The Gospel of Matthew: Miracles of Jesus: A Leper Cleansed.

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:1–4 (ESV)

Matthew groups together nine stories containing ten specific miracles in chapters 8–9. There are three miracles in 8:1–17, teaching on true discipleship (8:18–22), and then three more miracles (8:23–9:8). This is followed by Jesus’ teaching on true discipleship (9:9–17), and finally three more miracle stories; one of which includes two miracles (9:18–33). Today, we begin with the miracle of Jesus cleansing a leper.

What is leprosy? Leprosy was an unattractive skin disease for which the Bible had prescribed quarantine from the rest of society (Lev 13 & 14). Leper (λεπρός; lepros) means having a scaly or scabby skin. Leprosy was contagious. Therefore, lepers were outcasts from society.

Following His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus came down from the mountain. A large multitude of people followed Him. One of these individuals was a leper.

The unidentified leper, ignoring cultural decorum, approached Jesus and knelt before Him. To kneel (προσκυνέω; proskyneo) means to worship. The leper continuously prostrated himself before the Lord. Since the noun leper is in the masculine gender, we know the individual was a man.

“According to the Mosaic law, leprosy renders a person unclean, and the leper who approaches Jesus in today’s passage is used to living apart from the community in isolation or in a leper colony (Lev. 13:45–46). Since lepers are outcasts in Jesus’ day, the diseased man acts with audacity when he comes for healing, at least in the view of his culture. Yet the leper displays faith, not arrogance, when he kneels before the Christ. Convinced of the Savior’s power, the man knows that Jesus can make him clean if the Lord is willing to exercise His healing touch (Matt. 8:1–2),” explains R. C. Sproul.

Not only did the leper continually worship the Lord but he also repeatedly asked Jesus to cleanse (καθαρίζω; katharizo) him; physically and ceremonially. By invoking the title Lord (κύριος; kyrios) the man may have addressed Jesus only as sir. Or, he may have been acknowledging Jesus deity since the man submitted to Jesus’ sovereign will and ability to heal him.

One can imagine the crowd angrily yelling at the man to leave because he was contagious. Perhaps, the crowd ran from him. Additionally, the Roman government frowned on large gatherings for concern of riots in Jewish Palestine. The setting and situation was potentially volatile.

Jesus then did the unimaginable and culturally unacceptable. He reached out to the man and touched him.Jesus then told the man that not only could He heal him, but that He would heal him.

“Touching a leper was forbidden, and most people would have been revolted by the thought of it. Indeed, the law enjoined the leper’s isolation from society (Lev 13:45–46),” explains commentator Craig Keener.

 “Truly, the leper’s recognition that Christ’s will is determinative is an example of how all are to come before Him (Matt. 6:10). Jesus could heal the man with His word alone (8:5–13), but He chooses to touch the leper (vv. 3–4). This point helps us interpret this text since Matthew emphasizes the touch with the “unnecessary” detail of Christ stretching out His hand (v. 3). Contact with a leper should render Jesus ceremonially unclean (Num. 5:1–4), but He is not defiled. Instead, His contact purifies the diseased man (Matt. 8:3–4), showing Him to be the fulfillment of the Law,” states Dr. Sproul.

As you seek to share the Gospel, who among your friends, acquaintances, or co-workers can you reach and touch with the love of the Lord? With discernment, what stranger? Remember, once we were unclean in many people’s eyes.

Soli deo Gloria!   

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