Summary: Remember the slogan, "WWJD" or "what would Jesus do?" When a leper came to Jesus asking to be healed, what did Jesus do?


Leprosy. This was one of the worst, and perhaps the most dreaded diseases of all time. If anyone ever came down with this disease, that person just about faced a death sentence. Everyone, who had this disease, faced expulsion from society, including home, family, friends, and anything else the leper had to leave behind. The leper had to wear special clothing, had to live outside the camp, and had to say (shout?) “Unclean! Unclean!” Perhaps this was to alert others, apparently, not to get too close lest they come down with leprosy as well.

The Old Testament lists several people who contracted leprosy. Some were Miriam, Moses’ sister (see Numbers 12:10); Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet (see 2 Kings 5); and Naaman, a mighty man of valor (2 Kings 5:1)—even though he was from Syria. There were also the four lepers who found the camp of the Syrians deserted after the nation of Israel had suffered both siege and famine (see 2 Kings 7). Besides these were others, no doubt, both recorded and not recorded in Scripture. zleprosy could even affect clothing and houses (Leviticus 13 and 14). Leviticus 14 also states that there were provisions for the ex-leper (for lack of a better term) to be restored once he or she was pronounced “clean”.

Leprosy didn’t seem to go away, even after all the years between the days of the kingdom and the days when Jesus walked the earth. There were several occasions when Jesus healed lepers. This is the first recorded instance of such a healing.

The text is from Matthew, chapter 8, verses 1-4, with a parallel passage in Mark 1:40-45. Luke also records this incident, making it one of the few events recorded by three of the four Gospels:

[Mat 8:1-4 KJV] 1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth [his] hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

[Mar 1:40-45 KJV] 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth [his] hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish [it] much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

I The request: what did the leper ask from Jesus?

Several of us, including myself, may have missed something when we read Matthew chapter 8. The leper himself was near the very place where Jesus had just finished preaching the Sermon on the Mount! Did the leper go close enough to hear Jesus preach?

Other questions come to mind. What was the leper’s name? What about his family? What city had he previously lived in? Where was he living now? When and how did he come down with the disease of leprosy?

We’re not given the answers to any of these questions. We do know that this person had the disease of leprosy and that there was little hope of the disease going away. We’re not even told how he came to know about Jesus and His power to heal, but find out he did, and he wanted to be healed!

So he asked Jesus—actually, we could say he made an appeal—“if You are willing, You can make me clean”. Notice the helplessness of the leper, in that he couldn’t heal himself, and I doubt any physician of that time would even look at him for fear of also becoming a leper; and the plea for help from Jesus. Remember, the crowds were coming down the mountain with Jesus after He had preached the “Sermon on the Mount”.

What was Jesus going to do?

II The response: what did Jesus do for the leper?

Matthew tells us that Jesus reached out and touched the leper, saying “I will” or “I am willing”, and “be clean”. It was as simple as that. The leper knew he had no hope of ever being healed or becoming “clean” unless Jesus was willing to do this. Now, he was healed! Matthew adds, (see verse 3), “ . . . immediately, his leprosy was healed.”

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