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The Leprous Messiah

16 Oct
from Google Images

from Google Images

In Luke 5:12-16 we find that Jesus healed a certain leper, but there are a few paradoxes in this record that need to be addressed. First of all, according to the Law of Moses a leper was not permitted in any city of Israel. He was to dwell alone, so he wouldn’t defile (or infect) any of his countrymen (Leviticus 13:46; Number 5:2-4). Indeed, if anyone should ignorantly approach him, he was supposed to cover his upper lip and shout: “Unclean, unclean…” (Leviticus 13:45). So, how does this leper get into a city in Galilee and approach Jesus without being rebuked by anyone, including Jesus for what he has done?

Luke tells us that this man was full of leprosy (Luke 5:12). That is, his leprosy was complete; the plague had covered his entire body and was no longer spreading. In such a case the priest was allowed to pronounce such a one ceremonially clean (Leviticus 13:13). In other words, the leper no longer presented a problem to society, because his disease was no longer infectious. Technically, therefore, this leper was permitted in the city, and he no longer had to wear a mask over his mouth and warn people by saying: “Unclean, unclean…” Nevertheless, he probably had no real friends. After all, who would embrace a leprous man, regardless of what the priest said about his being clean? He may have been permitted in any city among the Jews, but he probably would have been alone in any crowd.

The Scriptures seem to show that leprosy is like sin. Indeed, we are commanded to separate ourselves from the sinner (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 4:14-15; cf. Leviticus 26:27-28). At least three persons in the Old Testament were stricken with leprosy as a result of their sin. Miriam, Moses’ sister, was stricken with the plague for seven days, because she rose up against Moses (Numbers 12:9-15). Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (2Kings 5:20) was stricken by God with leprosy, because he was greedy to make a profit upon what God had done (2Kings 5:25-27). Finally, King Uzziah was stricken with the plague when he, presumptuously, went inside the Temple building, where only the priests were permitted, to burn incense at the Altar of Incense, which only the priest were allowed to do. He came out of the Temple a leper, stricken so by God (2Chronicles 26:16-21). This is not to say that all lepers were inflicted with the disease because of their sins, but the word of God does show a parallel between sin and leprosy, probably because only God could forgive sins, and only God (in ancient Israel) could heal leprosy (cf. 1Kings 5:6-8).

In Luke 5:14 Jesus told the man, whom he had cured of his leprosy, to tell no man what happened. Rather, he was to go to the priest and offer the sacrifice that Moses prescribed in the Law. However, the text tells us that the man published (G2784) abroad what Jesus had done for him (Mark 1:43-45)! So much was this so, that Jesus had to withdraw himself and go into wilderness in order to be alone—much the same as a leper was commanded to do (cf. Leviticus 13:46).

As the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, Jesus bore our diseases and carried our sorrows, so much so that he had been esteemed by his countrymen stricken, smitten by God and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4). In a sense, because Jesus healed this leper, the man’s leprosy fell upon Jesus, not literally, but in the sense the Jesus had to dwell outside the camp and away from his fellows (Luke 5:15-16; Leviticus 13:46)! Isaiah began his prophecy by writing: “In the days of Uzziah, the king… (Isaiah 1:1). Uzziah, remember, was the leper king (2Chronicles 26:16-21). Isaiah 53:4 reads:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken (H5060), smitten of God, and afflicted.”

Concerning King Uzziah, 2Kings 15:5 (see also 2Chronicles 26:20) reads:

And the LORD smote (H5060) the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the house, judging the people of the land.

The Hebrew word in Isaiah 53:4 for stricken is the same as that in 2Kings 15:5 for smote and both Scriptures point to the idea that this was the Lord’s doing. In Luke 5:12-16 Jesus healed a man of his leprosy, and the fact that he was healed at the touch of Jesus (Luke 5:13) shows it was God’s doing, for only God could heal leprosy in the first century AD. Yet, in keeping with Scriptures, and in the sense of how Jesus was received, the man’s leprosy fell upon Jesus (cf. 2Kings 5:27), Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:4), and Jesus was driven outside the camp, alone (Luke 5:16; cf. Leviticus 13:46).

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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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