Lessons From A Former Leper

“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."

Matthew 8:2

I love reading my bible. Not so much that I might teach others anything about God but that I myself might know God, and not intellectually but personally, intimately. Every time I read the story of the leper Jesus healed I am in awe of the faith and the courage this leper displayed. I try to image what it was like that day when the leper saw Jesus coming with a throng of people surrounding Him. Seemingly lost in a sea of people the lepers actions serve as a great teachable moment for me, and maybe for you.

First, its important to understand something about leprosy, as the type of leprosy this leper had came with a death sentence attached to it. I’m not sure if you are aware or not but leprosy in the Bible was a symbol of sin. That doesn’t mean every case of leprosy in the Bible is a direct result of the individuals sin. It just means leprosy itself is a by product of sin. Romans 5:12 puts it like this, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Sin, like leprosy spreads and ultimately kills unless the individual is cleansed. So remember, where you see leprosy in the Bible you see sin associated with it.

The symbolism is powerful. Leprosy usually started out as a spot and would quickly spread and it would eventually impact the entire central nervous system. That’s the same effect sin has too. Sin usually starts out small and seemingly insignificant and then suddenly it grows and begins to take over. One of my favorite pastors likes to put it like this, “toy with sin and in the end sin will toy with you.” Like with leprosy, eventually you lose your sense of feeling which is dangerous as without feeling you can injure yourself to the point of the loss of limbs and ultimately death. In Ephesians 4:19 the apostle Paul writes regarding the effects of sin with the same picture in mind, “who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

So, what’s the lesson we can learn from the leper? First, the leper didn’t come to get he came to give. It says in Matthew 8:2 that the leper worshipped Jesus. He didn’t come to Jesus and try to cut a deal. He didn’t say, “Lord if you heal me I will worship you.” The leper reminds me of Job who in the midst of his own suffering would say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). A great question to ask ourselves, “why do I worship Jesus?” Is it because He is Lord and worthy of all praise? Or, is it because I believe down deep in my heart if I worship Him, I’ll get something from Him?

Second, the leper risked it all. Lepers were outcasts in society, living outside the city. Isolated from everyone including family and friends. Lepers, for the protection of the uninfected were required that when they got within 150 feet of another person they were to cry out in a loud voice, “Unclean, Unclean” so as to give ample opportunity for those approaching to avoid any contact. Maybe the leper stood yelling “Unclean, Unclean” before bowing down in worship? No one knows for sure but what we do know is this leper risked it all in coming to Jesus. You might be thinking, “he already had leprosy and was dying so what was he risking?” Further rejection and humiliation that’s what. Its one thing to be rejected by society and quite another thing to be rejected by the Lord in front of a massive crowd. Is there anything that could be worse?

The leper was obviously more concerned about what the Lord thought than what people might think. When the leper reached Jesus he didn’t look around to see what everyone else was doing or how they were doing it. The leper worshiped the Lord and then asked Jesus, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” A great question to ask ourselves is, Do I worry about what others think when I worship the Lord? Am I concerned how I will appear or how I will sound? Is how we look or sound even important to the Lord?  

The third thing we can learn from this leper is he exercised faith in Jesus. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” This leper believed in the sovereignty of God, he understood that God has the power to do whatever He wants to do whenever He wants to do it. What the leper didn’t know, what he couldn’t know was, was Jesus willing? Thats why we pray, it’s why we ask. It’s why we trust.

Whatever God’s answer is we must believe it is for His glory and for our good. It’s been well said, “God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.” Matthew 8:3 tells us, “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Jesus answered the lepers request. My heart is encouraged every time I read this story and I pray yours is too. Jesus words earlier in Matthew 6:8 come to my mind, “Therefore do not be like them (hypocrites). For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” As a leper who had been cut off from society most likely what he longed for most of all in his healing was to once again enjoy human touch. Jesus could have spoken the word and the leper would have been healed but Jesus knew the lepers heart. Jesus knew his longing and Jesus knows yours and mine too!

Rest in that today, loved one. Your Heavenly Father knows what you need of even before you ask Him. God is totally aware of what you and I are up against today. Jesus is willing to cleanse us, we know that for certain. And knowing that is true let me encourage you with what the story of the leper here in Matthew chapter 8 encourages me…

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16



Michael Osthimer





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