“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.”
Through today’s message and this passage, we will learn of Jesus’ deep love and compassion upon a man covered with leprosy. Jesus’ healing and compassion did not come because he pitied the man due to his miserable condition. Jesus’ healing and compassion is based on God’s sin forgiving grace and love for everyone. Most of all, we must realize the kind of attitude we need to have before Jesus. Jesus is always willing; that’s not the problem. The problem is whether we are willing to be honest with ourselves and humbly go to Jesus with eagerness for his help. So, let us see tonight how this man covered with leprosy went to Jesus. Most of all, let us learn one thing about the man’s attitude.
First, a sorrowful, hopeless man covered with leprosy. (12a) Today’s passage tells us of how Jesus reached out his hand, touched and healed a man who was covered with leprosy. Look at verse 12a. “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.”It is interesting to note, the man is described as a man who was covered with leprosy. Of course there are many kinds of diseases in existence in the world today; however, leprosy may be the most detrimental disease ever known to mankind. It affects the whole body. It eats away at one’s flesh and causes the bones and flesh to decay. It produces open, pus oozing sores all over one’s body. It disfigures and deforms all body parts ultimately leading one to death. In Jesus’ time, those who had leprosy had to be quarantined because leprosy was highly contagious. And many people were afraid of catching the disease because at that time there was no known cure for it. In order not to infect other people, those who had the disease were required to cover the lower part of their faces, wear torn clothes and keep their hair unkempt and yell out, “Unclean, unclean!” as they passed by. (Lev 13:45) It was very humiliating, but they followed the custom prescribed to them by God through Moses.
We don't know exactly, but this man covered with leprosy might have already lost several fingers on his right hand, the ones he used for writing. And perhaps he already had several missing toes. So, he probably walked around with a limp, due to missing toes and weak legs. Since his face was deformed, it horrified people whenever he tried to go into town. He must have had many pus oozing sores on his head, face, neck, arms and the rest of his body. He tried his best to cover up all his ugly and smelly sores so that no one would see or smell them. But he really could not hide without someone noticing him. Eventually he was lead away to go and live in an isolated camp with others who had the same disease. He must have gone and hidden himself and cried out of deep sorrow, shame and despair. It seemed there was no end to his sorrow; so, he despaired and cried all the more each day as time passed. He really wanted to get out and talk and socialize with others who were outside his leper’s camp but he could not. Everyone was afraid of him and despised him, even other lepers nearby hated him and told him to stay away. Out on the field of the leper’s camp, he might have seen a glimpse of normal people running and hiking from afar but he could not go to them and talk to them. He had to hide in his loneliness again and again and remain in his ill state, because he could not find any hope. The only thing he could think of was his eventual death.
It is hard to understand what leprosy is nowadays since it is not a widespread disease in the world today like it was in Jesus’ time. But we can associate leprosy with one’s spiritual condition. The Bible teaches us all people fall short of the Glory of God; it means we are all sinners who need help.
Some try to solve their spiritual sin problem by themselves; they go and see a psychologist or consult an astrologer (what does my birthday mean? Please tell me), and even some speak with their closest friends but in the end they cannot find any real solution. So, they may despair and give up eventually. Sin erodes the insides of our hearts, minds and soul. Eventually sin leads us to death like leprosy; however, the Bible teaches us there is hope. It is found in Jesus. Let us see how this man could find the real solution to all his problems in Jesus. Let us learn of his honest attitude.
Second, the man came to Jesus by faith. (12b) The man had the right attitude to solve his problem. He came to Jesus. We can just imagine this man hearing about Jesus who had healed all who had various kinds of sicknesses, and by the laying of his hands on them they were healed. When the man heard about this, he could have a glimpse of hope to be healed. Surely this man believed that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God.
The coming of the Messiah meant good news of great joy because the Messiah would come to take all sorrow and infirmities away from people and redeem and restore them as God’s children. (Isaiah 53:4) But initially this man didn’t know how he could go to Jesus. He felt so weak. To come to Jesus required more than his own strength. He had to overcome his fear of people hurling insults at him and dodge the stones they would throw at him. Not only that, he was so used to living alone without any hope. It was not easy for him to get out of his hopeless condition and go into town, where normal people lived. He was already so immersed in his lonely world of sorrow, pain and hopelessness. But one day, he heard about the good news of Jesus’ healing; this news really touched his heart. He must have thought to himself, “if Jesus was willing to heal all who had various diseases and laid his hands on them, wouldn’t he do the same for me if I only go to him? Yes, of course he would. I must find Jesus.” Then the man got up from his dark, smelly bed. Actually he probably didn’t have a bed; it was probably a bunch of rocks and dirt. But the man got up limping now as he got out of the cave; and he made his way to find Jesus. The fact that this man decided to find and come to Jesus shows that he had faith.
At that time, leprosy was known as an incurable disease. Despite of this, he overcame and put his faith in Jesus, believing that Jesus was the one who could heal him completely. We must realize the man’s decision to come to Jesus by faith was a spiritual matter. However, whenever one decides to come to God, the devil tries his best to hinder that person from coming to God. But, Jesus gave this man strength to overcome and enabled him to come to Jesus just as he was. And to the man’s surprise and joy he found Jesus as he entered town. Look at verse 12b.
“When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him…” The man must have been so happy to find Jesus, but at the same time he felt so ashamed of his decayed and disfigured body that he fell with his face to the ground and would not look up. The fact the man fell with his face to the ground shows that he completely yielded himself to Jesus. He gave up trying to solve his problem by himself. He decided by faith to humbly come to Jesus instead. And then he begged Jesus saying…look at the remainder of verse 12b, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He addressed Jesus as Lord. It was because he believed Jesus is the Savior promised from God. He believed only Jesus could heal him in every way. He knew he did not deserve Jesus’ healing, but he asked anyway. So, he pleaded with Jesus saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Actually this man’s cry for the Lord’s healing can be associated with the cry of every man and woman. It needs to be our cry for Jesus’ healing. The Bible teaches us everyone is born as a sinner suffering from the misery, sorrow and pain of sin. And sin makes everyone numb like leprosy does.
Actually it causes the decay of God’s image in us. God’s image in us should make us joyful, peaceful, kind, giving, gentle, patient, forgiving and full of compassion towards others. But because of sin, God’s image embedded in us can not shine its image. Instead it remains hidden. Because of sin, we feel trapped in a world of misery, endless suffering and sorrow much like the man covered with leprosy. What can we learn from this man who came to Jesus with faith?
First, we can learn several things of importance from this man. This man got up to go and find Jesus by any means. Actually, it was his prayer to be healed once and for all of his hopeless disease. Secondly, he fell with his face to the ground. This shows his honest and humble attitude before Jesus. He did not try to hide himself. He came as he was and completely surrendered himself to Jesus falling with his face to the ground. Plus, he begged Jesus. What did the man do? Yes, he begged Jesus. What did the man say as he begged Jesus? “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Here we can see the man’s eagerness, his sincere urgency to be made clean.
It meant he eagerly wanted to be healed of all his leprosy. Spiritually it meant his complete restoration as a child of God. Our God created us in his own image and likeness, not so that we may live a miserable life because of sin, but that we might become fully restored as his child. How did Jesus respond to this man who came to him in such a humble way and with faith? Look at verse 13a. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”
No one ever imagined touching a man covered with leprosy before. No one wanted to get closer than 100 feet of this man since leprosy was contagious. But Jesus was different. He not only got close to the man, he reached out his hand and touched him. How could Jesus do this? It’s because Jesus is the Lord, the Savior who came from God to save and to heal all men and women, including this man. Jesus was full of love and compassion when he saw this man who honestly and humbly came to him with faith. What did Jesus say, after touching him? Look at verse 13b. “‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” What a relief and joy it was for this man to hear Jesus’ voice saying, “I am willing…Be clean! At that very moment, the man became clean. The leprosy left him right away. The man’s body was no longer covered with ugly, pus oozing sores which are commonly associated with leprosy. The man was now miraculously free from his sorrow and hopelessness. Instead of having a deformed face, the man’s face became very handsome. His legs and arms became strong. And he began to smile and looked so bright and joyful. What about you?
Have you heard of Jesus’ sin forgiving grace? Are you eager to come and meet Jesus as you are? Don’t be afraid; Jesus is always willing to touch and heal. I was once like this man covered with leprosy. My insides were wasting away due to the power of death. I also felt very lonely and hopeless. Strangely I also believed my own parents didn’t love me. So, I easily became depressed and tried to make a lot of music and danced a lot by myself to try to make myself happy. One day I became so sick that I sincerely thought I was going to die. But, by the grace of God, the words of John 3:16, were hanging on my dorm room wall, and I read the verses to myself: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
After that, I asked Jesus to somehow come into my life. Though it seemed at the time I was a long way off of knowing Jesus personally, God kept on sending his servants to me to invite me to Bible study and to build up my relationship with Jesus. Since that time God has been paving the way for me to trust and have faith in him. We must remember one thing, if we forget everything else from this message. And that is Jesus will heal us as long as we have the right attitude to humbly come to him and be honest before him just as we are.
Third, Jesus restored the man completely with a new life in him. Look now at verse 14. “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.’” Whenever Jesus heals and cleanses a person in this way, he or she becomes a new creation in Jesus. Such an experience brings one to confess that “Now I’m a new creation in Jesus by the power of Jesus’ healing touch.” Jesus’ complete healing was such wonderful news to this man; however, he still had a problem. He still could not socialize with normal people who were living in town. So, Jesus ordered him to go show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses had commanded for his cleansing. In this way, the man could become a living testimony of Jesus’ forgiving grace and power to heal any kind of person. I say, any kind of person, because leprosy is considered to be like the worst kind of infectious disease that anyone can possibly contract.
So, this man’s testimony was great because he had the worst kind of infectious disease but now he was completely cleansed and healed. We can just imagine that he did not remain quiet about what Jesus did for him. Look now at verses and 15 and 16. “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.” Yes, news about him spread all the more. The man must have told someone about what Jesus did for him; most likely he shared the news with more than a few dozen people out of joy and thankfulness. The man’s new life was a living testimony in itself. Because of this, crowds of people started coming to hear Jesus and to be healed of all their sicknesses. And Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to have quiet time and to pray to God the Father. Jesus must have not only prayed for himself, but for the crowds who had received cleansing and healing.
I was also made clean by Jesus’ healing touch. Without Jesus I realize I am totally useless as a sinner who is full of hatred, lust, anxiety about the future, fatalistic and hopeless; but when I humbly come to Jesus and honestly confess all my shameful sins, Jesus touches and makes me clean restoring me as a child of God. Jesus gives me real victory so that I can confidently stand before you here today and proclaim this message. Amen
How can we conclude this message? We must remember one thing; we must humbly come to Jesus just as we are. When he touches us, he makes us clean and heals us completely from all of our spiritual sickness. But we must remember to be eager like this man to go to Jesus and plead with him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus has the power to make anyone clean, if only we cry out to him and come to him like the man in today’s passage. In this way, Jesus gives us a new life and a new hope. And we can be happy by testifying to Jesus’ power and healing grace as we meet other people. No matter what case you have or what situation you are in, I encourage you to tell it to Jesus and eagerly come to meet him as you are for his complete healing. AMEN