“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “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!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”” Matthew 8:1-4. NIV
The leprosy described in the Bible could have been any kind of skin disease, but probably the kind that destroyed the nerve endings that carry pain signals; those with advanced leprosy would experience a total loss of physical pain. But as with Meth addicts, when you cannot sense touch or pains, you tend to injure yourself and you are unaware of an injury caused by an a knife, or an infection or a bug bite. In fact, some leprosy patients have had their fingers eaten by rats in their sleep because they were totally unaware of it happening; the lack of pain receptors would not warn you of the danger. Studying leprosy shows us pain is such a valuable gift from God, a survival mechanism to warn us of danger in this cursed world. Without pain and suffering, we might be like lepers, unable to recognize that something is terribly wrong and that we need the healing touch of God. A doctor treating leprosy once said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.” Let us not be too quick to remove pain in our lives (whether physical, emotional, social, or spiritual pain). It may be God’s megaphone to get our attention that something is seriously wrong. Praise God for pain!!!
But in addition to pain and the accompanying disfiguration, leprosy was both dreaded, and the cause of people avoiding you. I was once in Osaka, Japan, and waited in a long line to get a seat at a tea bar at the airport. When a seat finally opened, I grabbed the seat and was courteously helped by the bar tender. But I watched as every single person at the bar, all Japanese businessmen, quietly got up and left me alone at the bar. I was a gaijin, that, is a foreigner, and Japanese don’t sit or eat or drink with people like me. It was embarrassing and a surprise.
Likewise, in the ancient world, to have leprosy was to have a life of being alone. It was a horrible, sad, disgusting and lonely disease. You would often be required to wear a bell around your neck to tell people you were a leper, because it was believed to have been very contagious.
In the Old Testament you could not get near a person with leprosy—-they were unclean. But in the New Testament Jesus freely touched people with leprosy. While people with leprosy traditionally suffered banishment from family and neighbors, Jesus broke from the tradition. He treated lepers with compassion, touching and healing them. Leprosy was worse than aids or Covid, it was incurable—there was no vaccine…. It could not be treated. And yet Jesus refused to treat lepers with disgust—-He touched them. And when you’ve not been touched in many years, and rejected and found to be disgusting, and suddenly this man of such popularity touched you, it changed you and gave you hope—-He was not like the other church leaders. Has He touched you and made you whole?
I don’t know all the reasons that God allows disease into our lives, but biblical leprosy was sometimes used to punish people and is a powerful symbol reminding us of sin’s spread and its horrible consequences.
But for a moment, consider what happened here. It’s important to note four things:
1. The leper knew he was sick and he was disgusted with his life. He did not “settle down” and accept his disfigurement or the rotting of his flesh. That’s the first step to any recovery—-admit that there’s a problem and that your life stinks! Friends, there is a problem in our schools, our homes, our churches, our military, our media, our leadership, our vision for our nation. More existentially, is there a problem in my life or yours? Is something wrong that we just won’t admit—something for which we simply will not seek help or healing? Is there something about you or me that is disgusting, with a horrible odor, abhorrent to look at that we know is there but we keep trying to hide under the gauze of a smile, or work or blithe denial? You can’t be healed until you admit you’re diseased.
2. He knew that Jesus could heal him. He might not have known if or not Jesus would heal him, but he knew that Jesus could——he had seen the evidence! Have you?? Do you know that God can restore you and heal whatever it is that is wrong with you? No matter what your disease, it’s not as bad as leprosy!
3. He humbly asked to be healed. He got on his knees and begged—-and something happened! But hear this: God did not owe him a thing…Jesus was not required to heal him. God is not obligated to listen to my blathering prayers or yours! He is God Almighty and we are but a mist compared to Him! Get the right perspective and position of humility when you talk to the Eternal King of Kings! This man asked, in humility, to be healed and realized that Jesus could have walked away and done nothing———-but Jesus did not do nothing. He did the impossible, the unbelievable, the phenomenal! He healed a diseased and disgusting man—-and that’s what He did for me—-and that’s what He can do for you!
4. He was told to keep the healing confidential. Not sure why, but evidently the leper obeyed—-and he lived his life with incredible, personal, confidential proof that Jesus was who He said He was. The man did not seek confirmation or ask others to confirm what he knew! No matter whatever happened from that day forward, this man knew that he was forever changed, cleaned, made whole and reborn. All things became new for this man!!! But Jesus did not want people focusing on the miracles He performed, but rather the message He proclaimed and the death He was going to die. The same is true today. God would rather that we be focus on the healing miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ instead of focusing on other healings and/or miracles. Nor does He want us to go around bragging about how He’s blessed us or answered our prayers in mighty ways. He wants us to share the good news that He has forgiven us and given us a new heart and a new vision and a new place for which we are now homesick.
Do you know one of the greatest virtues of a special friend or your best friend? The ability keep a secret. I am not talking about a secret sin, but a secret good. Do you keep some things secret because someone that loves you has asked you to keep it secret? It’s what happens in intimate relationships. These secrets are not meant to hide something, but rather as a source of mutual confidentiality. It’s a hallmark of trust and being tied together.
But please hear this today:
1. America, our churches, our families and all of us need to look in the mirror. We’re walking in a diseased way and need to admit it. We’re doing some sick and diseased things and we’ve elected some very afflicted leaders to show us the right path. We’ve made sick choices and we’re suffered the diseased consequences. We need to face reality. We need to be healed.
2. We need to look at Him and admit, with certainty: He is able to restore our nation, our churches, families and our very souls.
3. Only in humility will He hear our pleas. We can’t go about this arrogantly. He can heal you or what is ugly or disgusting about you——but only when you can beat your own breast, fall on your knees, and cry out “Forgive me—ME—-a sinner”.
4. And when He does the healing—-the miracle—-and He will!—-remember that it’s not about what He’s done for you, but who He is. You’re restoration won’t save others any more than your personal testimony—-even though its all true! The knowledge of the Holy One can save another soul—-nothing else.
People need to know Jesus, the Son of God, not merely Jesus the miracle worker. Let Him work a miracle in your life today, and then let others find, by those miracles, the Son of God.