Every once in awhile I like to preach a little differently and so for yesterday’s message I wrote out a story based around a passage in Luke. Yes, it’s a tale of fiction, but I did a good amount of studying in attempts to really capture what life might have been like at the time. I’ve included my research at the end of this post.
If you’d prefer to listen my story rather than read it, then take a moment to download our church’s new app. There you can stream the recording of me giving the message yesterday.
Being a lover of the sci-fi genre, I originally wanted to put a futuristic spin on the story, but I restrained myself. You’re welcome. Doesn’t mean I still won’t write that version in the future though!
It was a warm summer’s day in Galilee. Towns were bustling with business, kids were outside running and laughing and playing, and just about everywhere you looked people had smiles on their faces. And rightly so, for it had been quite awhile since such a perfect temperature and cool breeze had swept through the area.
Amidst all of the noise, one man by the name of Jonathan Hapto was making his way through the market to pick up some food for his family. He walked up to his usual stand and pulled out a few coins.
“Ah, Mr. Hapto! It is good to see you my friend,” said the business owner. “And what are we looking for today?”
“I need two chickens,” Jonathan replied.
“The usual then! Ha, few people are quite as predictable as the Hapto’s,” the owner joked. “You better be careful though. You guys eat too many more birds and you’re going to grow wings and fly away.”
“Oh come on now, we don’t eat chicken that often,” said Jonathan.
“Oh really? Because I’m pretty sure my business would have fallen apart by now if it wasn’t for the loyalty of your family.”
“Alright, alright, I see your point. Just give me the chicken,” Jonathan said pretending as though he wasn’t a little bit insulted by the conversation.
The business man laughed loudly and reached over to grab Jonathan’s chickens, but he was caught off guard when an incredible shriek pierced the ears of everyone in the marketplace. The area quickly went silent as heads looked to and fro to see where the noise had come from.
Questions were being whispered all around. “What was that?” “Is everyone okay?” “What’s going on?” “Where did that come from?”
All of the sudden the crowd in the marketplace began to part as though Moses himself had raised his staff over the people. But this moment was less miraculous. This moment didn’t strike salvation into anyone’s hearts, but instead fear gripped all around.
A leper made his way slowly down the parted sea of people as they gasped at the reality of what was happening. This man was unclean. He was a castaway. And most importantly, he was dangerous. The law required him to keep his distance from others, but here he was walking right through the marketplace, possibly contaminating everyone around with his disease!
Jonathan watched silently as the leper limped slowly down the aisle. It wasn’t a pleasant image. Sores and swellings covered his body and were crusting over. His skin was scaly and wrinkled and his clothes were torn and ragged. He was very much an image of death. And he was walking straight towards him.
“Jonathan?” asked the leper in a distraught voice. “Jonathan Hapto?”
“Yes?” he replied.
“How did you get like this?”
“What?” asked Jonathan.
“Like this! How did you get like this!” asked the leper in desperation.
“I… I don’t know what you mean,” Jonathan answered.
Of course he did know what the leper meant. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that his life had been entirely different. No friends. No marriage. No kids. Nothing. And speaking of his kids, he noticed them off in the distance watching his conversation with the leper. They must have been playing with their friends and heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on.
Jonathan looked around. Everyone had a look of disgust on their faces, including his own children. He even noticed that his own face was distorting towards disgust at the leper.
“Please sir,” said the leper as tears began to swell up in his eyes. “Tell me how you got like this!”
“Hey, get out of here!” yelled a woman. “You know you’re not supposed to be here! Think of how many you’re putting at risk right now!”
“Think of the children!” yelled another woman.
“Yeah, how could you put them at risk!” a man chimed in. “Do you really wish your disease on the rest of us! Leave this place now!”
The leper looked around as more tears came to his eyes. How could they be so cruel? How could they not care? Of course he expected this kind of treatment when he decided to enter the market, but at the time he thought he was desperate enough to face it. But their words came down on him harshly—each like a flaming arrow piercing his heart. He gave one more look at Jonathan in hopes for more information, but Jonathan couldn’t find any words.
The leper closed his eyes tightly as tears flowed down his cheeks. He then turned and tried to run with as much strength as he could muster. Everyone yelled at him as he made his way out of the market and laughter erupted as he would occasionally trip and fall. Eventually he made his way out of the marketplace and back into isolation.
Jonathan stood there, unable to move or speak. And then a hand came on his shoulder. It was the business owner. “You know Mr. Hapto, a lot of people around here have forgotten your story. On top of that, those that remember it seem to play it off as coincidence now a’ days. But not me. You may not remember me, but I was there. I remember.”
Jonathan still just stood there staring off into the distance. The owner put the chickens he requested in his hands. “These are on the house today. Why don’t you go home and rest.”
Jonathan turned and tried to smile. He nodded and walked towards his children.
“Are you okay Daddy?” asked his daughter, Elizabeth.
“Yeah that was scary!” echoed his son, Nathan.
“That’s enough kids,” said Jonathan. “Let’s go home. I have a story to tell you.”
Elizabeth and Nathan returned confused glances with each other and then accompanied their father home.
After Jonathan had served dinner and cleaned up a little, he sat down with his children in the living room. Still in a daze he covered his head with his hands and sat there in silence for what felt like hours to his children. Finally, having gained some composure he turned his face towards them.
“Kids, I want to tell you something that I’ve never told you before. I planned on waiting until you were old enough to understand it, but you’ve certainly been old enough for awhile and I just haven’t taken the time to tell you.”
Elizabeth and Nathan stared at their father with raised eyebrows.
“Dad?” asked Nathan.
“Mom already gave us the sex talk and it was really awkward.”
“Yes. Yes it was,” agreed Elizabeth.
This caused Jonathan to finally break a smile. “No, no, that’s not what I want to talk to you about.”
“That was close!” his children said in unison.
“Alright, that’s enough,” said Jonathan. “I actually want to tell you a bit of my story, because there’s something you don’t know about me. It all started when I was eight years old…”
“Mom, I’m going outside to play!” Jonathan called.
“Alright, but be home by dinner time! We’re having chicken!” she replied.
“Yes! My favorite!” And with that Jonathan ran out to join up with his friends. They played all kinds of games, went swimming, and enjoyed the day immensely. As the time approached for Jonathan to head home, one of his friends, Phillip, pulled him aside.
“Jonathan, can I talk to you for a second?”
“What is it Phillip?”
“Well, when we were out swimming earlier, I noticed something on your back,” said Phillip.
“Was it water?” joked Jonathan.
“No Jonathan, I’m not joking. It was kind of like a light colored skin lesion. It wasn’t too noticeable, but you might want to ask someone about it. One of my distant relatives had something similar and he ended up with leprosy.”
“That’s not funny Phillip.”
“I’m not trying to be funny! I promise! I just want you to be safe.”
Jonathan could tell by the look in Phillip’s eyes that he wasn’t joking. But he knew he didn’t have leprosy. He felt fine! And so he shrugged it off and headed home.
But like most people who have learned that they might have a serious disease, it was all Jonathan could think about. He couldn’t sleep and it haunted him the entire next day. A week went by and he kept the information to himself.
Around this time, his heart raced as the suspicion that this could possibly be a sign of leprosy permeated his mind. He wanted to hide it longer, but emotion overwhelmed him. This was obviously something. He hadn’t skinned or burned his back on anything so the lesion must be something else. With tears in his eyes he ran to his mother to show her.
“Mom, I don’t know what this is, it just appeared out of nowhere! Phillip told me that I could have leprosy because there’s something on my back, but I didn’t believe him! Or I didn’t want to believe him or… I don’t know!”
“Something on your back? Are you sure you didn’t skin yourself while you were out playing?” she asked.
“Yes mom,” Jonathan cried. “I’m sure.”
“Let me see it,” she said.
Jonathan pulled off his shirt and it was quite obvious what Phillip had been talking about. His mother put her hand over her mouth.
“Honey, how long have you had this?”
“I don’t know,” Jonathan answered with tears in his eyes. “Phillip said he saw it about a week ago.”
“We need to have this looked at sweetie,” his mother said. “We’ll go see the priests as soon as your father gets in.” This caused Jonathan to weep all the much more. His mother held him tightly. “Oh there, there. It’ll be alright Johnny. We just want you to get better.”
When Jonathan’s father returned home, the family went to see the priest. Now the priests weren’t very good doctors. They acted more as public health officials. The Torah instructed them as to what to look for and how to diagnose someone as clean or unclean. The priest found the correct scroll in Leviticus to make sure he knew what to look for with Jonathan’s case.
“When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean. But if the spot is white in the skin of his body and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days. And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up for another seven days. And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.”
The priest looked closely at Jonathan’s lesion. The spot was in fact white, but it did not appear deeper than the skin and the hair in it had not turned white. This was actually the best news the family could have received, but it did require Jonathan to stay away from others and be surveyed again in a week.
Those must have been the slowest seven days of Jonathan’s life. All he could think about was how life might be different at the end of everything. He had heard the stories of those who had leprosy. He had heard about how painful it is and how a leper is more or less the outcast of society. He tried to think of other things—happier things. But rarely did anything else ever cross his mind.
But at least there was hope. At the end of the seven days, he could be fine! After all, it could just be some kind of a spot. And so he kept as much hope as he was able and prayed like he had never prayed before.
“God. I don’t really know what to say other than I’m scared. I’ve never been more scared than this in my entire life. Lord, I don’t know if I have leprosy. If I do, I’m not sure what I did to deserve it. And so I pray that this is just a false alarm. But if it is leprosy… God you’re bigger than everything I know. Surely you can take this away from me. And so I beg of You, please… please heal me.”
At the end of the seven days the priest came to check on Jonathan’s back. He removed his shirt, displaying a much larger lesion than before. A few minor sores had also begun to open up on his back. The priest sighed heavily and turned to Jonathan’s parents.
“I’m sorry, but your son has leprosy.” Jonathan’s parents began to weep heavily.
The priest walked over to tell Jonathan, but there was no need. He already knew. His body went cold and everything around him was going dark. He felt he was going to black out.
“Jonathan,” said the priest. “I am sorry to tell you this, but you are henceforth considered a leper. You are unclean and therefore, untouchable. The clothes you wear are fit only for fire as they are soaked in your disease. In order to protect those around you, you are required by the law to move outside of the city. You cannot live in a walled town, but you are welcome to live in an open village somewhere. You also cannot worship at the central sanctuary. You are also required to tear your clothes as a sign of grief, and shave your head and cover your beard as if to cry out about your death. Furthermore, it is your duty to warn those who pass by you that you are not to be approached. You must call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ so that they know to keep their distance. May God watch over you and save you from your disease.”
Jonathan’s eyes swelled up with tears.
Unclean. That was his new name. That was his new identity. No longer could he be touched. No longer would he have friends to talk to. He was an outcast of society. He was dirty. It was as though a curse had been put on his life.
He wanted so badly to run to his parent’s arms, but it was too late. His pronouncement was official. For now on anything he touched also became ceremonially unclean. And as much as he wanted to be held and his family wanted to hold him, they all knew the brutal truth: no one was comforting anyone.
Jonathan left home and lived just outside of the city. He was so close and yet so far away from his family and friends. He may have been very young, but he felt as though his life was already coming to an end.
The days were hot and degrading. “Unclean,” he would say to those who got too close to him. “Stay away, unclean.” It was amazing how fast people’s faces would change towards him as they noticed that he was a leper.
At night, Jonathan would occasionally stop by his parent’s house. He couldn’t make any contact with them, but his family was loving enough to leave meals outside for him to eat. In great hunger he would scarf down the food quickly and leave absolutely nothing behind. Sometimes his mother would watch him do so from a distance, but often it was too much for her to handle.
This was much of what Jonathan’s life consisted of. He’d warn people of his presence by day and sneak into the city toe at by night. Days turned weeks. Weeks turned to months. Months turned to years, his leprosy worsening with each moment.
His eyelids and palms were speckled with odd colors. Only white hair would grow out of these spots and crust these areas over with white scales. This would go on to create awful sores across his body. He could feel the disease moving into his bones. His hands had grown numb and some of his muscles were paralyzed. Some of his fingers were curled and deformed as well.
Very rarely did he have to yell unclean anymore. Nearly everyone had passed by him at some point and was aware that they should keep their distance from him. It was quite sad, but the only interaction he had with people was now mostly gone. At least yelling unclean left room for possible conversation. Now everyone knew his story. He was the man with leprosy. It could be seen all over his body.
But despite all of this pain, perhaps the thing that hurt the most was how so many thought his disease was a punishment from God. He could the people passing by saying such things and could see judgment in their eyes. He spent hours thinking about it.
What did I do? he wondered. What could I have possibly done in my childhood to bring this upon me? I mean, sure I haven’t always been perfect, but I can’t possibly think of doing anything that deserved leprosy.
Despite this assurance, however, Jonathan would still find himself from time to time believing that this was all somehow his fault.
There was very little hope left in Jonathan’s life. All he could do was hope and pray that God would somehow show favor on him and heal him. But what were his chances? After all, few people throughout history had ever been healed from leprosy. The only stories he had ever heard of were in the Scriptures. Miriam was healed of it in Numbers and Naaman in 2 Kings. But Jonathan wasn’t famous. He wasn’t a big character in any story. He was just a kid who was diagnosed unclean.
One day while Jonathan was sitting outside, he overheard an odd conversation between a husband and wife.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said the husband. “His teaching is just so authoritative and powerful.”
“I know,” said the wife. “And not only can he teach, but he commands demons to leave. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
“He must be a prophet of God,” said the husband. “It’s the only way to explain everything He’s doing. It’s as though He reads people’s minds! And the miracles and healings we saw Him do—there’s just no way He could of done those things except by the finger of God!”
For the first time in a very long time, Jonathan’s face lit up. Authority? Demons? Prophecy? Healings? What was going on? Was there a man in town really doing these kinds of things?
No, there couldn’t be, he thought to himself. God hasn’t raised up a prophet in decades. His voice has been so rare and so quiet that it almost feels like he’s forgotten all about His people.
Jonathan played the conversation over in his head all day. Even if it was true, how was he going to find this man? And furthermore, what if he actually did do something to deserve this curse on his life? Wouldn’t a prophet know that and not heal him? Things couldn’t be much more devastating than that.
The next day, Jonathan found himself making his way into town. He didn’t know anything more about this supposed prophet than he had heard in that conversation, but it was more hope than he had had in years. He did his best to keep a safe distance from everyone and watched and waited. Hours went by and he saw no one special enter town. He was beginning to feel foolish and thought of turning around when all of the sudden he heard a great commotion in the distance.
Squinting his eyes Jonathan was able to make out what looked like a huge crowd walking his way from the other side of town. Could this be it? Could this be the man? The so-called prophet of the Lord? His heart raced. What was he going to do? He wasn’t allowed around people and this was the biggest crowd he had ever seen. How could he possibly make his way over to the man without causing a great commotion?
The crowd got closer and closer and Jonathan’s heart pounded faster and faster. He knew he had to do something, but he didn’t know what. Finally the man was so close that he couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He sprinted as fast as he could to meet the prophet, breaking the law in the process. The crowd saw him approaching and many, seeing his leprosy jumped out of the way.
Jonathan plummeted to the ground in front of the prophet in the most desperate state he had ever found himself in. With his face in the dirt he wept loudly.
“Lord, please! I beg of you to take this sickness from me. Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!” His tears turned the dirt into mud and the mud began to stick to his face. He laid there awaiting a response, unable to see nothing but dirt.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his back and a loud gasp from all who were following the prophet. It was the first time he had been touched in years. He had forgotten what love and care and tenderness felt like. It may have been just a simple touch but it was the most comfort he could ever remember having felt. But at the same time, he was nervous. Who is touching me? he wondered. Who did I just put at risk?
And then he heard a voice. “I will. Be clean.”
Immediately a heat like no other came upon Jonathan. Sores began falling off left and right. Wounds were covered with new skin and he felt a strength return to his bones and muscles. His hands straightened back out and every last spot disappeared. He had been made entirely new by this man. His pronouncement had broken the curse. God had given him everything he had lost years ago and he was once again clean. His heart melted in the presence of this prophet.
“My name is Jesus,” he told Jonathan. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
“Thank you Jesus! Oh thank you, thank you!” exclaimed Jonathan. “You have done me the greatest kindness anyone could ever do. Surely you have brought me good news, liberty, and God’s favor.”
Jesus’ smile pierced Jonathan’s eyes. It was as though this prophet was staring into his very soul. And it was there in this moment that Jonathan knew He had never been alone. God had been watching out for him all along and had brought him an answer to the prayer he had requested. Every pain, every sorrow, every feeling of loneliness and betrayal left him in that moment. He was free. Free from everything. Free from being unclean.
“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them,” Jesus commanded Jonathan.
“Yes Lord, I will,” said Jonathan excitedly. “Thank you!” Jesus smiled again as Jonathan ran off into the distance. He immediately stopped by home to deliver the good news. His parents were at first startled, but seeing Jonathan so healthy was immediate proof to them that this Jesus really did heal him. The three of them held each other closely as tears of joy ran down their faces.
In Jonathan’s excitement, he very quickly forgot that Jesus had asked Him not to tell anyone. He ran out of his house and yelled it throughout the streets. “I’m healed! I’m healed! You all know me! I was the leper who sat not too far out of town. But now look at me! Do you see any leprosy? It was that man Jesus. He laid His hand on me and instead of my uncleanliness moving onto Him, his cleanliness moved onto me! He’s the real deal! He is a prophet of the Lord!”
Word moved quickly throughout the area as Jonathan repeated his story to everyone he saw.
Jonathan’s children could not believe the story they had just heard.
“So what you’re saying is, that you used to be a leper just like that man at the market today?” asked Elizabeth.
“That’s correct.” answered Jonathan.
“So that’s why that leper was asking you how you got out of it!” said Nathan.
“Yes,” Jonathan nodded. “He must have heard my story from someone.”
“Well why didn’t you tell Him it was Jesus, Daddy?” asked Elizabeth.
“Well surely you two have heard about the gossip about Jesus as of late” replied Jonathan. “He’s not exactly the most popular person to talk about right now. Didn’t you hear he was hung on a cross for claiming to be the Messiah?”
“Well He sounds like a Messiah,” answered Elizabeth. “I mean He saved you, didn’t He?”
Jonathan looked towards his feet. “Yes Elizabeth, I suppose you’re right.”
“Yeah! Plus I heard that there was an earthquake as soon as He died and the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” explained Nathan.
“Is that so?” asked Jonathan.
“Yeah, I heard that too!” said Elizabeth.
“Alright kids, well it’s getting late. I think you ought to get to bed.”
“Oh I don’t know Dad,” said Nathan. “You kind of took up our evening telling us a long story. I think you owe us a few hours.”
“I suppose you’re right,” replied Jonathan. “I guess there’s still time to do all of those chores you missed.”
“Wow, I suddenly feel tired,” replied Nathan.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
And so the two headed off to bed and Jonathan headed outside to reflect again on what had happened in the marketplace earlier that day. He didn’t get a chance to think very long however, because his attention was turned towards a familiar looking stranger walking through the town. He appeared lost.
“Can I help you sir?” called Jonathan.
“Do I look as lost as I am?” the man chuckled.
“A little bit. What are you looking for?” Jonathan asked, still unable to figure out why this man looked so familiar.
“Well, for starters, I’m trying to find a place to stay the night.”
“I think we can make some space for that in our house,” offered Jonathan.
“Oh, well you’re quite accommodating,” said the man stepping into the light.
Seeing the man’s face, Jonathan’s mind flew back to the day he was healed. This man was there! But he didn’t seem like a part of the crowd.
“Excuse me sir,” said Jonathan. “But do you by any chance know Jesus?”
“You recognize me?” asked the man.
“I do. I believe you were there when I got healed of leprosy years ago,” responded Jonathan.
“That’s right! I remember you!” exclaimed the man. “My name is James. I’m one of Jesus’ disciples and I’m out right now showing and telling the world about Him.”
“I heard He died. Is that true?” asked Jonathan.
“Died and rose again,” answered James. “He is well alive and He sent the Holy Spirit to those who believe and follow Him so that they may continue doing the things that He did and live in the way that He did.”
“Wait. Does that mean you can heal people?” asked Jonathan.
“God has used me in such ways, yes. Jesus spent quite a bit of time training us to walk in power.”
Jonathan’s eyes lit up. “Hey, I’ll tell you what. How about you stay in my house for free as long as you want, so long as you pray for a man I met today.”
“Now that sounds like a deal,” said James. “Is he around right now?”
“I am,” said a man from the side of the house. Both Jonathan and James turned to him in confusion. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to spy, but I didn’t exactly have the most opportune moment to speak to Jonathan earlier and I wanted to try again when there were less people around.”
James put his hand on the leper. And then Jonathan, remembering just how much touch mean to him during his time as a leper, also put his hand on him.
“What is it you desire friend?” asked James.
The leper, being touched for the first time in years, began to sob. “I just want to be clean,” he said.
“Jesus desires that too,” said James. “Be clean.”
Immediately, a heat like no other came upon the leper.
Unclean: The Research
12 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.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 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.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:12-16)
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 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.” (Matthew 8:1-4)
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 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.” 45 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. (Mark 1:40-45)
“A man full of leprosy” (v12)
- Leviticus 13
- Evidently a bad case full of sores and far advanced as Luke the physician notes. The law (Lev. 13:12f.) curiously treated advanced cases as less unclean than the earlier stages. (1)
- Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city (Num. 5:1–4; 12:10–15, etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chr. 26:20). (See MIRIAM ; GEHAZI; UZZIAH.) This disease “begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal.” “In Christ’s day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, ‘Unclean! unclean!’ nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace.” (2)
- Matthew and Mark have simply a leper. The expression, full of leprosy, seems to be used here with professional accuracy. Leprosy was known among physicians under three forms: the dull white, the clear white, and the black. Luke means to describe an aggravated case. The word full in this connection is often used by medical writers, as, full of disease; the veins full of blood; the ears full of roaring. (3)
- Perhaps he was in the final stages of leprosy—a fact which would have been easily discernible in the man’s home community. (4)
- Among the Jews, several skin diseases were classified as leprosy, including our modern Hansen’s disease. In spite of modern medical advances, an estimated 10 million people around the world have leprosy. (5)
- People with leprosy were looked on as “dead” (Num. 12:12), and garments infected with leprosy were fit only for the fire (Lev. 13:52). (6)
- Lepers were required to keep their distance, but he was so determined that he broke the Law and approached the Lord Jesus personally. (7)
- Symptoms include:
- Skin lesions that are lighter than your normal skin color
- Lesions have decreased sensation to touch, heat, or pain
- Lesions do not heal after several weeks to months
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or lack of feeling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs (8)
“Fell on his face”
- Fell on his face (πεσων ἐπι προσωπον [pesōn epi prosōpon]). Second aorist active participle of πιπτω [piptō], common verb. Mark 1:40 has “kneeling” (γονυπετων [gonupetōn]) and Matt. 8:40 “worshipped” (προσεκυνει [prosekunei]). All three attitudes were possible one after the other. All three Synoptics quote the identical language of the leper and the identical answer of Jesus. (9)
“You can make me clean” (v13)
- All three evangelists say cleanse instead of heal, because of the notion of uncleanness which specially attached to this malady. (10)
- The Law (Lev. 13) commanded strict segregation of a person who had leprosy, for it was a graphic picture of uncleanness. A leprous person could not worship at the central sanctuary; he was ceremonially unclean and therefore cut off completely from the community.(11)
- According to the Mosaic Law one who was leprous was not to be touched by anyone who was ceremonially clean. When someone clean touched something unclean, the clean became unclean. (12)
- This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for lost sinners: He became sin for us that we might be made clean (13)
- The priest did not function as a doctor to prescribe medical treatment. He functioned more like a public health officer who isolated a person with a contagious skin disease. Whether this contagion was merely ceremonial or was also hygienic is beside the point of this comparison. The patient was basically left to natural (or supernatural) healing processes to cure his condition, during which time he was isolated outside the camp (v. 46) in a condition of mourning with the responsibility to warn any passerby that he was Unclean! (v. 45) The significance of this isolation was not only to prevent possible physical contagion but also to symbolize the person’s separation from the holy camp of Israel where the Lord was dwelling (Num. 5:1-4; cf. Deut. 23:10-14). (14)
“And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched Him” (v13)
- All three likewise mention the touch (ἡψατο [hēpsato], verse 13) of Christ’s hand on the unclean leper and the instantaneous cure. (15)
- Lepers in Jesus’ day, as in ours, were untouchable. They had to cry out in the streets, to warn others away from them. They lived outside cities, separated from their loved ones and families. They were alone … and destined not to know the loving caress or gentle pressure of another’s hand. But Jesus reached out and touched the leper! If you’ve ever been lonely, ever felt rejected or unloved, you know what that touch must have meant. If you’ve ever been convinced that no one could possibly care for you, then you understand how that leper must have felt. Jesus’ touch was not needed to heal the leprosy, but it was necessary to meet this man’s deep, inner need for love. (16)
- He charged (παρήγγειλεν). A strong word, often of military orders. Aristotle uses it of a physician: to prescribe. Mark has ἐμβριμησάμενος, strictly or sternly charged. See on Mark 1:43. (17)
“Go show yourself to the priest”
- Leviticus 14:1-32
- Healing from leprosy was rare. The Scriptures record only Miriam (Num. 12) and Naaman (2 Kings 5) as having been healed of leprosy (cf. Moses; Ex. 4:6-7). Thus it would have been extremely unusual for a person to present himself before the priest and offer the sacrifices … for … cleansing. Instructions for an offering for cleansing from leprosy are given in Leviticus 14:1-32. Luke 5:14 emphasized the phrase as a testimony to them. The fact that a man would go to the priest claiming healing from leprosy would alert the religious leaders that something new was afoot in Israel. (18)
- If people who had previously been certified as lepers claimed to be cured, they had to go through the proper form of discharge from the priests before being allowed to move freely again in society (Lv. 14:1–32), and so Jesus instructed this man to obey the law. (19)
Mitano’s Modern Day Testimony
1 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
2 Easton, M. (1996). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
3 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
4 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 5:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
9 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
10 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
11 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
13 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 5:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
14 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Le 13:1–46). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
15 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
16 Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (657–658). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
17 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
18 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
19 Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Lk 5:12–16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.