Sometimes, being around people is hard. I come off acting like an extrovert but in reality I’m shy and it takes a lot of energy for me to be around folks and interact with them. However, I might not like to admit it but I am acutely aware of my need for people, particularly of my brothers and sisters in Christ. As I read this passage of scripture, I am struck by how isolated the poor man who comes to Christ to be healed was and what a blessing it was for him to be healed. Truly, it was a great miracle that we can all take note of and learn from.
Now, to set the stage contextually within Matthew, let us remember we have just studied a message where Jesus has set forth the truth that the righteousness God requires is unattainable by people. Not one of us can live up to the standard of the law. We must declare spiritual bankruptcy before God if we’re to have any hope of being saved. Our hopeless condition forces us to depend on the grace and mercy of God to save us and cleanse us. Matthew moves from this wonderful truth filled sermon to give us several snapshots into the healing ministry of Jesus. Matthew, in this gospel, does not attempt to follow any clear chronology but rather drives home the point using events from the life of the Lord and the truths He taught that Jesus is the Messiah that Israel had waited for and that the prophets had foretold.
We find, in this particular scene, that Jesus is surrounded by throngs of people as we read verse 1. Now, that makes what happens in verse 2 all the more spectacular. We see an unexpected player come on the scene—a leper. Now, this was unheard of and was forbidden in the law of Moses. In face, we read in Leviticus 13:45 that “the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!’” People with this disease were cut off from society and could not mingle with folks, much less come to a crowd of people seeking Jesus. There was not only a social stigma at work here but also we must remember leprosy is contagious. However, recognizing his helplessness and hopelessness, he pleaded for help. He knew that Jesus had the power to heal him. He says “Lord…You can make me clean.” Perhaps he had heard of the healings and other miracles Jesus had performed. In any case, he appeared to have faith in Christ’s ability to do this.
Further, he knew of Christ’s authority in the matter. Beyond addressing Him as “Lord”, this man adds “…if You are willing…” Make no mistake about it, this was a humble request from someone who knew that they had no hope. The man could interact with other lepers or live as a hermit, but his disease completely cut him off from all ties to anyone who was not infected. He recognized his inability to help himself and pleaded to Jesus for mercy. The crowd probably whispered incessantly amongst themselves, I’m sure, wondering what, if anything, Christ would do.
What He did was scandalous to polite society. He touched the leper. You just didn’t do that. Not just because of the fact that the disease was communicable but because you just didn’t do that—at least in polite society. Verse three not only records Jesus’ actions but also His compassion. He says to the man “I am willing”. Jesus wanted to honor this request. This does not suggest or imply that it is always His will for disease to be healed and that no believer will ever suffer with sickness. In a miraculous display of power, Christ chose to heal this man and he was healed instantly. In the time it would take for you or I to blink, he was made perfectly whole.
You and I have a similar problem. We had a sickness of our soul that made us unclean before God. Our sin separated us from God and there is nothing we can do about it. However, God sent Jesus to die on the cross and be punished for sin. I have trusted Him to forgive me and He has forgiven my sin on Christ’s account. I no longer have to feel the shame and isolation from God that sin brings. I am clean. If you haven’t trusted Christ to save you, why don’t you do so today?