A Word for Today | Luke 5:12-16
Leprosy was one of the worst maladies of the ancient world. It disfigured the skin but also corrupted the bones and bloodstream. So terrible was leprosy that its victims were quarantined for life, isolating them from all society and especially from the life of the church. Under Leviticus 13:45-46, lepers were required to wear torn clothes, keep their hair loose, and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” when anyone drew near. In all of these things, leprosy is a biblical portrait of sin: corrupting our nature, afflicting us with suffering, ruining relationships, and severing us from the holy presence of God. Even worse, most people do not realize they are afflicted by the curse of sin, which makes it even worse than leprosy.
Luke tells of a leper who knew his dreadful condition and came to Jesus hoping to be cleansed: “When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean’” (Lk. 5:12). He came to Jesus because he recognized His deity, calling him “Lord.” But he also had learned about the wonderful works Jesus had done for others, professing his faith: “you can make me clean.” Yet he had a question: was Jesus willing? He knew that Jesus was a Savior, but he did not know if Jesus was willing to save him. How many people feel this way about our Lord. Feeling the weight of their secret sins, they wonder if God will be willing to forgive them, though He has been gracious to save others. Is this leper’s question yours as well? “I know that you are able. But are you willing, Lord?”
In wonderful brevity, Jesus answered, “I will; be clean” (Lk. 5:13). I can think of at least two reasons why Jesus was willing to heal this leper. The first is seen in Mark’s version of this miracle, which says that Jesus was “filled with compassion” (Mk. 1:41). The leper was full of impurity and uncleanness, but Jesus is full of compassion, so he was willing. His compassion corresponds to the level of our sin: He is full of it! Jesus came into this world to know us in our sufferings, to feel the pain of thirst and weariness. He suffered temptation and therefore is able, even as God, to sympathize with our suffering and our trials. Jesus is willing to save you, not because of what is in you, not because you are lovely or lovable, but because of what is in Him. He is “filled with compassion” and so He is willing.
The other reason Jesus was willing is seen in what he did: “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him” (Lk. 5:13). I imagine the touch of Jesus’ hand was completely astonishing to this leper. He believed that Jesus could make him clean, but he never dreamed that Jesus could touch him. Yet notice that Jesus did not first cleanse him and then touch him; He touched him in his unclean state and only then said, “Be clean.” If anyone else touched a leper they would become unclean. But Jesus, in His infinite purity, can touch the leper – and our sinful hearts – without any corruption to Himself. And notice that Jesus touched him before He made him clean! What a Savior: willing to answer our plea, willing to touch us in our sin, willing to die on the cross to forgive our sins, and willing to take us as His people. He is willing! And He also is able!
In Christ’s Love,