Summary: The only obstacle that stood between this man and full health was Jesus’ willingness. Somewhere in the solitude of this lonely life, this man’s mental processes discovered that if only Jesus wanted to heal him, he would be healed.
This is the fourth message in a series, Plastic Jesus: How Did Someone So Real Become So Fake? We’ve been looking over the shoulder of Luke as he’s written his Gospel to communicate to us who Jesus is. We’ve seen Jesus make His hometown synagogue so angry that they tried to kill Him. We watched as Jesus cast out demons in the town of Capernaum. And we’ve been introduced to some of Jesus’ closest followers as Jesus miraculously provided more fish than two boats could hold. All throughout, Jesus has defined Himself for us – the real Jesus. He has refused to be molded and bended to fit out every whim. Instead, Jesus has been rigid than silly putty and yet more compassionate than us.
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.
17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” (Luke 5:12-26)
As we continue to explore the real Jesus, we encounter two seeming random stories of Jesus healing a leper and a paralyzed man. We’ll see there’s nothing random in how Jesus deals with these two men and there’s nothing random in how Luke present these stories in order that we may see Jesus more clearly. There’s so much in these two stories and we will not have time to get into every detail. Let’s dig in…
1. The Courage of an Unnamed Man
We know so little about this leper for even his name is not mentioned. We’re not even sure where he lived as none of Gospels tell us where this happened exactly as verse twelve simply says, “While he was in one of the cities.” We do know that this unnamed man is “full of leprosy” according to the medical doctor, Luke.
Leprosy was a disease of despair for no one could help him. Leprosy in the Bible is not always Hansen’s disease for those of you medical types. As the term for leprosy in the Bible can be described a wide range of skin conditions. You might see lesions, swollen areas of the skin, or nerve damage as well.
Yet to understand the desperate condition this man faced you need look no further than a little more than sixteen miles off the coast of China is Daqin Island. For nearly a century it has been known by locals as a place where monsters lived. Monsters who lacked fingers, toes and even entire limbs. Daqin Island, at its peak, had more than 2,000 lepers whose ugly, distorted faces oftentimes were told to scare children into good behavior. Wu has lived on the island for sixty years and while his first symptoms didn’t appear until he was thirteen and it was eighteen years later when medical authorities finally realized his medical condition and it was then he was sent to the island where he never saw his family again. For much of the twentieth century these men and women had no electricity, no TV, and only the food they could grow. To warm themselves the patients would cut firewood, which only left their bodies with cuts and grazes that often failed to heal. Soon infection set in and amputation would ensue. And although Wu’s story had recently been told through the local media, his son and daughter, both now in their sixties, wanted nothing to do with their father. Patients there fail to go to their parents’ funerals for fear their family members suffering discrimination. The disease is so dreaded that those medical professionals who attend to their needs often marry one another because few others show a willingness. Even then, medical attendants don’t tell others who they work with for fear of social ostracization. One father demanded his daughter break off her engagement to a man who treated lepers. Stretchers are thrown away after carrying these patients.