can be)
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. 1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
3.) An urgent command. (v.14)
3.) An urgent command. (v.14)
A.) A terse statement
This man who Jesus just miraculously healed is now given a command by Christ not to tell anyone. Before this man could run and celebrate with his loved one there was something more important for him to do first. Had this man just ran home, the priestly establishment would have rejected and questioned his healing. In order for this to happen the man needed to do something first. He needed to obey :
B.) A transcendent law
Just as the priest was involved in examining and pronouncing a leper as unclean and was given very specific rules by God for doing so in Leviticus 13. So to, did the priest have to be involved in examining the leper and pronouncing him clean. In order for that to happen, the Lord laid out in Leviticus 14 a cleanliness ceremony the leper must go through in thanks to God.
This official pronouncement of cleaning began by:
A priest going to meet the now former leper outside of the city, town, or encampment to verify the leprosy was indeed gone.
Then, while still outside the city, two birds were presented along with some cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop.
One of the birds had to be killed in a clay pot (so that none of its blood was lost). This had to be done above fresh water (symbolic of cleansing).
Next the live bird, along with the wood, yarn, and hyssop, were to be dipped in the blood of the dead bird, and blood was sprinkled upon the leper seven times as he was pronounced “clean.”
This ceremony ended with the live bird being released in the open fields to fly away. (Leviticus 14:1-7)
After this ceremony the blood-sprinkled person could once again join the community. After they washed their clothing, shaved all the hair from their body and bathed. Only after that could the cleansed individual go back to his family, and friends rejoice for seven days (Leviticus 14:8-9).
On the seventh day his head, eyebrows, and beard were shaved (again), and he again bathed, so that, like a newborn, he was ready to enter a new phase of his existence.
On the eighth day the former leper had to offer three unblemished lambs as a guilt offering, a sin offering, and a burnt offering. The guilt offering was not an atoning sacrifice but a restitution for the offerings and sacrifices he was unable to make while a leper. His restitution and fresh commitment were then dramatically emphasized when the priest took some of the blood and smeared it on the offerer’s right ear, thumb, and toe, then coated each smear with a second anointing of oil, that was meant to symbolize that the person would listen to God’s voice, use his hands for God’s glory, and walk in God’s ways. His shaved head was then anointed with the remaining oil (Leviticus 14:2–18).
Finally, having declared the leper to be in the Lord’s service, the priest made atonement for him with sin, burnt, and grain offerings, the last being a joyous expression of gratitude (Leviticus 14:19, 20).
Application: All of this was meant to symbolize the atoning work of Christ and his power to deliver from sin. This is precisely what Jesus’ healing of the leper in our passage is all about. The power of Christ to forgive and remove sin.
Sadly, this man did the opposite of what Jesus commanded him. He was no doubt selfishly over joyed. Mark’s telling of this story says he went out and began to proclaim it freely (Mark 1:45) From this point on, the crowds following Jesus began to get bigger and bigger to the point Jesus would largely remain teaching out in the countryside.
This lepers disobedience kept others from coming to Christ. (Elaborate on our disobedience doing the same) Jesus, after healing this man does what he always does, he retreats to the wilderness to rest and pray.
Application: From this story we learn that when we come to Christ we must:
See ourselves as God sees us. Sin sick and dyeing. Without hope. In desperate need of forgiveness.
We must believe in faith that he alone can make us clean.
Accepting his death, burial and resurrection are sufficient enough to save us.
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.