Lessons from Luke’s Gospel – No. 1 – Jesus and the Leper

This is one of the studies in a series from the gospel of Luke.

Luke 5:12-13. While He (Jesus) was in one of the cities, behold there was a man covered with leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 13) And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Here we have a very brief encounter between a leper and the Lord Jesus. A little background would be in order. A leper was unclean in Jewish society and was required not only to stay away from other people, but was also required to cry out, “Unclean!” as they traveled about. They were therefore constantly shunned and alienated from society. Also, because leprosy was contagious and because leprosy was to that society what cancer is to ours, lepers were feared and no one touched a leper for fear of being infected. And so this man comes to the Lord and falls down before Jesus, asking to be cured and cleansed of this horrible disease. In these two short verses, it is important what is revealed about the leper and, more importantly, what is revealed about Jesus.

The first thing we notice is the faith of the leper. He has heard and seen enough of Jesus to be convinced that Jesus is as powerful as God. His faith motivates him to take the outrageous action of falling down before Jesus and pleading for Jesus to do the impossible. In an act of reverence and worship, the leper asks Jesus to make him clean. Thus the leper has a strong faith that compels him to act on that faith. All true faith will be evidenced in action.

Notice that what the leper says reveals what he believed about Jesus. “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” The leper has no doubt about Jesus’ ability to make him clean. He knows that Jesus has the power to make him clean. He does, after all, refer to Jesus as ‘Lord.’ (Romans 10:9) So what would stop the man from being cleansed? The only thing that would stop that would be if Jesus was not willing. It is not a matter of ability; it is only a matter of whether or not the Lord is willing. The leper treats Jesus as who He is, the sovereign Lord who can do whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

The next thing we see is that Jesus accepts the leper’s worship and He accepts the leper’s assessment of His identity. Jesus does not correct the leper when he falls down before Him, but accepts that act of worship as appropriate. But Jesus also fully accepts the leper’s implied assertion that He has the power to do any healing He wants. The leper says, “If You are willing, You can make me clean,” and Jesus’ response basically says, “Yes, you are right about that, and in this instance I am willing to cleanse you.” In other words, Jesus believed He was sovereign over all disease. But was He?

The healing proved who Jesus was. After Jesus says He is willing, it is time to see if He is able. Jesus believes He can cleanse the leper, and the leper believes Jesus can cleanse him, but can He? What we see is this: Jesus says, “Be cleansed,” and immediately the leprosy leaves the man. In a moment this wasting disease that was evident all over the man’s body vanishes completely and he is as clean as a newborn baby. The object of the man’s faith proves to be as powerful as the man believed Him to be. Jesus proves He has the power of sovereign God and is the worthy object of faith for all who will believe.

Finally this story reveals the compassion and the power of the Lord Jesus, a unique and awesome combination in one Person. Jesus has all the power of God, for He is God in human flesh and can thus do whatever He pleases. He has the power to stop storms and to raise the dead (as we will see later), but this power is constrained by His compassion and His holiness to direct that power in righteousness. And thus we see the Lord of glory having compassion on this wretched leper and cleansing him. Unlike any other false god, the one true and living God is compassionate and gracious and has mercy on any sinner who cries out to Him.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Luke’s Gospel – No. 1 – Jesus and the Leper

    1. An excellent observation, Isaac, and maybe the most significant. In essence, I am the leper coming to Jesus to be cleansed. Only He can make me clean and by His grace He is willing. He has cleansed me and made me whole.

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