A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. NLT
Jesus is on the move from Capernaum. He travels to the nearby villages of Galilee, wanting to preach there as well. A man with leprosy comes and falls at the feet of Jesus crying out with a pitiable plea. For lepers in that society are not only pitied but greatly feared.
People did not know what caused this wide range of diseases which included what we today call leprosy — but they knew that they were contagious — so the only solution was to isolate the victims and not allow them to have any contact with other people. Although the disease caused an appalling physical disintegration of body and limbs, the real pain of the disease was the resulting social isolation. It is also tragic that many of the people who were forced to be ostracized may not have even had the disease but some other non-contagious skin complaint.
The response of Jesus today is odd. Jesus is deeply moved by the leper – some translations say with compassion or pity, but others say with anger. The Greek word can be translated either way. But once he heals him in a very matter-of-fact way, then Jesus warns him sternly not to say anything about the healing. Perhaps this is simply because before the man can be reintegrated into society, he has to be seen to be clean by making the appropriate offering that is prescribed in the Book of Leviticus.
Perhaps we can take great courage from the Gospel today, knowing that when we bring any of our complaints and diseases before the Lord, he will respond to us in the same way that he responds to this man: “Of course I want to, be made clean.” Jesus is never constrained by social conventions or legalities that prevent him from being part of our lives.
+ Lord Jesus, if we have isolated ourselves away from family and friends, call us to reconnect with our church family or offer your healing touch to someone we know. Amen.