“ And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he
was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Mark 1:40-44
The account of Jesus healing this leper is very interesting to me. Reading this passage made me wonder what everyone must have been thinking as Jesus reached to touch this leper. I didn’t know much about leprosy but I did know it was an obvious disease with physical effects and people would not want to fellowship with lepers.
Webmd.com defines leprosy as an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. The disease has been around since ancient times, often surrounded by terrifying, negative stigmas and tales of leprosy patients being shunned as outcasts. In some cases, people have lost fingers and toes over this disease. All throughout the Bible one is able to see many cases of leprosy. In his article, Alexander Macalister, notes that in Leviticus 13; 14 (Priestly Code) the rules for the recognition of the disease, the preliminary quarantine periods and the ceremonial methods of cleansing are given at length. The priest was to examine a person and pronounce him/her unclean. Upon examination, the priest could also determine if a person was healed from the disease and gave directions on cleansing. Leviticus 13:45-46 states that “the leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” Many believed that lepers were in sin and this sickness came as a consequence. The verse that supports this belief is II Kings 15:5 as the Lord “smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death.”
I imagine that being a leper was shameful. It must have been very troubling for this man to not be with his family and friends. I can see people on the streets looking at him and labeling him as an outcast as he walked by. There is a crowd of people wanting to hear Jesus and waiting for the next miracle when this man pushes through and asks Jesus to make him clean. We see that Jesus is moved with compassion and wants to make this man whole. The bystanders were probably wondering how Jesus could touch a man in that condition. One must remember that Jesus commanded his disciples to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” in Matthew 10:8. Jesus was more than willing to touch and heal this man regardless of what society had to say about it. Jesus did not see an outcast, Jesus saw a man in need.