Summary: The story of the leper, cleansed by Jesus. Leprosy likened to the sin of the sinner. Once a leper, once a sinner…
ONCE A LEPER
Matthew 8:1-4, "When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them."
The man knew something was wrong...very wrong. He hoped that if he waited long enough, it would just go away. But it didn’t go away. In fact, it only got worse. Soon, others started to notice that he looked pale and sickly; and he realized that he would have to take a journey and present himself to the experts, the priests, to figure out what exactly was going on.
He made his way to a room where he had never been before in order to speak to someone he had not met before. After what seemed like several hours, the door opened and a priest entered. The priest examined the man, “It’s here,” as he rolled up his sleeve and revealed an open, runny sore. Again he said, “It’s here,” as he slipped his collar to the side, exposing another oozing sore. “It’s here too,” as he removed his sandal, where there was yet another puss-filled nodule on the top of his foot.
The priest looked coolly at the man. There was no compassion in his voice when he said “I declare unto you that you are unclean. Now hear the words of the law: ‘A Leper must wear torn clothes, and his hair must be unkempt, and everywhere he goes, he must cover his mouth with his hand and shout out, ‘unclean, unclean.’ He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.’ May God have mercy on your soul!”
His entire life, he had known about the lepers. His mother and father had warned him about them. They were unclean. They were disfigured and monstrous to look at. They were to him, as a young child, monsters. They were surely cursed of God. They must have committed a terrible sin for them to become lepers. He remembered his friends throwing rocks at lepers outside the gates of the city.
With the terrible diagnosis came the awful knowledge that there was no cure. Once a leper, always a leper…
And now he was one. His worst nightmare had just come true. As he slowly picked himself up, he stood there in that dark room for several minutes in a state of shock. Then, with determination, he started ripping the robe that his wife had made for him. He bent down and gathered some dust and rubbed it all over his face and hair until he looked like nothing more than a wild man. When he stepped outside and squinted at the brightness of the light, he slowly covered his mouth with his hand and choked out the dreaded words, “UNCLEAN! I AM UNCLEAN!!!”
And for the first time in his life, people wretched and recoiled when they saw him. A mother quickly grabbed her children and yelled, “Don’t touch that man! Stay away from him!” A vendor of vegetables on the street corner threw something at him and shouted, “GET OUT OF HERE!” And so, you can imagine that as this leper walked down the street, he was shunned. Little children looked at him, got scared, and ran away. Older children kept their distance by throwing rocks at him and making cutting remarks. Adults walked on the other side of the street, shaking their heads in disgust or just looking away.
Quickly the leper made his way outside the city into the open countryside and headed for home. But the worst was yet to come, because he knew he could no longer have contact with his wife or children! When his wife saw him coming from a distance, she and their children ran to their father with joy and excitement, only to hear him growl at them and say, “KEEP AWAY FROM ME! I AM NO LONGER YOUR FATHER! I AM A LEPER!”
A funeral service was held for him in his village by the local Rabbi because he was considered dead the moment he was diagnosed. The man’s health went downhill quickly. He was covered from head to toe with oozing sores. His body started decomposing and the odor of death poured out of every pore. In the Old Testament “leprosy” means “to rot” and that’s exactly what was happening. His skin was like a pool of slime. Dr. Luke mentions in Luke 5:12 that he was “full of leprosy” or “covered” with it. It’s like someone having full-blown AIDS or terminal cancer. He was a dead man walking.