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What did the leper do for Jesus?
Jesus’s miracles were going to have a significant purpose, particularly those performed early in his ministry in the Galilee area. If the promised Messiah was going to proclaim freedom for prisoners, there could not have been an imprisonment much worse than the death sentence of leprosy. So healing a leper would certainly cause a stir. Being a leper was real bad news. Talking to one was almost as bad, in fact you were meant to stay at least six feet away and certainly not downwind! Touching one was considered sheer madness, so Jesus certainly made an impression when he met, touched and healed a leper who approached him.
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "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!" And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-13)
Now leprosy was a strange disease. Since the time of Moses, no Jew had ever been cured of leprosy. There was no cure known by doctors or religious leaders. In fact, according to tradition, only one person could ever heal a leper - the Messiah who was to come, the anointed one, the Christ.
He had hit a nerve and the reaction was yet to come. What Jesus was doing was throwing down the gauntlet to the religious authorities. He was saying this:
Hey, you don’t want to believe in me, but you’re going to have to now. I’ve just done something that no mere man could ever do. I’ve performed a miracle that you say only the Messiah could do. So what does that make me?
Yet although there was no known cure, the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 13-14) gave lots of details of what to do if a leper was healed. It was as if Moses knew that one day, in the future, one would come who would be able to cure this disease. But, then again, didn’t he prophesy “The Prophet who was to come”? So he knew what he was doing.
“Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” (Luke 5:14)
This is what Leviticus tells us. If someone claimed to be healed of leprosy he had to go to the priests and offer a sacrifice of two birds and start a seven day investigation to answer three questions. Was the person really a leper? Was he actually cured of leprosy? How did he get cured? Then, on the eighth day, a whole series of sacrifices was offered.
So the ex-leper was sent to the priests, as a testimony of what had just happened and the only possible conclusion they could make in this case was that Jesus had to be the Messiah.
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses”. (Luke 5:14-15)
So the cat was out of the bag. Not only were the priests alerted to him, but news of this miracle spread throughout the land. A marker had been laid down. Follow that! He did …
In healing the leper, he had proclaimed freedom for the prisoner and performed a miracle that only the Messiah could perform. Now he was going to release the oppressed. He was going to attempt the really impossible …