The Healing of the Leper
(Matt. 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15)
About the miracle of healing:
The miracle of healing accredited Jesus as the Son of God, and as the promised Messiah. But His miracles of healing also taught great spiritual lessons. Similar to parables, these miracles were earthy examples that pictured an even greater spiritual work of healing- the healing of the soul! This is what we want to see this morning with the healing of the leper here in Matthew chapter 8:1-4.
What is leprosy:
Leprosy is a skin, flesh and nerve eating disease. Leprosy begins on the surface of the skin and then spreads until it covers the whole body. As it spreads, leprosy eats its way down to the very bone. It destroys entire limbs, and it eventually causes death.
In the Bible, leprosy is a type of sin and sins awful consequences. It was considered by the Jews to be a direct judgment of God. Some examples in the scriptures include Miriam (Numbers 12), Gehazi (2 Kings 5:20-27), and Uzziah (2Chonicles 26:19-21). Like sin leprosy starts very small (as a small inflammation of the skin), and grows into a devastating plague. It destroys as it grows and consumes all the flesh in its path. Like sin, leprosy separates men from men, and men from God (Leviticus 13: 45-46). Like sin, leprosy kills the body (eats at the body until it is consumed in death). Like sin, leprosy is a loathsome disease for a man to live with. The infected person is miserable from the oozing of the flesh, the relentless pain, and the constant discomforts. And leprosy, like sin, was an incurable disease. Most victims of leprosy were totally consumed with the disease unless supernaturally healed by the Lord.
1. The Leper Came to Jesus (Read Matthew 8:1-2):
In our text we see the leper coming to Jesus. Notice the word "Behold". This means to take notice of, to consider, to think and meditate upon what happens next. This word "behold" is for the benefit of the reader, to call our special attention to this event, because there are special lessons to be learned from this story.
Next we notice the words "there came a leper". Ordinarily lepers did not come into the company of clean persons, even in the best of circumstances. The law commanded that lepers were to dwell alone without the camp, and when they were approached by clean persons, they were to shout "unclean, unclean" so as to identify themselves as lepers. Lepers were not permitted to touch, or to even come close to clean persons. Contact with a leper would make one ceremonially unclean, whether he contracted the disease or not.
The coming of this leper to Jesus showed several things. First, it showed his great need. He was covered with leprosy (Luke 5:12), and he saw no cure for his dreadful disease, for there was none. His life and happiness were ruined forever- Jesus was his only hope. Oh, how lost sinners need to see the awfulness of their sinful condition and that there is no human cure for their disease of sin. May they see their lives as ruined by sin, and that Jesus is their only hope.
Secondly, the leper's coming to Jesus showed his Faith in God. No doubt Jesus' fame had already begun to spread throughout the land. No doubt this leper had heard of Jesus' claim to be the promised Messiah, and like most Jews, he knew what great things the Messiah would do when He came into the world. He knew that Messiah would come with "healing in His wings"; that He would "preach the gospel to the poor" and "heal the brokenhearted" and "preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised". People won't come to Jesus until they hear about His power to cleanse and to save their souls. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. It is our place as believers to spread abroad the fame of Jesus throughout the land, that lost sinners might hear and be healed of their disease of sin.
Thirdly, coming to Jesus was all important to this leper. He didn't care what men may think or say of him for approaching Christ in his condition. He was willing to suffer humiliation and rebuke of the people. Nothing could have detoured him, or discouraged him, or changed his mind about coming to Jesus. When people see their need, and hear of the saving power of Christ, they will come to Christ- nothing will hinder them. You won't have to drag them or plead with them to come to Christ; they will come willingly in the day to His power! They will gladly be associated with His precious Name.
2. The leper's humble request (Matthew 8:2)
"He worshipped him". To worship is to humbly kneel before, or fall prostrate before (as in the parallel accounts in Mark 1:40 and Luke 5:12). By worshipping the Lord the leper showed respect and reverence for the Lord. When people come to realize just who Jesus is, like this leper they will take their rightful place before the Lord. This rightful place may be likened to a popper before a King, a filthy sinner before a Holy God, or a sin-sick leper before the Great Physician and Great High Priest.
The leper made humble supplication saying "Lord, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He didn't say "Lord, I demand that you make me clean"; or "Lord, I have the right to your healing power"; or "Lord, you owe it to me to heal my leprosy". Likewise lost sinners are at the mercy of God. Men can't demand anything of God. They have no rights or claims to God's mercy and grace- the Lord owes the lost sinner nothing!!!!!!!!
The leper acknowledged Christ as Lord. Needy sinners likewise will recognize Jesus as their Lord. No man can know Jesus as his Savior, who does not know Him as his Lord. This is a contradiction of reason. The leper resigned himself to the will of the Lord when he said "if thou wilt". Humble needy sinners must likewise plead the mercy of God "if thou wilt", not their own merits or their own works. The leper acknowledged his faith in Christ's power- "thou canst make me clean". Needy sinners must believe that He is able to cleanse them of their sins by His amazing grace and mighty power.
3. The Savior's gracious answer (Matthew 8:3):
"And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him". Jesus could have shown no greater motion of love and mercy than to reach out His hand to touch this unclean leper. By this Jesus showed His great love and compassion for the needy leper. No man would have dared touch this leper, knowing he might contract this dreadful disease. Only the compassionate Jesus would perform such a cardinal act of mercy upon a helpless beggar. By touching this leper Jesus showed His substituitionary purpose in coming down to this earth; "the just for the unjust". Yes, Jesus became acquainted with our griefs when He took upon Himself the sinner's guilt and penalty for sin. In a figure Jesus shared this leper's plague when He put forth His hand and touched him.
When Jesus put forth His hand and touched the leper, He also showed his deity and impeccability. Jesus couldn't be tainted with this disease of leprosy, nor be charged with being "unclean" by the demands of the law. Why not? Because Jesus was the incarnate Son of God. He is the very pre-existent, eternal Son of God, and is equal with His Father in all of His attributes. Jesus was Holy and separate from sinners, and it was not possible for Him to sin. Jesus could not be tainted with sin because God cannot be tainted with sin. He asked the Pharisees: "Which of you convinceth me of sin"! (John. 8:46).
"I will, be thou clean". Let those two words "I will" sink deep into our minds. Let not the doctrines of sovereign grace cause us to miss these two words! These words are the greatest expression of God's grace. Herein in found the very heart of grace. God will have mercy. God will forgive. God will cleanse from sin. Yes, God will save sinners! Man can't and man won't, but God will. Every sinner that comes to Jesus for salvation He will save, and He will in no wise cast them out!
In salvation the lost sinner is brought to see his condition before God. As this leper he is brought to see Jesus as his Lord and only hope of salvation. In salvation the lost sinner is brought to beseech Jesus to save his soul, as was typified by this leper's plea for cleansing. He is brought to receive cleansing from his sins by faith in the work of Christ on Calvary, as was typified by this leper's cleansing.
"And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." When Jesus gave the word, the leper was cleansed of all his leprosy. Jesus never fails; His words always come to pass. When Jesus saves a lost sinner, the sinner is cleansed of all his sins, and he is spiritually healed of all his infirmities. Jesus never fails to save those that He determines to save. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
4. Jesus command to the leper (Matthew 8:4):
"see thou tell no man"…The healed leper, out of joy and excitement for what Jesus had done for him, could not obey his Lord's command. This only shows that people cannot hold inside what Jesus has done in their hearts. Saved sinners must tell others what Jesus has done for them. We cannot keep from telling the world that Jesus has saved our soul from the eternal consequences of our sins. The joy is too great to contain it in our bosoms. We must tell the world about our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Lost person, do you see your need for Jesus? Do you see yourself a needy sinner? Do you see Jesus as your only hope of salvation? Will you come to Jesus by faith, believing He is able to save your soul? Will you believe today that Jesus died on Calvary to pay your sin debt? I assure you on the authority of the scriptures, that if you will come to Jesus as a humble and needy sinner, pleading only His mercy and grace, that He will save you, and He will save you now!