Jesus cleanses a leper

TEXT: Mark 1:40-45

Just before Jesus heads back to Capernaum to end His first crusade (verses 38-39), Mark writes about an encounter where a man with leprosy begged Jesus for healing.

The New International Version of the Bible says the man went to his knees and begged Jesus for healing (Mark 1:40). Jesus was moved with compassion, and touched Him.

LEPROSY, THE DISEASE

According to Medicine.Net, Leprosy causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that gets worse over time.

It  is caused by the bacterium Mycobacteriumleprae. Its primary means of infection is through human-to-human contact, and it has a long incubation period (time before symptoms appear), which makes it hard to know where or when someone caught the disease. Children are more likely than adults to get the disease.

Leprosy has two common forms, tuberculoid and lepromatous. Both forms produce sores on the skin. However, the lepromatous form is most severe. It causes large lumps and bumps (nodules).

LEPROSY AND JEWISH LAW

Jewish law (Leviticus) forbade anyone to touch a leper. Yet, here we see Jesus touching the leper kneeling before him.

The web site Jewish Virtual Library, says that a cleansed leper had to go through eight days of rituals by the priest, beginning with three separate rituals on the first day outside the camp or city from which the "leper" had been banished.

It is also interesting to note that, in his official capacity, the priest "... was called in to inspect the affliction. If "leprosy" was only suspected but not certain, the priest imposed a seven-day quarantine. At the end of this period the afflicted was examined again, and if no further degeneration was apparent he was isolated for another week, after which he could be pronounced healed. The priest, however, did nothing to promote the cure. His rituals were performed only after the disease had passed. It was the responsibility of the afflicted himself to pray (I Kings 8:37–38; II Kings 20:2–3) and fast (II Sam. 12:16) in order to win God's healing."

The Jewish Virtual Library web site adds, "In the Bible, healing comes from God directly (Ex. 15:26) or through the prophet (e.g., Moses, Ex. 15:25; Elisha, II Kings 2:21; Isaiah, II Kings 20:7–8)."

JESUS AND THE LAW

Since the priest's interaction with leprosy was largely ceremonial and a cure was only through the Divine Doctor, the man who was cured by Jesus was - by Jewish law - was required to show himself cured to the Temple priest.

The fact that he was healed would have then been authenticated by the priest, and would have served as a testimony that it was through Jesus that the man had been healed. It would also have been a testament that the man had been healed by either God or a prophet, in accordance with Exodus 15:26 or II Kings 20:7-8 (as cited above). And showing himself healed would have glorified God and been a visible form of thankfulness.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law (Reference: Matthew 5:17), so this healing, being required by the Law, had to fulfill the Law in every respect and serve as a testimony that all had been done in accordance with what God outlined in the Book of Leviticus and elsewhere.

Also note that Jesus had not yet been crucified, so man was still under the Law, and was commanded by God to obey the Law - and in the proper, legal way. Jesus knew that, and sternly told the former leper to observe what the law commanded. In so doing, Jesus also showed to the Jewish religious leaders that He also was concerned with the proper fulfillment of the Law.

THE MASTER'S TOUCH

The leper didn't pay attention to Jesus' instructions to show himself to the priest. Instead, he "published it much, and to blaze abroad [ Greek: preach ] the matter ... " (Mark 1:45).

There are a few things to consider here.

We can let scholars debate whether the man was wrong or right by not doing as Jesus had told him - going to show himself to the Temple priest. It seems as if this man was so grateful for being healed that he told everyone about his healing.

It is true that he was still was under the Law and its requirements, and should have obeyed both it and Jesus. But before you judge his actions (Jesus didn't), consider all the things a leper had to do to be healed (see the Jewish  Virtual Library entries above), you can get an idea what the man had adlready been through under the Law and what he had yet to face.

As far as he was concerned, he just couldn't wait for a Temple priest. He just had to tell everybody about Jesus.

DESERT PLACES

Nevertheless, because of the leper's actions, Jesus became so "famous" that he couldn't minister for the crowds that gathered, and he had to go into the desert (lonely places with little or no people there) to minister the Gospel.

But note how Mark 1:45 ends: " ... and they cane to him from every quarter."

You can put Jesus in a desert, and people will still find Him (SEE ALSO John 12:32). For a Christian, the lesson is that if you lift Jesus up where you are - even if you are in a humble place - all men will be drawn to Jesus there.

Jesus also goes where Christians go, because He is in them. So, when life puts you in the desert, just lift Him up there. You won't be alone for long.