It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do will it. Be made clean." And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but "Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
In Israel, socialization is not an option for a leper during Jesus' time. So, when Jesus touched the leper and made him clean, He is risking two things: His health and reputation.
Lepers during this time are considered as unclean and contagious. Anyone who touches a leper risks his condition also to acquire the disease.
There was a true story of a missionary who was in a leper asylum mingling with the patients. One day, while eating his meals, he accidentally tapped into his bowl with a hot soup that poured onto his foot. He didn't feel any pain, and he realized he obtained the disease himself. So, on his next sermon, he called the patients, "to my fellow lepers."
Christ was also jeopardizing his reputation. People who could've witnessed what he has done could consider Him as unclean as well because He touched a leper. More so, He would be someone who broke the law. However, in risking these two things, Jesus also revealed that He is the true Messiah, the Savior, and God's Son.
The Israelites view leprosy as God's punishment. They call it "the stroke of God" or "the finger of God."
There are three essential stories in the Old Testament on how God punished people with leprosy:
In Numbers chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron were talking against Moses because he married a Cushite wife. God heard this and was displeased for Moses was a very humble man. So, God struck her with leprosy, and she had to camp off for seven days until Moses interceded for Miriam, asking God to forgive and heal her.
2 Kings chapter 5 – Prophet Elijah cured Naaman's leprosy, who is Syrian. Naaman wanted to pay Elijah, but the prophet didn't receive the reward because it's God who healed him. Elijah's servant Gehazi overheard and wanted to win the compensation. So, he ran towards Naaman and asked for the reward and lied a story about why they would need it.
Gehazi was corrupt. So, Elijah cursed him and transferred Naaman's leprosy to him and his descendants forever.
2nd Chronicles Chapter 26 – King Uzziah had become proud and arrogant when he became more powerful. He became so pleased that he stepped out of his bounds and also want to burn incense on the altar. But the tasks of burning incense was only given to the priests, the descendants of Aaron, so when the priests reminded him about it, King Uzziah got angry.
While he was arguing with the chief priest Azariah and the other priests, leprosy appeared on his forehead. When the priests saw this, they sent him out of the Lord's temple. Uzziah had the disease until the day he died and was confined in a separate house.
Such as a leper becomes cut off from society, so are we when we sinned. How often do we hear people loudly comment about someone's reputation, "Oh, he's a drug pusher," or "that woman is a home-wrecker," and so on? At present, social media floods with bullies so easy to criticize and judge the misdoings of other people. The people we decide to become lepers in society.
Lepers at Present Time
In the Gospel, the leper didn't demand to be healed by Christ. He stated, "Lord if you wish, you can make me clean." He knew that by asking Jesus to make him clean, he is risking the Messiah's health and reputation. But it was his humility and faith that cleaned and healed him.
Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do, will it. Be made clean." Christ showed His infinite mercy and love to the leper and healed him.
We don't know the story of how the leper got his disease. Maybe, he didn't know it as well. But when we sinned, we know what we did. We are aware of why we are at an impure condition.
Jesus in this Gospel reveals that no matter how impure, unclean, and grave sinners we are, He is always ready to stretch out His hand and touch us.
When you have a family member, a friend, someone in your congregation, who feels like God doesn't answer his prayers anymore because of his sinful ways, or that he feels God has abandoned him, remind him that the Cross also takes us back to the truth that Christ always extends His arms for sinners like us.
Like the leper, we only need to ask God's forgiveness and grace to also heal us from whatever infirmity our soul suffers. We only need to ask.