Based on Luke chapter 4 verses 38 to 41 and Luke chapter 5 verses 12 to 16
Healing a Leper
Today, leprosy can be cured. But in the days of Jesus, before the cure was found, it was one of the worst and most terrible of things that could happen to a person. If you got leprosy, your life would never be the same again, there was no hope for you – except to live your life in exile away from all other people – except other lepers!
At the slightest sign of the disease taking hold of a person - they were driven away by everyone else. If you were a mother or a father, you could never hold your children again or have the embrace of your loved ones. Isolated and excluded from your home, you’d be forced to live far away for healthy people in case you gave them the disease. Your family might bring food for you, but they would always leave it some distance away, and shout some kind of message to you to let you know where it was. But all you’d see of them would be their backs as they ran away.
But it wasn’t just the fear of catching the disease that made your family keep away. How could they bear to watch you as the illness took hold and you became more and more disfigured as it destroyed your skin, disfiguring your face, wrecking your hands and feet. How could they bear to watch you fall to pieces? And so they keep away – and maybe you’d live wishing you were dead, while the disease left you living year after year with your body becoming more and more unrecognisable. Thank God that today we have a cure for this terrible illness.
But at that time, it wasn’t since the days of Naaman, when the great prophet Elisha was alive that anyone had been healed of leprosy. And that was a great miracle performed by the mighty power of God working from Elisha. And only one person, Naaman, the commander of an enemy, had been healed! Since then, no one else had been healed - so it seemed there was no hope.
But not all gave up hope; at least not when they started to hear about Jesus! Jesus was travelling around healing people or all kinds of illnesses. Even amongst the small groups of lepers who lived together outside the towns or cities of Israel - the news of Jesus had started to spread.
There had been stories of how Jesus had healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, who lay dying of a fever. It was said that everyone in the house begged Jesus to heal to her, and then, standing at her bedside, he’d spoken to the fever, telling it to go, and immediately her temperature returned to normal and she was completely well. After that she’d got up and on with her life – looking after Jesus and preparing a meal for everyone in the house!
And after that, there were told of many more healings. Apparently, at the end of the day, all the people from the village brought their sick to Jesus – and no matter how ill they were – no matter what sickness they had – Jesus had healed every single one of them! (PAUSE)
Jesus healed every single one of them! If Jesus had healed all those sick people, could He heal - a leper? The question kept going round and round the man’s head. If Jesus could heal every disease and sickness that He came across, did that mean He could heal a leper as well? ‘What do you think?’ He asked the other lepers in his group. ‘Do you think Jesus could heal a leper – like me?’
‘Look at you,’ another one of them replied. ‘You’re a mess! You’ve had leprosy for years, your body’s full of it. No one can cure leprosy – I don’t care what stories you’ve heard – and even if they could, you’re too far gone. Stop thinking about it, you’ll only make matters worse when you find out He can’t heal you.’
But the man didn’t stop thinking about it. Day and night he thought about all that Jesus had done. Not only had Jesus healed all those people of their illnesses. But He’d even saved people who were possessed by evil spirits. All He did was command the spirits to leave and they came out of the people with a shout, screaming, ‘You are the Son of God.’ It seems Jesus’d told them to be quiet when they’d shouted that out. But what if it were true – what if this Jesus really was the Son of God? (P) After all, surely only the Son of God could do such wonder miracles? Surely only the Son of God could command evil spirits to leave and have them obey?
Day after day, and night after night the man thought about all he’d heard of Jesus, and slowly but surely he became more and more sure that Jesus could heal him – no matter how bad his leprosy was – if Jesus wanted to He could heal anyone! He needed to find Jesus!
We don’t know who told the man. Maybe it was someone from his own family who also believed that Jesus could heal even lepers? Or maybe he overheard a conversation? We may never know. But somehow the man found out that Jesus was coming by. As soon as he knew - he went to find Jesus, and finding Him, he fell to his knees in the dust worshipping Jesus, and said. ‘Lord, if you want to, you can make me well again.’ (PAUSE)
What would Jesus do? Here before Him was a man covered with leprosy – would Jesus even want to heal such a man – someone who was so helpless, whose last hope was Jesus.
As the man knelt in the dust, Jesus looked at him and started to walk towards him. He could see the scars and marks of the disease, but it didn’t stop Him going right up to the man and doing something no one else had done in many years. Jesus reached out and touched him! Jesus touched someone that no one else ever would. And with a look of love on His face, Jesus replied. ‘I want to – be healed.’
At the touch and words of Jesus, the man knew that something was different. He could tell even without looking at his diseased hands that the leprosy was no longer there. It’d gone!
He was so excited! Jesus had healed him. Jesus had healed him! It was wonderful, incredible – he wanted the whole world to know JESUS HAD HEALED HIM – healed a man of incurable leprosy! In his excitement he suddenly realised that Jesus was talking to him.
‘Now,’ Jesus started. ‘Go to the priest and let him give you a good examination. Take with you the offering described in the Bible that’s required to be offered for anyone who’s healed of leprosy. If you do this then everyone will know that you really are healed. (P) And please don’t tell anyone what’s happened here today.’
Jesus had healed him – as he made his way on the long journey to go and see the priest, he couldn’t get over the incredible joy of knowing he was healed. And he still wanted the whole world to know how incredible Jesus was. And so, even though Jesus had asked him not too, he started telling one person here and another person there. And then 2 or 3 people, and then more and more people – he wanted everyone to know – Jesus had made him clean!
However, then end result of all this was that life became much harder for Jesus as huge crowds of people came to hear Him talk and be healed of their illnesses. But very sensibly, Jesus would often leave them all - and go to the wilderness to spend time praying to His Father in Heaven.