Summary: Leprosy was believed to be God’s chastisement for sins that were committed by the person. That type of thinking removed compassion and sympathy for the leper. They were likely to be stoned, if they got too close.
Harmony of the Gospels
Title: Leper Healed; His Response
Whenever Jesus came into contact with disease or misery, He was moved by compassion to remove it by his touch, His presence, or His word. This was part of His humiliation, due to the path that He chose during His conquest of the tempter, in the wilderness. Satan offered Him the easy way to the Throne, which avoided the cross and the pain and suffering that people, would bring to Him. But He refused to commit the miraculous, and chose instead the path of obedience to the Father. As God-man He moved among the people as a servant, and He healed them. He felt their pain, because He could see into their hearts, where mere men could not see.
It is interesting to note that in regard to lepers, that Jesus’ ministry begins where the ministry of the Rabbis ended. There was no known cure for leprosy, so when a Rabbi declared a man to be a leper, he was condemned to an existence of psychological and physical suffering. Law forbade them to enter any walled city. They could not touch another person and no one would chance touching them. Their appearance was ghastly: dirty ragged clothing, disheveled hair, a handkerchief over their mouth, running sores and missing body parts. They lacked feeling in their fingers and toes, so they were often missing or fire and sharp stones damaged them. The Jews felt that there was no cure for leprosy other than from God, Himself, as was the case with Naaman.
Leprosy was believed to be God’s chastisement for sins that were committed by the person. That type of thinking removed compassion and sympathy for the leper. They were likely to be stoned, if they got too close.
The disease had a psychological element, because they were forbidden to touch anyone, except one of their kind, and because all men avoided them. They lived in loneliness and despair, and their condition was hopeless. Even their religion refused to give them consolation.
So this was the manner of the life of a leper. But Jesus has come to meet this man and to restore him in a miraculous way. The three synoptic Gospels tell about this event.
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. (Matthew 8:1)
I believe that He is in the vicinity of Capernaum. There are multitudes of people following Him, because He has shown them the Kingdom of God through His preaching, and now He will demonstrate His power over humanities worst disease.
And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (Matthew 8:2)
Leprosy was considered incurable, and it is a loathsome disease. Notice that the leper did not say, “Will you make me clean” or “Are you able to make me clean.” The leper had faith and he recognized the Lordship of Christ, therefore he said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” The things that we ask Him are not always His will. But if it is His will, it will happen. We should pray, “Thy will be done”; let Him decide. However, that is not the way most people pray; they demand that God do something, because they want Him to. Let Him decide, because that’s the way it’s going to be done anyway.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:3)
I don’t know this man’s background, but allow me the liberty to suggest how his leprosy might have come about. One day he may have been working in his fields, when he noticed a breaking out on his hand. He showed it to his wife and she may have put some ointment on it. The following day it was still there, but he went back to work in the fields anyway. That night, it was just as red as could be. His wife may have treated it again, and this went on for about a week. Finally, both of them became worried, so he went to show it to the priest. The priest isolated him for fourteen days, and at the end of that time, the disease had spread. The priest told him that he had leprosy. He probably asked the priest if he could go home to see his wife and children one last tine and tell them good by. The priest would have said. “No! You can never touch another person and you must wear a handkerchief over your mouth. If anyone comes near, you must yell, ‘unclean. Unclean’” From time to time, his family probably left food for him, and he would wave to them from a distance. Then one day this man came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you will you can make me clean.” And what did the Lord Jesus do? He touched him. This man had not felt the touch of another person for years. I want to tell you that the touch of Jesus was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to this man. It not only cleansed him, but it brought him back into the family of mankind and into the family of God. His leprosy was healed immediately.