“After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. And a leper approached and bowed low before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, ‘I am willing. Be clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you do not speak to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and bring the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” —Matthew 8:1–4
It is not surprising that the first miracle Matthew records of our Jesus’ ministry (although it was not the first miracle He performed) is the cleansing of a leper.
Leprosy is a lot like sin. Leprosy was known at that time in history as a dire and dreaded disease and was looked upon by the Jews as a particular mark of God’s displeasure. Lepers were banned to a life outside the city where they had no physical contact with others. They were not allowed in the temple for worship, their arms were not allowed to hug, their hearts received no words of encouragement or affirmation. They were required to constantly scream out “Unclean!” “Unclean!” to warn passersby not to come near them. Sin is the leprosy of the soul, shutting us out from communion with God.
Yet Christ came to turn away the wrath of God by taking away sin. It is so fitting that the first miracle Matthew records begins with the cure of a leper. Leprosy was a disease the Jewish people knew only God could heal. This leper could not help himself.
In the Old Testament we read about the specifics of the Jewish Law for those who had leprosy:
“As for the diseased person who has the infection, his clothes must be torn, the hair of his head must be unbound, he must cover his mustache, and he must call out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ The whole time he has the infection he will be continually unclean. He must live in isolation, and his place of residence must be outside the camp.”—Leviticus 13:45–46
Large crowds had begun to follow Jesus immediately following the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), and although this leper was banned from joining the crowds, He was quite possibly within hearing distance of Christ’s teachings. In any case, this leper approached Jesus humbly, yet with a bold confidence in His ability to heal him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Luke tells us in his account of this story that this leper was covered with leprosy—he was perhaps in the final stage of is life—and he fell facedown at Jesus’ feet in his humble petition:
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came to him who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed down with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” —Luke 5:12
Jesus, who never turns away any who willingly seek Him, in an act of merciful compassion, reaches out and touches the untouchable and speaks these assuring words to this man’s hopeful ears: “I am willing.” Jesus, who spoke the world into being, is not only able but willing to heal this man.
“Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” —Ephesians 3:20–21
Jesus always answers when we come to Him. If the answer is “No” when praying for a physical or spiritual healing, we can be assured that it is for a far greater “Yes” to something else, whether we can discern that or not. There is always much more going on than what we can see. God is always working whether we see His hand or not. As believers, this world is not our home, heaven is. Remember Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead for him only to die again. Whatever “thorn” He allows in our lives to remain—whether infirmity, sickness, or pain—He uses for our good.
How can we say that it is never God’s will for us to be sick if it was His will to allow His own Son to die? Like a diamond on black velvet, divine power is often best displayed against the background of human weakness. Out attitude of acceptance of whatever is allowed in our lives is grounded in knowing God always has our best interest at heart. Even though we cannot understand, we can still trust Him. It is called faith. He always provides the grace sufficient to meet each trial He allows in our lives.
“What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well of sick.” —Oswald Chambers
Sin is the leprosy of the soul, keeping us from communion with God.
mercy is vast and beyond our comprehension. He will never reject anyone who
turns to Him for mercy. Nor will He force Himself on anyone who chooses to live
without Him.” —Michael Youssef
“Even because of the
extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore, so that I would not
become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
trouble me – so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times
about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is
enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will
boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside
in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles,
with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am
weak, then I am strong.” —2 Corinthians 12:7–10