When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Matthew ends his report of Jesus’ sermon on the mount and returns to recording events in Jesus’ life.
Jesus came down from the mountain. Suddenly, a leper confronts Him. The term leprosy covered a wide range of conditions. A Leper was ostracized from society. He remained isolated until a priest declared him cured. (Leviticus 13:45-46). Leprosy was seldom curable by natural means.
Mark and Luke record this event as well. Matthew said the leper knelt. Mark said, that he fell on his knees. Luke said he fell down on his face. Is this an inconsistency? If the bible is inerrant, why don’t they agree? The answer is simple. There is no inconsistency. We can reconcile the three without difficulty.
Matthew says he knelt. If he knelt he was on his knees. So Matthew and Mark agree. Luke says he fell on his face. He could be on his knees bowing down with his face in the dirt. So we reconcile the three with ease. There is no inconsistency.
Some think the leaper knelt to worship Jesus. That could be true. But it is not a necessary conclusion. Kneeling showed reverence and respect. This was common among the Jews of the time.
The leper may have no idea who Jesus was. He may have thought of Jesus as a prophet. Jesus was a prophet. That was one of the offices Jesus held. God worked through prophets before. God used Elisha to cure Naaman. (2 Kings 5:9-14). Christ did not need to be the Son of God to cure the leper.
The leper made no presumptions about rather or not Jesus would heal him. “If you will…” We should never presume upon God. If it is His will. There are those who claim to pray “if it is your will…”, shows a lack of faith. That is not true. It is not even close to true. It demonstrates confidence in God’s providence. It demonstrates a trust in God. So rather than lack of faith, it shows great faith.
Jesus reached out and touched the leper. Touching a leper would render Jesus unclean. Jesus did not touch a leper. He touched a man who was clean. Jesus’ touch made the man clean. There was no violation of the law.
Jesus told him not to say anything to anyone but go to the priest. Some think Christ prohibited the man from telling others about his cure. And Christ did so because His time had not come. The thinking is Jesus wanted to avoid the crowds clamoring for healings. That is one possible reading of the passage. But it is not a necessary reading.
The most sincere way to express thankfulness was through obedience. God prefers obedience over sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22)
Another is another understanding. The man was to fulfill the requirements of the law before taking time to talk with anyone. Go directly to the priest. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. The idea is, Jesus was telling the man to fulfill the law first. Once declared clean and the sacrifice offered, he could tell whoever he wanted.