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 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”  And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,  and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”  But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
We aren’t completely sure that leprosy spoken of in the Bible is the same disease that we call leprosy today, but that doesn’t matter much for the stories of Jesus and lepers. It was contagious, it was unsightly, and there were some awful laws surrounding people that had it. For one, you weren’t called “A person with leprosy” but instead you were called “a leper.” This shunning helps us see why it esteems people to use person-first language. Instead of “The Cripple” it is more honoring to call someone “the man that was crippled” etc. Just using words like this helps us esteem people as a person instead of their condition.
The other hard part for a person with leprosy was that they were religiously unclean. It was their responsibility to not be around anyone or touch anyone. They would walk around and shout “Unclean!” as they neared a crowded area so that people would get back. They couldn’t work, so hopefully, those clean people would toss out some donations as they cleared away from the person with leprosy. Anyone the leprous person touched was restricted from worship at the temple until they were ceremonially cleansed, so people would get back fast!
One other awesome bit about this whole scenario is some Jewish folklore that was going around at the time. Elisha healed a gentile of leprosy in 2 Kings 5, but there wasn’t any record of a Jewish person being healed of leprosy. This developed a teaching amongst the Rabbi commentators that only the Messiah could heal a Jewish person with leprosy. Just like the woman that touched the hem of Jesus’ garment expecting to be healed, for this man to come to Jesus for healing was a way of saying “If you are willing to heal me, then I know that you are the Messiah.”
The next part is a huge awesome move on behalf of Jesus. “Go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” No priest had ever performed these activities of cleansing since the days of Moses. They all had it memorized, but when this guy would show up at the Temple asking for
Jesus isn’t just reaching out to the broken, hurting, and unclean. Right here, early in the Gospel, we see Jesus genuinely reaching out to the priests. He knew they wouldn’t be expecting it but they would get a subtle heads-up about what was happening out in the wilderness. The guy that got healed didn’t obey, but he didn’t get unhealed because of his disobedience. The work of Jesus wasn’t stopped, it just had to change.
Jesus gave that man, and He gives us, absolute freedom to do whatever we want with the work Jesus does in our lives. As stewards of the message and the change He brings about, let's obey Him and take that message to the people He tells us to tell. Jesus has reached out to each of us and made the unclean clean. As He lives in us, our lives become the story He is telling on desolate places, in the temple, and in the city.