IP2 Location

Map IP Address
Powered byIP2Location.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Leper in Israel: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Leprosy was not a new disease in Israel, for by the time of the Messiah, it had been contended with over the ages. Early Levitical laws dealt with careful prescriptions regarding how to deal with the disease, and how a cure might be affected. One thing was certain though, a person, house or garment assessed with leprosy was deemed 'unclean' and the person had to be separated, the house possibly destroyed, and the garment burned. The status of 'uncleaness' was more than ceremonial: it designated a person as unfit to live among others, and became down through the history of Israel a metaphorical ensign for sin, the spiritual uncleanness which separates man from God, and men from other men.

Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy

It is after Jesus has healed the demoniac in the synagogue, casting out a devil and after Jesus heals Peter's Mother in Law of a great fever, that Jesus encounters the man with leprosy. The healing follows also the immediate healing of a multitude at the door of Peter's house on that evening, and the healing follows also the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus, having shown God's glory in his home region, now turns to "the next towns" (Mk 1:38) where he preaches throughout Galilee, casting out devils Mk1:39)

On his journey, he encounters a Leper:

And behold thee came a Leper and worshipped him, saying, LORD, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Matthew 8:2

Luke 5:12 describes the man as "full of Leprosy", and as such, the desperate man was probably not to have been out and about, for lepers were segregated in Israel, and were required to call out to passer-byes to circumvent their pathway. (Lev 13:45) Leprosy as mentioned is found both in the Old and New Testament. The term in Hebrew for leprosy is


and included multiple skin diseases, and is probably a broader term than the New Testament


Leprosy in both Old and NT times was seen as an infection of the skin, but in the Old Testament could extend to a sort of mildew of the house or clothing.

In the New Testament, "Lepra" seems more specific: Lepers were colonized and had to cover their skin and face, and alert all of their condition. They were "unclean" ceremonially and physically, as described in Leviticus 13 and could not be touched: their exile was one of separation. The word in Hebrew, zara-at is related to words suggested as a 'depression' of the skin, having a 'march' or progress.

Lev 13:2-3 When a man shall have in the skin of the flesh a rising, a scab or a bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests."

If the skin is depressed and the hair in it turns white, "...
it is a plague of leprosy..."

The symptoms require declaring the person 'unclean'.

Cleanness vs. Wholeness
We have spoken for the past five years in these studies on healing about the idea of 'wholeness' of which Jesus spoke, of 'being made whole'. Most healings require the person with an infirmity moved back to an 'equilibrium' where all is right and as it should be: words like 'health' or 'wholeness' are equitable. 'Be made whole' is a frequent command of the Savior in the healings he performed. However, in two conditions, there are additional concerns: in vexation and the casting out of devils, there is a release from demonic control, which brings about healing and a whole state, and in Leprosy, in addition to simple healing, the exists the issue of 'cleaness'.

Being made whole in the Hebrew is 'rapha', a healing associated with God, which restores one to a 'right state'. In Greek, the word for the same idea is 'sozo' as in save (salvation), to save from judgment, or also to "keep sound".

The word 'clean, though, is "Katharizo" (same root as the English word 'catharsis')which carries the connotation of cleansing or purifying from sin, or to 'make clean'. While both dovetail in the healing of leprosy, the unclean state is of importance, because one of Jesus' works was to deliver from sin, and to purify Israel and believers to come. Jesus readily touches the man to heal him. This is a most unusual act for a Rabbi of the time, for according to Levitical law it would have left him unclean for a period of 7 days, unless he bore the exemption of a divine condition, the only such case in history or the Bible.

The Request for Healing: The Worship of a Rabbi named 'Salvation'

Down from the mountain, this healing is occurring in front of all those who have seen other healings and heard the words of this life, of the Kingdom of God as never before in Israel. They must have indeed have been astounded at the Rabbi from Capernaum who was willing to touch a Leper of no social standing whatsoever right after preaching the most famous sermon ever given.

More astounding however is the remarkable way the man approaches Jesus of Nazareth, of Galilee. No one in Israel, in a sound mind, would ever have fallen in worship to a man: it was basically unspeakable- it would be blasphemy against God and a violation of the first commandment, to "have no other gods before me". This man though, having only recently encountered Jesus, and most likely having seen his healings and works does exactly that:

"And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Mt 8:2)
"And there came a leper to him, beseeching him and kneeling down to him,

"...who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him saying Lord, if thou wilt, thou cast make me clean" Luke 5:12

Why would any Jewish man in any condition fall prostrate before another in worship? Something in Jesus evoked this response, not only in this healing but in several others (samples from Matthew):
Matthew 2:11
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 8:2 (already given)
And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Matthew 9:18
While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

Matthew 14:33
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Matthew 15:25
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

Matthew 28:9
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Matthew 28:17
And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

These Jewish believers (a a few gentiles) knew that to worship a mere man would disfellowship them from the Synagogue and most likely the community, but they were compelled to worship him, and more than that in one instance, to declare him the "Son of God". The power of God in this one was so eminent, that the act of worship was natural.

Now, any normal Rabbi would have immediately rebuked the worship, but Jesus responds with healing. He does not rebuke them. Even after Pentecost, where Paul and Barnabas are treated as 'gods' they express their heartfelt sorrow:

Acts 14:14

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,...

Jesus receives the obeisance and responses to the man's cry for mercy:

And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him,saying I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was clean Matt 8:3

Like all of the healings, the man with leprosy is immediately cured after having shown, of his own initiation, faith in the Lord and Savior to perform the healing. In many of the other healings, Jesus asks if they believe, but this man 'full of leprosy' runs to the feet of the Lord, falls down, and worships him in humble supplication. The reward for his faith is immediate: the leprosy is cured.
The worship of the Messiah is never chastised or punished by God or his Messiah: however the religious elite threaten many who did with expulsion, for even saying he was the Messiah. (e.g. John 9)

The command of Jesus of Nazareth

Levitical law was very clear that after a healing for Leprosy in Old Testament times, the leper was to present himself before the priest(s) and only the priest could declare him clean:

2 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

3 And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

4 Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

7 And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

8 And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days...(all of Lev 14)

Jesus, the author of grace does in no way contradict nor supercede the Torah, or law, but commands the healed Leper to present himself to the priest in accordance with Levitical precepts and Mosaic law:

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. Matt 8:4

Two issues are here: one apparent and one hidden: the apparent one, is that true to his word, Jesus (Yshua) Christ (Meschiach or Messiah) did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. His command to the Leprous man cleansed is evidence of this, and he admonishes obedience to the law in several other places in the New Testament. The High priest was commending the man to the lower priesthood in order to fulfill and glorify the law in its proper place. He did this even knowing how the priests at the time felt about him and vice versa. He maintained the dignity and respect for the Law, the Torah, and the office of priest, even while openly rebuking the corrupt priesthood of the day: all must still be fulfilled according to the Word of God. Messiah would not contradict the Law.

The more obscure issue though, is that the fulfillment of pronouncing 'cleanness' involves a detailed passages regarding water, blood, and doves, a sacrifice and a sanctification: the purification of leprosy healed is a Messianic expression, a similtude if one will understand. One becomes clean from leprosy (sin) by a blood sacrifice, and the living water, and is cleansed, the sin and disease gone, and separated (sanctified). The leper so willing to humble himself in great faith before the Lord and Savior, is purified,cleansed, made whole, and the great grace is given, of his healing pointing to the prophetic sign in Levitical Law of the Messiah, whom he has recognized, trusted and received.

The one leper that day as Jesus travelled down from the mount called upon the Savior and healing God, without regard to the consequence. Mark 1: 44 notes additionally that Jesus charged him:
See thou say nothing to any man; but go thy way....

The faith filled leper, however, committed the gracious crime so many who were healed did when confronted with this charge: he published widely what had occurred, unable to contain the joy and amazement of the great healing of Jesus, the Messiah.
But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter so much that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in the desert places; and they came to him from every quarter. Mk 1:45

Faith and Joy begets faith and joy in Israel. Jesus was not admonishing with some false humility for the leper cured to tell no one: He simply knew what would happen and sought the orderly spread of the Gospel and the presentation of the King of Israel to his own. The Sovereignty of God is bound up in the healing of the man with Leprosy.

Till next time,
Elizabeth K Best
2. 84.