Matthew 7:24-8:4 (ESV)
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. 8 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
When Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount, the crowds were astonished by his teaching. They were literally overwhelmed as Jesus taught them new things from God rather than deferring to what well-known rabbis had said in the past. The cleansing of the leper in verse 3 is the first of ten miracles Matthew records in chapters 8 and 9, which provide a series of snapshots from the healing ministry of Jesus. The leper was a most unlikely candidate for Jesus’ ministry as lepers were excluded from Israel’s healthy population. Leprosy, a horrible skin disease, was contagious, and once caught, some forms were incurable. Thus, anyone found with leprosy had to live outside the city and away from its residents. If a leper did happen to cross paths with a non-leper, he was required by law to call out, “Unclean, unclean!” signaling the potential danger of his presence. Can you imagine what life must have been like for those with incurable leprosy? They were not only subject to this terrible disease, but cut off from all social life, including their families. We often feel discouraged by our circumstances. But how many of us suffer the hopelessness that ancient lepers felt?
We see this despair in the leper’s approach to Jesus. He knew full well that Jesus could heal him. So his question wasn’t “Can you heal me?” but “Will you heal me?” It was as if he asked, “Jesus, will you heal someone as insignificant and castaway as I am?” Let’s not miss what happened here! Not only did Jesus heal, but he also displayed incredible compassion as he purposely stretched out his hand and touched the man. This was totally counter-cultural. How long must it have been since this man received a physical touch? Wow! What about you? Do you feel “unclean” because of past sin? Have you confessed it and asked Jesus to forgive you or heal you? If so, know that not only has he completely cleansed you from your unrighteousness, but he also embraces you and causes his Spirit to live in you. Just as the leper was made whole again, so is the Christian. Let’s remember as we go through our day that Jesus himself has shown great compassion on us and cleansed us from all of our sin. Let’s show compassion to others as we demonstrate the wonderful things our Savior has done.