After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
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.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
This miracle speaks to a medical condition that plagued the nation of Israel for it’s entire existence. Leprosy was an incurable sickness throughout the world until very recently. The curse of leprosy produces nerve damage, resulting in blindness, kidney failure, muscle weakness and disfigurement. Beyond the medical suffering, the leper became a social outcast, condemned to being “outside the camp”.
To this day, to call someone a leper, is to imply a status of an outcast!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Matthew speaks of the miracle occurring as great crowds followed Him down the mountain. If we understand Matthew to be chronological here, this occurred after the Lord gave the nation of Israel the Beatitudes, the laws for Kingdom living. Luke mentions this miracle as happening in one of the cities. As an aside, this does not force a contradiction in the gospels, since it was not uncommon for a city to be at the base of a mountain.
Also, it is good to understand that in Israel, a mountain is not the equivalent of the Rocky Mountains on the west coast of Canada. The Mount upon which the Lord gave the Beatitudes is commonly believed to be near Capernaum and is actually 25 meters below sea level. (Yes the top of the mountain is actually 25 meters (~80 feet) below seal level!)
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
On first review, it seems the miracle was provided to alleviate this lepers suffering. This is the nature of our Lord, in providing deliverance for those who are suffering, looking to Him for salvation.
Alleviating the leper was not the primary reason for the miracle, for this miracle was a challenge to the nation. A challenge to the priests of Israel to research the miracle and make some decisions.
Let me explain.
The Old Testament book of Leviticus addresses leprosy in chapters 13 & 14. Chapter 13 provides detailed instructions on diagnosing the disease. Chapter 14 gives instructions to the priest on what to do if a leper was cleansed.
Throughout the nations history, no leper had been cured. Moses and Miriam were miraculous occurrences of leprosy, both in there acquiring the disease and healing of the disease. No priest’s had ever needed to refer to Leviticus 14 for directions on how to proceed. Leprosy was a death sentence for it’s victims.
Because of this non-occurrence of healing for a leper in Israel, and the Scriptures providing detailed instructions for a priest, the Pharisees reasoned that any healing of leprosy would be a Messianic miracle. This would initiate an investigation phase by the priesthood into the miracle, in order to validate the miracle. If this investigation determined the leprosy was cleansed, and the miracle was a bona fide healing, a second investigation would begin. The Pharisees would then launch an investigation of the One who performed the miracle, asking questions to the miracle worker to determine is the Messiah had truly arrived.
With this miracle, Jesus told the Pharisees to investigate. As my wife mentioned this morning, the Lord was telling the Pharisees to “get to work”! As expected, after this miracle, the gospels record instances of groups of Pharisees attending His ministry, watching His movements, questioning (and condemning) Him.
Jesus did not shy away from challenges to His ministry. He is the truth and provided the proof to those of an open mind and heart. He also understood this investigation would lead to His crucifixion, due to the hardness of the Pharisees position, and dependence on their religion.
He is the truth, and there is no denying it! For Him, to declare the truth will result in His death. For us, to deny the truth is to result in our death.
He is the One who is great! We certainly are not, and need His love and grace.
What was the message for the original audience?
The original audience, that is the great crowd, saw a miracle no other Israelite had ever seen. Multiple witnesses could be called upon for verification. The message they received, if they were literate in the Word, was one of a miracle worker being introduced formally to the nation, of One who claimed to provide proofs of His position as Messiah, and was openly declaring His claims as Messiah.
Oh, and also, they saw a leper get healed before their very eyes! How cool was that? Consider the rarity of this action of touching the leper. The passage in Matthew states that “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him“. This is not to be discounted, since the nation had instructed every little boy and girl that to touch a leper was to become unclean, acquire the disease itself, and be rejected socially and religiously.
Jesus touched the leper and Jesus cleansed him. He did not simply declare the leper clean.
He had declared miracles before without touch, and was fully capable of standing far off and healing this leper, yet He made a point of touching the leper, the unclean, the rejected. This is backwards to the logic provided in the Old Testament. Haggai instructs us that uncleanness is transferred to the clean, and that cleanliness is not transferred to the the unclean.
Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” – Haggai 2:13
Jesus was no typical rabbi!
What is the message for us today?
Two messages seem obvious to me.
First, Jesus is the Messiah. His claims are verifiable and He wants you to investigate. He has provided multiple evidences of His Messiahship, and our ignoring of the proofs falls back on us if we ignore or reject. His greatest proof of who He is, is the resurrection. He is risen and is by very nature and work, King of Kings and Lord of Lord.
Secondly, He is a God who is not far off. He is a God who touches, who reaches out to us.
This truth came home to me during a class I taught years back. I began to hug my class mates as they entered our home, and although I was not faithful in maintaining this practice, I found that this simple act of touching opened people up to discussing issues and concerns in their lives, providing assistance (if wise) and ultimately directing them to the Lord for solutions.
The act of touching, physically touching one who is hurting, is powerful. Amongst sinners and saints, the act of touching is a catalyst for the formation of trust. How much more, when the God of the universe reaches out and touches one who is in need?
Who have you touched today? Be like Jesus, and reach out to one who is in need.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.
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