Matthew 8: 1- 4
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Jesus Heals a Leper
General Idea: With this passage, we start a series of nine stories and ten of our Lord's miracles (8:1-9:36). These miracles serve as the proof of Christ's claims, that He is the promised Messiah who will save us from our sins (Isa. 35:4-6; 1 Cor. 1:22). As God, He has power over sickness, demons, nature, and death, and because He does, this proves Christ is Lord over all and Lord over our lives. Therefore, we can have faith in and trust Him in all things. Each of the three Synoptic Gospels has these events recorded but in different order due to the audience to which they were written. Mathew was written to Jews, so he records the events in order of topic, as was common in Jewish teaching. Mark arranges them in order of significance, and Luke places them in chronological order for his logically thinking Greek audience.
In this passage, Jesus is walking down from His Sermon on the Mount into the valley below, and is mobbed by the people. In the midst of all this, a person who was a social outcast greets Him. This man was suffering from a bad skin infection and decided to cut across his social status to both humble himself and be bold enough to go the great Teacher for the possibility of a healing. He receives his healing; his social status is also healed, all in accordance to the law and the grace that is to come.
1. Great multitudes were a major problem in the eyes of the Romans who viewed crowds and uprisings as a threat to social stability. They would quickly squash them.
a. Worshiped Him meant that he knelt in honor, although he probably did not realize Jesus' true divinity.
b. Lord is an address for Sir, such as a monarch or respected leader, but not referring to His deity or to Him as God. Jesus is called God in other passages (see our article on the Names of Jesus).
c. This act required great faith (Matt 4:24). He had confidence in Jesus' healing power, but was afraid he would be passed by because of his social status as an outcast.
d. The leper dared not go near to Jesus, so Jesus reaches out to Him, a reflection on the fact that we cannot draw near to God, so, He has to come to us, reach out, and rescue us.
2. Leprosy was a severe skin disease where the nervous system would break down, and one would lose the ability to feel and touch. Thus, one's appendages would succumb to great wear, and even fall off. Now it is called Hanson's Disease. However, this passage uses a different word than normally used for lepers. The word implies general skin diseases from acne to boils, not the heinous leprosy where the person had to leave all contact with others until they died or were healed (Lev. 13:45-46), although few, if any, were healed. But, even a skin disease would cause a person to become an outcast to others--even their family--for fear the village people would get it also.
a. Lepers were social outcasts and people would stay far away from them because of great fear (Lev. 13:45-46). So, the leper approaches Jesus with humility, just as we all should. At the same time, he was bold to approach Him. We have to be humble before the Lord, yet bold to proclaim our faith, and passionate in our desire to worship Him.
i. Touching a leper was strictly forbidden for fear of contagion and what God had decreed (Lev. 5:3). It was taboo! The Jews who followed the Law were clean and free from the many scourges and diseases over the millenniums, including the Back Death in the Middle Ages that took over one-third of the population of Europe. All because of good hygiene! So, make sure you wash as your mom told you to!
ii. Jesus remains pure to the law by the leper's immediate restoration and the later confirmation by the local official priests (Lev. 13-14).
iii. Jesus followed the precepts of the law by telling him to show himself to the priest (Lev. 14:1-32). He honored the Law, which He later fulfilled and became our ultimate High Priest (Heb. 7:11-8:13).
iv. The healing of a leper, or any person ostracized from society, gives us a beautiful picture of redemption and grace, and how God accepts us when we do not deserve it.
v. Some Jewish leaders taught that leprosy was the result of a person's sin of slandering someone, as Miriam did with Moses' new wife (Num. 12:1-10). The Bible does not give the cause other than not having good hygiene.
b. Only a mighty prophet has ever done such a deed (2 Kings 5:14).
3. Tell no one seems like a strange thing to say. The Romans feared crowds, and our Lord was frequently mobbed by them, potentially distracting Him from His true purpose. Who that preaches would desire secrecy? But Jesus had a good reason. If the word got out to too many people about the healings, people would be seeking a show, or a healing, without seeking Him. Miracle seekers would dominate His time so the real, necessary message would not have the opportunity to get out. Jesus does not want to be known as a wonder performer so that the people would push him into the "Messiah-ship" role for political or materialistic reasons. Rather, His authority comes from God alone. He did not come to drive out the Romans, a temporary solution, but to give us redemption, a permanent solution.
a. Mark records that this leper went about anyway, against Jesus' instructions, telling everyone. O, Jesus was so overwhelmed by the crowds He had to leave the region (Mark 1:45). There of course came a time to boldly proclaim who and what Christ did, and that was after the resurrection (Matt. 10:27; 28:16-20; Luke 12:2-3).
b. As a testimony, refers to Jesus' honor and respect of the Law. Jesus is not bound by or limited to the Law. Rather, He is the head of it, as the ultimate High Priest.
c. Jesus kept all of the Law and submitted to it in our place as part of our redemption. Here, a leper could not be touched, so Jesus cleansed Him and touched Him so the Law was not violated. The purpose of the Law was to show humanity's need for redemption and a Savior. It is not about guilt offerings (Lev. 14:10-18), but about the need for grace and the witness to others.
Jesus did not rally people to a cause, nor did He invoke us to political and materialistic agendas. He mainly draws Himself to us so we can know Him and make Him known. To be His disciple means personal, passionate devotion that contains the humbleness to surrender our will to Him and the boldness to proclaim Him. This will result with the response of our love and gratitude, glued with the faith to make it real, powered by the Holy Spirit so it is impacting upon you and flowing to others around you (Luke 14:26-27; 33; Rom. 5:5). How are you devoted to our Lord?
1. How do you respond to crowds, such as in a busy super market? How would you respond if the crowds were seeking you like a rock star or movie star?
2. How do miracles serve as the proof of Christ's claims?
3. Because Jesus is God, He has the power over sickness, demons, nature, and death. And, because He does, what does this mean to you and your faith?
4. How important is social status to you? How important is it to our Lord?
5. What is in your way of having faith and trust in Him in all things?
6. What are the various ways you like to worship God? What needs to take place for worship to be something that happens daily, not just on Sunday mornings?
7. What can you do to make your daily thoughts on God go from Sir To Lord?
8. How much confidence do you have in Christ to believe He will be there in your daily life?
9. Have you ever felt afraid that Jesus would pass you by and not seem to be helping, knowing, or loving you? How can you know that is not true?
10. How do you feel, and what would you do, when, or if, someone has a bad disease, such as Aids, and wants to touch you?
11. How would you handle a severe disease and/or being a social outcast? What would Christ mean to you then?
12. The Back Death in the Middle Ages that took over one-third of the population of Europe occurred because of bad hygiene. People were not washing, not disposing of garbage, which attracted rats and the fleas that carried the plague! The Jews took out the trash, practiced good hygiene, and were the only people group not affected by the plague. Hence, the saying that is not in the Bible, but the principle is, "cleanliness is next to godliness" (B. Franklin, of course). So, how important should good hygiene be to a Christian?
13. Why did Jesus honor the Law? Why do so many Christians teach it is of no significance?
14. How do you feel about Jesus not wanting crowds?
15. Do you think that the people just seeking a show would distract from Jesus' main mission? Why, or why not?
16. What would the Christian faith be about if Jesus rallied people to a cause, and invoked us to political and materialistic agendas? What are the similarities to this way of thinking and what some popular Bible teachers are proclaiming?
17. What if Jesus did come to drive out the Romans, what good would it be for the millions of followers in the 1900+ years since?
18. What do you need to do to approach Jesus with humility?
19. What do you need to do to be bolder in your faith?
20. What do you need to do to be more passionate in your worship of Jesus?