THE LAW OF THE LEPER
A very important miracle of Jesus was the healing of a leper in Luke 5:12-14; Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-44):
'Behold, a man full of leprosy saw Jesus; and fell on his face and implored Him, saying,
'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.' (Luke 5:12)
'Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand, touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' (Mark.1:41,42)
'He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded as a testimony to them.' (Mark.1:43,44)
This is the first recorded miracle of Jesus in Matthew who emphasises Jesus' claim to be the Messiah-King. By this miracle He staked His claim with the authorities to be Messiah from the start of his ministry.
MESSIANIC MIRACLES The Jewish teaching of the day was that there were certain well-defined miracles that only Messiah could do-the Signs of the Messiah. Such a miracle had never been done -it was reserved for the Messiah to prove himself. So when Jesus started doing these miracles it always provoked a great response from the leaders. For these were their own tests for Messiah!
These included the healing of:
1. ONE BORN BLIND (John 9:32)
2. ONE RAISED FROM THE DEAD after 3 days = the sign of Jonah (Mt 12:38, John.11:45,53) - this is why Jesus waited until the 4th day to raise Lazarus)
3. DELIVERANCE FROM A DUMB SPIRIT
The Jews could only do deliverance by asking the spirit for it's name but this could not work for a dumb spirit! (Matt.12:22,24 when Jesus did it they had to explain it away and so had to say he did it by satan's power)
4. THE CLEANSING OF A LEPER (Luke 7:22; Matt 11:5)
No Jewish lepers had been healed since the law was given.(Luke.4:27)
You can't heal a leper for in touching him you are made unclean. They believed only Messiah could touch him and not be defiled. When the leper said: 'You can heal me'-he was confessing his faith in Jesus as Messiah. This Messianic miracle caused the Jewish leaders to start investigating Jesus and his claims. (Luke.5:17).
THE SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE and SYMBOLISM OF LEPROSY
Leprosy was treated completely differently from all other sickness.
It is uniquely a type of sin (Isaiah 1), especially in it's consequences (curse and death). Thus a leper isn't described as SICK but as UNCLEAN and not HEALED but CLEANSED (as if leprosy signified the presence of sin). He was under the power of sin, incurable by natural means. Only Divine intervention could help. Thus no medication was given and lepers were in the hands of priests not doctors. The LEPER was a SIGN of all men under the power of sin and death. That's what a sinner looks like spiritually! He was a walking dead-man, with robes torn, hair shorn, mouth covered. This was the dress of a mourner, going to his own funeral. He proclaimed 'unclean, unclean' as one does for a 'dead body.' He had to live outside the city walls isolated from society. He pictures all men under the sentence of death, rotting in his own corruption, under the power of sin cut off from an and God, without hope.
LEPROSY as a picture of SIN
1. It is inherited and communicable(lepers had to live separated and shout 'unclean, unclean' to warn others. Sin is contagious. Be careful who you spend time with. 'Be not yoked with unbelievers' (2 Cor 6:14). When someone is in a bad spirit they are shouting out 'unclean-don't get too close or you'll be contaminated, don't open your ears too wide or you will be infected with the same spirit.' (they covered their mouth to stop infection spreading).
2. It starts on the inside (in the blood) but soon shows up on the outside. You can't hide sin in the heart-it comes out in words and deeds. The leper was smelly.
3. It's a gradually spreading corruption with ulcers and sores breaking out. Fingers and eyelids get eaten away. Gradually the whole body rots. Sin like bitterness, undealt with, will eat up and destroy your life.
4. He gradually loses feeling in affected parts of his body. You stop feeling pain and so if you put your hand in burning heat you don't realise it is being destroyed. As sin progresses sensitivity of conscience is dulled and you excuse, and justify anything. The voice of conscience warning you of danger and destruction becomes faint.
5. It was incurable. There was no hope. He could do nothing. Man is hopeless under the power of sin (Rom.6:23). He can't save himself. He is under a certain death sentence, with a destiny of permanent isolation (hell). The priests and the law (religion) could reveal and diagnose it but had no power to heal it.
6. Leprosy brought shame and disgrace. They were removed from fellowship with God's people and God's presence (in the temple). Sin isolates us and cuts us off from fellowship. We are no longer useful.
Leprosy (sin) destroys a man physically, mentally and emotionally.
The Leper was a visible token that man under the power of sin was helpless. Salvation was only possible through the Messiah -The Anointed One, who alone could save the unsavable! So when Jesus met this man -FULL OF LEPROSY and TOUCHED him and HEALED him it was dramatic!
Thus God gave leprosy a special emphasis and it's cure would be a sign showing how God would save all men.
This emphasis is seen in that 2 whole chapters of Moses' law (Leviticus 13 and 14) are dedicated to it. These provided the stage for the Messiah to prove himself and showed visually how he would save us.
(1) Leviticus.13 told the Priests how to diagnose it in it's early stages. It gave quarantine and washing procedures (Bible hygiene was advanced beyond it's time) When he was confirmed as a leper he was declared UNCLEAN and sent out of the city. A Record of each leper was kept by the priests.
(2) Leviticus.14 told them what to do when a leper was healed. They were to verify the healing, offer up a programme of sacrifices and declare the leper 'CLEAN' so that he could live a normal life again in fellowship with God and man. While the Priests constantly practised chapter 13, they NEVER practiced chapter 14, in 1500 years! They came to realise that only when Messiah (God in the flesh) came would lepers be healed. Leviticus 14 was part of the law so it had to be fulfilled. It declared there was healing for the leper, salvation for the sinner. But It was only to be fulfilled by Messiah himself. They knew when lepers came to them for Lev 14, they must investigate for it was a clear sign Messiah was come.
That's why Jesus sent the leper to the priests to perform Lev 14 on him, 'as a testimony to them'. Imagine their reaction as one leper after another showed themselves healed! They couldn't deny it for it was in their own records. They would ask: 'How did this happen?' Each time the answer was: 'Jesus of Nazareth healed me!.' The Jewish leaders knew he was the Messiah! Healing a leper was no simple healing -it was Jesus proclaiming Himself the Messiah who alone has power to save us from the depths of sin, sickness, corruption and death.
What does this miracle show us? (Luke 5:12) We are like the LEPER. He shows us how a sinner receives salvation.
1. Admit we are sinners (unclean)
2. Believe in Jesus is the Christ-the only one with the power to heal and cleanse us from sin (it's power and penalty).
3. Come to Him humbly-ashamed of our condition. He fell on His face (Luke) He bowed the knee(Mark) He worshiped Jesus (Matthew). He acknowledged Him as Lord and called earnestly upon Him to save him (Luke) He submitted to His will saying: 'If you will- you can heal me'. You must cast yourself upon Jesus and submit to His will for you.
What does it show us about Jesus?
1. HIS LOVE for the unlovely. He was 'moved with compassion.' Even though we were smelly and rotten, deserving only death, yet He loved us. He said 'I am (continually) willing' He is no respecter of persons. He loves and wants to save and heal each one of us.(Heb 13:8)
2. HIS TOUCH. He touched the untouchable. He didn't heal from a distance. Jesus came down from heaven. He came where we were and touched (identified with) us. In this touch he received our sin, he bore our leprosy. He died in our place and suffered the death of a leper. That's why he died outside the city walls, rejected of men, separated from the presence of God. By this touch he received our leprosy and in exchange salvation and healing flowed out to us!
3. HIS POWER. (Rom 10:13) The leper was instantly healed, showing the power of Christ to be all-sufficient to save man from any sin and sickness if we call on Him. He cures the incurable. When we trusted in Christ and called on Him, He touched us, our sin (leprosy) was forgiven and removed by His saving power. He cleansed us and declared us righteous, makes us a new creation, able to have living fellowship with God.
Later in His ministry Jesus healed 10 LEPERS at once! (Luke 17:11-19) saying 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' As they went, they were cleansed. Their healing manifested gradually as they obeyed and acted in faith. One was a Samaritan (the other 9 were Jews). The 2 groups show us the right and wrong responses to God's grace. The Samaritan, seeing his healing, remembered, and returned to Jesus to humbly give thanks. But the Jews, in pride, forgot Jesus. Some just want healing to get on with their lives. They reject and forget the Healer and are self-absorbed. They can't find time in their busy schedule to worship and thank God. If asked, they say 'there is no time, I have to do other things.' Jesus rebuked this shameful response. Jesus wants disciples - those who come back to thank Him with their lips and lives.
Jesus says to these:'Your faith has made you WHOLE.' WHOLENESS is more than just cleansing. All 10 had the evil removed but the 10th also saw lost parts restored. The thankful one was filled up with more goodness and grace. The others were in danger of losing what they got. (Matt 12:43-45) Their wrong attitude also showed in their relationships. Racial prejudice (based on pride and superiority) goes when we're humbled by the realisation we are all lepers (sinners) together. Receiving the grace of God should humble us more and unite us. We're all born again of same Father. We've nothing to boast in, except that God is our Father, and Jesus our Saviour. But the 9, forgetting God's grace, quickly moved into pride and bigotry and were happy to disassociate from the Samaritan.
Jesus emphasised the importance of the offerings Moses prescribed when a leper was healed. The Priest performed a ceremony (a wonderful picture of the Atonement) to show how he was saved from sin and leprosy.
Leviticus 14: 'the law of the leper on the day of his cleansing' (v1.2)
'The priest goes out of the camp, and examines him' (v3),
If he proves to be healed, the priest takes '2 living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.' (v4)
*The Ceremony Illustrated
*This ceremony was enacted to reveal the basis on which God healed the leper.
*This had never been done by the Priests until the ministry of Jesus, for no lepers had ever been healed in Israel. Thus Jesus told the cleansed lepers to show themselves to the Preists as a sign to them that the Messiah had come.
*The sacrificed bird represents Christ on the altar of the Cross. His blood was collected in living water (the Holy-Spirit). The living bird representing the leper was dipped in the blood and was released to fly free. Likewise the Spirit applies the blood of Jesus to us so we can fly free from sin, sickness and satan.
*The leper was sprinkled with the blood with the hyssop, before walking free. Many lepers received Levitus 14 through the ministry of Jesus the Messiah.
One bird is killed in an earthen vessel over running (living) water. (v5)
The bird that lives is a picture of the leper. The bird that dies is CHRIST. For the Leper to live and be free from his sentence of death, another must die in His place. He does not die on the temple altar but outside the walls (bearing the sin and reproach of the leper).
The bird to die was tied by a scarlet cord (our sins) to the piece of cedar wood (the altar = the cross). Christ like this bird was killed in an earthen vessel (his human body) and his blood was mixed with the fresh (living) water that indwelt the bowl. (The Holy Spirit).
The hyssop is used to sprinkle the blood on the leper (v6,7) signifying his cleansing is by the blood of Christ. (Psalm 51:7; Exodus 12:22).
The living bird was dipped (baptised) into the bowl (Christ) into the Blood and into the Water (the Spirit) (v6,7). Then it was set free in an open field. When we accepted Jesus we are put into Christ; plunged into the Blood and Spirit. The Living Water communicates the work of the Blood to us.
He applies the Blood to us and we fly free because of Christ's death!
A bird was used to show the freedom of resurrection life-life in 3 dimensions (not just in mind and body but in spirit also) We are set free to soar in the Spirit (Isaiah 40:31). Not earthbound but setting our minds on heavenly things. Flying free from sin, free from condemnation, in the realm where all things are possible! We are set free to serve and worship God without fear. It's a picture of the leper set free to have fellowship with God and man. It's a picture of new life in Christ, who died that we might live. If we are identified with His death, then we are also identified with His resurrection (Romans 6:3-5)
We are set free from sin and sickness through the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.