Jesus Heals a Man
(Matthew 8.1-4; Luke 5.12-16)
40A man with leprosy came to Jesus and knelt down. He begged, “You have the power to make me well, if only you wanted to.”
41Jesus felt sorry for the man. So he put his hand on him and said, “I want to! Now you are well.” 42At once the man's leprosy disappeared, and he was well.
43After Jesus strictly warned the man, he sent him on his way. 44 He said, “Don't tell anyone about this. Just go and show the priest that you are well. Then take a gift to the temple as Moses commanded, and everyone will know that you have been healed.”
45The man talked about it so much and told so many people, that Jesus could no longer go openly into a town. He had to stay away from the towns, but people still came to him from everywhere.
Leprosy, the law, and loquaciousness—these are just three of the things Jesus was dealing with in this short six-verse story.
The law strictly prohibited anyone with leprosy approaching anyone else. The person in this story ignored the Mosaic Law. Although his faith in Jesus’ capacity to heal him was complete, he was not so sure of Jesus’ willingness to heal him, as he says to Jesus, “You have the power to make me well, if only you wanted to” (v 40). Jesus wanted to and broke the law himself in touching the man.
Jesus felt sorry for the man (v 41) and biblical scholars suggest that his compassion may have been a result of his recognizing that the man’s disease was the work of Satan. If so, then this encounter becomes another example of the conflict between Jesus and Satan.
Jesus warned the man not to tell anyone about what had happened and then interestingly told him to uphold the law, just after overriding it himself. Jesus told him to show himself to the priest, who was the one person who could declare him clean. In this way he could show everyone he was cured.
Did Jesus know the man would talk? Probably. Yet he still chose to heal the man with leprosy, still chose to reveal his authority over sickness and spirits, still allowed himself to be misunderstood as a miracle-worker. He chose compassion and healing over rituals and rules.
Thank God for the new covenant, replacing all the rituals and rules that the Jews had devised for themselves. I know that on my bad days, when I’m weak and tired, I often find it easier to live by rituals and rules than to love my neighbour as myself. Thank God Jesus didn’t, or none of us would know true compassion, healing or love.
Lord God, how compassionate and loving you are and how often I fall short of being both. May I continue to learn from Jesus’ choices and resist rituals and rules that do not honour Him, in whose name I pray, Amen.