I’ve slowed down reading Scripture a little bit compared to the pace I started with. I’m just gonna say it: food regulations, rules for sacrifices, and rules on cleanliness aren’t as interesting as the story of Joseph or Moses. But the Bible is from God, and in order to know Him better, I have kept going as best as I can, even though the middle of Leviticus is very dry and repetitive. But boy am I glad I kept reading!
Leviticus 13 describes how a priest examines people for skin diseases, and what a person who has leprosy, a sign of uncleanness, must do. I tried to focus on reading the chapter as best as I could, but you know what I thought of the whole time? Jesus healing the leper. I meditated on His miracle as I read the chapter and what it meant.
As I got to the end of the chapter, the last two verses broke my heart. Leviticus 13:45-46 says:
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone. They must live outside the camp.”
I tried to put myself in the shoes of a leper. Imagine being separated from your family, friends and loved ones, with no hope of ever being accepted back into society. That would be an awfully hard, lonely life. Plus I’m sure the stigma of leprosy also caused the people in the days of the Israelites to view lepers as cursed by God. And if a leper shouted “Unclean! Unclean!” as they walked along, it was probably an invitation to be made fun of or ridiculed. Knowing this, it made the miracle Jesus performed nearly 1,500 years later, that much more powerful and beautiful. Although I’ve seen several versions of the miracle portrayed, this is my favorite one:
That scene always has me choked up or in tears. Imagine how lonely that man must’ve been before he met Jesus. He may have wandered alone for days, weeks, months, or years. And at the same time imagine his indescribable joy after he was healed! Jesus showed how radical and unending His love is. He was willing to go to a person society considered the lowest of the low, and not only heal him completely, but restore his place among the people.
Things to learn from Jesus’ miracle
After reading Leviticus 13, and connecting it to Matthew 8 (which is where the above scene in The Chosen is taken from), I definitely had questions. I wrestled with what it meant other than Jesus loved the leper enough to heal him. Those who aren’t Christians but well versed in the Bible and the Torah will say that Jesus violated a Levitical law on cleanness by healing the leper, which is committing a sin.
But Jesus did not violate any law, nor did He sin. Rather, He revealed God’s character in that instance: That He loves the people who society shuns and looks down upon. I still struggle mentally with reading Leviticus 13 and then Matthew 8, because they seem contradictory. Why would God give these laws on cleanliness, and then heal a leper 1,500 years later? I still don’t entirely know the answer to that one, and I am not going to claim that I do. This is where faith comes in 🙂
This is just my take, so take it with a grain of salt. But I believe this was an instance of God teaching us that we should have a heart like His, rather than be legalistic. And He shows us this several more times throughout the New Testament. By healing the leper, Jesus fulfilled the heart of God’s law rather than the letter of it. The heart of God’s law is love.
Jesus also did two other things by healing the leper: Reward the leper’s faith, and provide a MASSIVE clue to His ultimate identity as the Messiah. The leper had never personally met Jesus before. He had no reason to believe He was a miracle worker. He had only heard from somebody else about Him. But yet he had enough faith in his heart to say, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He addressed Jesus as Lord because in his heart, the leper knew who He was. The leper had faith and trusted in Him.
Which brings me to the last thing I learned: By this miracle, Jesus showed in just one of many ways that He is the Messiah and God incarnate in the flesh. This was just one in a series of seven major miracles He performed that are recorded in the New Testament. They’re big flashing neon signs pointing right to Jesus as if He’s saying, “I’M RIGHT HERE! YOU CAN’T MISS ME!”
I also see the healing of the leper in another way. We are all spiritual lepers. Our souls are infected with the spiritual leprosy of sin. But just as Jesus rewarded the faith of the leper, He rewards us when we have faith in Him to forgive us of our sins, and to trust in Him. And just as Jesus embraced the leper after healing Him, He will one day embrace us in the Kingdom of Heaven if we allow His sacrifice to make us clean.