If you had been there, you would have ridden an emotional roller coaster. The Sermon on the Mount was over. The large crowds were so blown away by the authority of Jesus’ teaching that, when He walked down off the mountain, they just had to follow Him. They could sense it; they were in on something big. Jesus was going to be really famous and popular. But then:
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:2-4)
It’s hard for us to appreciate how jolting it would have been for the people following Jesus, to suddenly discover a leper in their midst. People with leprosy were so horribly disfigured that they were severely ostracized and shunned. They were considered unclean, spiritually dangerous to be near. And here comes a leper, right up to Jesus. It was shocking and revolting. But then Jesus touched him, making Himself unclean by the rules of their day, and risking catching the disease. Jesus went from being the grand winner of “Galilee’s Got Talent” to making Himself unfit to be near. You can imagine how the crowd’s emotions were tossed back and forth.
Before anyone could recover from the shock of those two things, the leprous man was instantly healed! Fear and revulsion would have suddenly turned into amazement and awe! Let’s sound the trumpets! Jesus can stand up now and loudly proclaim His Divinity. He can bask in the glory of His great power. The crowd would have gone wild…
But that’s not what He did. Jesus told the man not to tell anyone. Instead, He said, he should follow the customary procedure for someone who was healed – get checked out by a priest and bring an offering. Why would Jesus tell this man to keep it a secret? Why would He set it up for the priests to get the credit? Confused? So were all the people in the crowd. Jesus didn’t say why and Matthew doesn’t tell us. He just let them ride the roller coaster.
Maybe you have felt a little like the leper – too much like damaged goods to be able to get near Jesus. Maybe you see all those Christians crowding around Jesus and think, “I’m not like those people; they wouldn’t want me to come in and ruin the celebration.” Maybe you are wondering if Jesus would reach out and touch you, if He would heal you from whatever kind of moral, spiritual or physical “leprosy” that afflicts you. If so, carefully consider three things about how he brought his request:
1. First, he kneeled before Jesus and called Him “Lord.” Mathew used a word for prostrating oneself as an act of wholehearted worship. The leper approached Jesus with humility and reverence, with a deep sense of how needy he was and how Holy Jesus was.
2. Secondly, he acknowledged Jesus’ power and authority. He said “… you can make me clean.” This was a profound statement of faith. “You can do it.” Trusting Jesus means believing He is able.
3. Finally, the leper accepted that Jesus would only heal him if He was willing. He left the decision up to Jesus.
We would do well to remember these three attitudes whenever we bring a request to Jesus. Remember his attitude of humble reverence before the “Lord,” His faith in Jesus’ great power, and how he submitted himself to what Jesus willed. Jesus, Himself modeled these 3 attitudes in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
When you approach Jesus, don’t come with the crowd. They can be easily confused. Instead, come with the leper. He knew what to do.