by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Mark 1:40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Leprosy was one of the worst, if not the worst, disease to affect anyone. Leprosy was a disease of the skin, but there seemed to be different forms of this disease. “Hansen’s disease” seems to be the closest equivalent to biblical leprosy; other notes in various study Bibles suggest eczema or other skin diseases might be considered leprosy as well. Leviticus 13 and 14 give detailed information about the diagnosis, treatment, and cleansing of any leper.
Leprosy was not restricted to human flesh or skin. Leprosy could infect leather and/or woolen garments, and could also be found inside houses.
Note that this leper broke about every commandment in the Law concerning leprosy when he approached Jesus! There is no record he had gone to a Levitical priest for diagnosis (compare Lev. 13:1-45), no record of him wearing a face covering, a bare head, or “rent (torn)” clothing—and he sure wasn’t alone if he’s trying to find Jesus!
Even so, notice this leper’s faith: he believed Jesus could heal him of leprosy; and his humility, “if thou wilt”, recognizing he had no authority to demand anything, especially healing, from Jesus.
41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
Mark does not state where or when this took place but in the context, this was somewhere in Galilee. Whether this man was the first leper Jesus healed is not certain but this man did receive healing of his leprosy. Jesus was “moved with compassion” for this man and touched him—risking, humanly speaking, contracting leprosy Himself but that didn’t happen! He said, “I will, be thou clean” and that was enough.
42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
If this is taken in order, Jesus first saw the leper, then touched him, and finally spoke to him. Those with more knowledge of the original language and grammar may have other insights. What Mark wants to emphasize is that the leper was healed by the Lord’s touch and as soon as the Lord spoke, Mark adds, “'immediately’ the leprosy departed from him"!
43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
‘Straitly” means sternly or strictly. Jesus was happy to heal the leper but there was more to do after the leper was cleansed. The next verse lists the instructions Jesus gave him to follow.
44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
Under the Law of Moses, still in effect in those days, there were procedures to follow for any leper who received cleansing. These procedures are listed, quite specifically, in Leviticus 14:1-32 and Jesus reminded the (now former) leper of what he still needed to do.
45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
Why this former leper didn’t go to the priest and follow the commandments from Moses is something that has puzzled many people and I don’t have a definite answer. The former leper was such an “evangelist” for Jesus that He couldn’t enter the city (which one is not specified) but had to stay in desert places.
And people still—still!—came to Him from everywhere!
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).
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