Healing as a Testimony and a Ticking Time Bomb
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
The is one of my favorite healing accounts in the Bible.
Leprosy was an awful disease. It didn’t just kill you slowly over time, but it immediately got you kicked out of church and isolated from everyone. You were required by law, if you had leprosy, to walk around shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” which is like shouting, “Damned! Condemned! Unholy!” so that no one would get close to you. If anyone touched you, they would be ceremonially unclean until they went through a cleansing ceremony that would cost over $100.
So here is a desperate man, dying and alone, who breaks every cultural rule and the law and falls at the feet of Jesus. He falls down and gives Jesus a test. The test is:
What does the Son of God do with my leprosy?
(This is where it gets really good!)
The Jewish Rabbis, at the time of Jesus, taught that only the Messiah could heal a Jewish person with Leprosy. There were accounts in the Bible of Gentiles being healed of Leprosy, but no Jewish people. That was the realm of the Messiah only.
There were guidelines in Leviticus about what to do when a Jewish person was healed of Leprosy. For Centuries, Levite priests memorized those instructions with the commentary that it would never happen. ‘Only the Messiah could heal a Jew with Leprosy.’
Jesus’ answer is complex. Not only does He have mercy on this man, but He also wants to set off a bomb in the priesthood. The man is suddenly healed and is able to walk down the street without shouting ‘Unclean!’ for the first time in ages.
Can you imagine his arrival at the Temple? He would make his way through the crowds, unafraid to brush up against them, closer to anyone than he’s been in who knows how long. He goes into the priests that are performing various rites and he gets in line. After a bit, he is up for his turn and the priest asks what he needs.
“I had leprosy. I was unclean, and the man Jesus healed me and sent me here to perform the cleansing rights according to Moses.”
The priest stands still for a minute, recognizes the guy from a day on the street, and says “That’s impossible, only the Messiah can heal a child of Abraham with Leprosy!”
And at that moment, they both had a decision to make.