World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

Jesus Cleanses a Leper


When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” 3He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4Then 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, as a testimony to them.”

Select a resource above

Mt 8:1-4. Healing of a Leper. ( = Mr 1:40-45; Lu 5:12-16).

The time of this miracle seems too definitely fixed here to admit of our placing it where it stands in Mark and Luke, in whose Gospels no such precise note of time is given.

1. When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

2. And, behold, there came a leper—"a man full of leprosy," says Lu 5:12. Much has been written on this disease of leprosy, but certain points remain still doubtful. All that needs be said here is that it was a cutaneous disease, of a loathsome, diffusive, and, there is reason to believe, when thoroughly pronounced, incurable character; that though in its distinctive features it is still found in several countries—as Arabia, Egypt, and South Africa—it prevailed, in the form of what is called white leprosy, to an unusual extent, and from a very early period, among the Hebrews; and that it thus furnished to the whole nation a familiar and affecting symbol of SIN, considered as (1) loathsome, (2) spreading, (3) incurable. And while the ceremonial ordinances for detection and cleansing prescribed in this case by the law of Moses (Le 13:1-14:57) held forth a coming remedy "for sin and for uncleanness" (Ps 51:7; 2Ki 5:1, 7, 10, 13, 14), the numerous cases of leprosy with which our Lord came in contact, and the glorious cures of them which He wrought, were a fitting manifestation of the work which He came to accomplish. In this view, it deserves to be noticed that the first of our Lord's miracles of healing recorded by Matthew is this cure of a leper.

and worshipped him—in what sense we shall presently see. Mark says (Mr 1:40), he came, "beseeching and kneeling to Him," and Luke says (Lu 5:12), "he fell on his face."

saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean—As this is the only cure of leprosy recorded by all the three first Evangelists, it was probably the first case of the kind; and if so, this leper's faith in the power of Christ must have been formed in him by what he had heard of His other cures. And how striking a faith is it! He does not say he believed Him able, but with a brevity expressive of a confidence that knew no doubt, he says simply, "Thou canst." But of Christ's willingness to heal him he was not so sure. It needed more knowledge of Jesus than he could be supposed to have to assure him of that. But one thing he was sure of, that He had but to "will" it. This shows with what "worship" of Christ this leper fell on his face before Him. Clear theological knowledge of the Person of Christ was not then possessed even by those who were most with Him and nearest to Him. Much less could full insight into all that we know of the Only-begotten of the Father be expected of this leper. But he who at that moment felt and owned that to heal an incurable disease needed but the fiat of the Person who stood before him, had assuredly that very faith in the germ which now casts its crown before Him that loved us, and would at any time die for His blessed name.

3. And Jesus—or "He," according to another reading,—"moved with compassion," says Mark (Mr 1:41); a precious addition.

put forth his hand, and touched him—Such a touch occasioned ceremonial defilement (Le 5:3); even as the leper's coming near enough for contact was against the Levitical regulations (Le 13:46). But as the man's faith told him there would be no case for such regulations if the cure he hoped to experience should be accomplished, so He who had healing in His wings transcended all such statutes.

saying, I will; be thou clean—How majestic those two words! By not assuring the man of His power to heal him, He delightfully sets His seal to the man's previous confession of that power; and by assuring him of the one thing of which he had any doubt, and for which he waited—His will to do it—He makes a claim as divine as the cure which immediately followed it.

And immediately his leprosy was cleansed—Mark, more emphatic, says (Mr 1:42), "And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed"—as perfectly as instantaneously. What a contrast this to modern pretended cures!

4. And Jesus—"straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away" (Mr 1:43), and

saith unto him, See thou tell no man—A hard condition this would seem to a grateful heart, whose natural language, in such a case, is "Come, hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul" (Ps 66:16). We shall presently see the reason for it.

but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded—(Le 14:1-57).

for a testimony unto them—a palpable witness that the Great Healer had indeed come, and that "God had visited His people." What the sequel was, our Evangelist Matthew does not say; but Mark thus gives it (Mr 1:45): "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." Thus—by an over-zealous, though most natural and not very culpable, infringement of the injunction to keep the matter quiet—was our Lord, to some extent, thwarted in His movements. As His whole course was sublimely noiseless (Mt 12:19), so we find Him repeatedly taking steps to prevent matters prematurely coming to a crisis with Him. (But see on Mr 5:19, 20). "And He withdrew Himself," adds Luke (Lu 5:16), "into the wilderness, and prayed"; retreating from the popular excitement into the secret place of the Most High, and thus coming forth as dew upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth (Ps 72:6). And this is the secret both of strength and of sweetness in the servants and followers of Christ in every age.