12 While he was in one of the towns, a man was there who had leprosy all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”13 Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then he ordered him to tell no one: “But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them.” 15 But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.
What did the leper look like as he fell facedown and begged Jesus to make him “clean”? We have an idea of his physical appearance from Leviticus 14:45-46, which records what the Mosaic Law prescribed:
The person who has a case of a serious skin disease is to have his clothes torn and his hair hanging loose, and he must cover his mouth and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” He will remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He must live alone in a place outside the camp.
Luke writes that the man who came to Jesus had “leprosy all over him.” Not only did the man suffer all the devastating symptoms of leprosy, but his disease also made him an outcast, isolated from the rest of society. He was “outside the camp.”
What Jesus does next is remarkable for two reasons. First, in response to the leper’s plea, Jesus reached out and touched him. By physically touching the leper, Jesus superseded the Mosaic Law prohibiting Jews from touching anything or anyone the priests had declared ritually unclean (Leviticus 5:2-3). Second, Jesus did something no Jewish priest could ever do for a leper: Jesus healed him.
Jewish priests had no power to heal. Instead, they relied on Jehovah to heal anyone whose condition the Mosaic Law declared “unclean.” Priests could only ritually “cleanse” the person Jehovah had already healed. Jesus not only healed the leper, He also commanded him to “be made clean.” In short, Jesus asserted His authority as God (the Healer) and as High Priest, not only to heal, but also to declare the man ritually clean. At one touch of the hand of Jesus, the leper was both healed and cleansed.
What were Jesus’ instructions to the man He had healed? “Tell no one, ‘But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them’” (Luke 5:14). By going back to the priest who had first declared him “unclean,” the man presented undeniable evidence—living, incontrovertible proof—that God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, had healed him of his leprosy. Because God had healed the man, the priest could now declare him ritually “clean.”
Jesus also ordered the man to provide the offering the Mosaic Law required for ritual cleansing of the disease He had healed. Jesus insisted that the man adhere to the requirements of the Law of Moses. Why? “As a testimony” to the priest and to all who may have questioned the legitimacy of the man’s miraculous healing at the touch of the hand of Jesus. No testimony is more powerful than the life an encounter with Jesus has changed by one touch of His hand.
Like leprosy, sin manifests itself in pain, physical and emotional numbness, blindness, physical deformity, isolation, loneliness, a sense of uncleanness, and death. When modern-day physicians, priests, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists fail to heal the physical and emotional symptoms of sin, when no one is able to declare a hopeless sufferer “clean,” one touch of the hand of Jesus can work the miracle of healing. Just as He healed the leper long ago, Jesus offers healing and cleansing today from sin. Seek Him as the leper did. Fall facedown before Him, and beg Him to make you clean. He is willing! Then go and testify to everyone what Jesus has done to heal and cleanse you!
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What do you think caused the leper to believe, even hope, that Jesus could help him? Despite his appalling physical appearance, the agony of his physical symptoms, and his emotional distress, the leper in Luke 5:12-16 saw Jesus and sought Him out. Why?
- Were you surprised to learn how the Mosaic Law required a leper to dress and behave? What do you think was the reason for the detailed instructions in Leviticus 14:45-46?
- Has the physical appearance of anyone you have ever encountered shocked or repelled you? How did you respond? How do you think Jesus would have responded to that same person?
- Does leprosy still exist in our modern world? According to the Leprosy Mission International (TLMI), founded in 1874, “Often considered a disease of the past, leprosy in fact continues to affect millions of people around the world, with hundreds of thousands of new diagnoses every year, and many who go undiagnosed. Leprosy is curable, not highly contagious, and most people have a natural immunity to it, but a lack of knowledge and understanding about the disease is one of the key challenges as we seek to defeat it entirely.” For more information about Hanson’s disease (leprosy), visit the TLMI website at leprosymission.org,
- Do you think people around the world with leprosy represent an unreached people group that needs to hear the gospel message?
Pray for the Missionary Team, a group of laypeople from multiple campuses who vet, advise, encourage, and help send our global workers around the world.