Luke 5:12-16 (NIV) While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
This man was about as unclean as a person could possibly get. He didn’t have just a spot of leprosy, say on his forehead like Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:19-21). He was literally covered with the dead and dying tissue that characterized this dreaded disease. The man was already considered dead by his family and friends; there was no way there could be any contact with him without all of them becoming unclean themselves, something that no one was willing to risk.
The man had heard of Jesus and how He could heal diseases with just a word. So when he saw Jesus walking toward him that day, he fell down with his face to the ground a good distance away, and yelled out, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He had no idea if Jesus would be willing. After all, he was a complete outcast, assumed by many to be suffering punishment from God Himself for some heinous sin or other. Jesus could easily have walked right by the man, giving him a wide berth, of course, and no one would blame him.
But Jesus was not about to let faith like this man had go unanswered. He kept on walking right up to him without varying His pace in the least. Then, to the wonder (and horror) of those with Him, He bent down and laid His hand on the man’s sore-covered body, saying gently, “I am willing. Be clean.”
Before the gasps of horror and disgust had even died away, the man felt power surge through his whole body, and he knew that he had been healed. He dared to look up from the ground, and found himself looking squarely into the smiling face of Jesus. Jesus held out His hand again, and this time the man took it with his own now clean hand, and climbed to his feet.
Jesus’ warning was not to imply that He had done anything wrong, or that He needed to be ashamed of touching and healing the leper. He simply wanted the focus of the healing to be God and His kingdom. So He instructed the man to simply go to a priest, and to walk through the law’s process for those who had been healed of leprosy (Leviticus 14:1-32) without telling everyone how he had been healed.
But, of course, the man couldn’t help but tell everyone he met about Jesus and about how He had reached through the disease to touch him and heal him. The end result was exponentially more people coming to Jesus to learn and to be healed. That was good for the kingdom, but it made it more difficult for Jesus to be able to spend the kind of time in communion with the Father that He needed in order to hear His voice clearly. But He adapted to the new circumstances, purposefully and frequently withdrawing from the crowds so that He could be alone with the God who not only had sent Him, but who directed His every step.
Father, the lessons here are clear: with You in our hearts, we don’t need to fear engaging with the unclean things in our society that need the light and shalom of You kingdom to bring them wholeness and make them clean. But, at the same time, I can’t do that and maintain my own purity and shalom unless I intentionally keep my connection with You strong and vital by spending lots of time in one-on-one communion with You. If Jesus Himself needed that to be able to effectively do the work of Your kingdom, I most surely do!