Posts tagged ‘Leper’

Cleansing and Telling

Credit: Christ Healing the Leper (1534) / Wikimedia

As Matthew 8 opens, a leper comes to Jesus, desperate for healing from his chronic, and ultimately terminal, ailment:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Jesus and said, “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!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Jesus’ words to this man upon his healing are puzzling: “See to it that you don’t tell anyone” (Matthew 8:4). What? Why? The story opens with “large crowds” (Matthew 8:1) following Jesus. It’s not as if this healing was done in secret, so it’s not as if this man could have kept this healing a secret. Why would this leper not tell anyone about a healing that everyone had just seen?

The key comes not in who Jesus tells this man not to tell, but in who Jesus tells this man to tell: “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4). The priests were the ones responsible, according to Leviticus 14, for ceremonially cleansing someone who had been cured of a skin disease. The process involved an examination, the sprinkling of blood, a guilt offering, and a sin offering. Jesus instructs the leper to go to the priest and go through the rigmarole of the cleansing ritual, but not so that he may be cleansed. For he already has been. Jesus has already ordered the leper’s skin to “be clean” (Matthew 8:3)! Instead, the leper is to do this “as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4) – a testimony that the One who can fully cleanse the unclean has come. Sadly, we know that the priests – along with many other Jewish religious leaders – did not receive this man’s testimony, but instead were offended by Jesus and “plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14).

Who Jesus tells this leper to tell and not tell can be instructive for us, for we can all be tempted to talk about our faith in Jesus only with the crowds – with people who are predisposed to be impressed with our message. But sometimes, Jesus invites us instead to turn our attention to the skeptical and even the hostile and share our faith with them “as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4). This is difficult and frightening. But it is also very needed. For even the skeptical and hostile need cleansing – cleansing from guilt, shame, and sin. Who is Jesus inviting you to share your faith with today? You can’t coerce someone else’s faith. But you can share your own.

Remember, Jesus did not just come for the people who were friendly to Him. He came for everyone – even His enemies. May we share the message of that One with everyone.

July 18, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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