Healing a Leper (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-08-26 10:36.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

During the course of Jesus’ activity in Galilee, a man afflicted with leprosy approached him. Kneeling before him and bowing down with his face touching the ground, he pleaded, “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with his hand and touched him, saying, “I want to; be made clean.” Although the man had been “full of leprosy,” suggesting a serious advanced state, every trace of the disease vanished immediately. (Matthew 8:2, 3; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12, 13)

Jesus sternly charged the healed leper not to let anyone know about his miraculous cure but to present himself before the priest and comply with the requirements of the Mosaic law “for a testimony to them.” By following the prescribed purification procedure, the cured leper would be pronounced clean, providing testimony to all that he had been healed. (Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14; see the Notes section for requirements of the Mosaic law.)

Instead of appreciatively heeding Jesus’ directive, the healed leper spread the news far and wide. As a result, crowds would gather and Jesus could no longer enter cities openly. So he remained in the sparsely populated areas, but the crowds still kept coming to hear him and to be healed. (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:15) In order to have the needed privacy for prayer, Jesus had to find deserted places. (Luke 5:16)


The Greek term for leprosy (lépra) can refer to a variety of skin diseases, including the disfiguring Hansen’s disease.

In Mark 1:41, a form of splanchnízomai (have compassion) is supported by the reading of most manuscripts. A fifth-century manuscript contains a form of orgízo (to be angry). This reading may have arisen from an effort to harmonize the stern charge Jesus gave the man not to spread the news and then dismissing him with the directive to show himself to the priest. The compassion the Son of God showed, however, would not preclude his being firm about not wanting talk about his healing activity to be spread.

According to the law, the priest would examine the healed leper and determine whether the diseased condition no longer existed. This would be followed by a cleansing ceremony involving the use of two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. One of the birds would be killed over an earthen vessel containing “living” water (fresh or spring water, not stagnant water from a cistern), allowing the blood to flow into the vessel. With the yarn, the living bird and the hyssop would be attached to the wood and dipped into the vessel. The water mingled with blood would be sprinkled seven times upon the cured leper. Thereafter the living bird would be released to fly away. (Leviticus 14:2-7)

The cured leper would wash his garments, shave off all his bodily hair, and bathe. Seven days later, he would again shave off all his bodily hair, wash his garments, and bathe. On the eighth day, he, depending on whether he could afford to do so, would offer two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished female lamb, three-tenths of an ephah (about six dry quarts) of choice flour mixed with olive oil, and one “log” (possibly about two-thirds of a pint) of olive oil. With the prescribed amount of olive oil, the priest would present one of the lambs as a guilt offering. He would then take some of the blood of the slaughtered lamb and put it on the cured leper’s right earlobe, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot. After sprinkling seven times before God with his right finger the olive oil he had poured into his left palm, the priest would apply some of the oil where he had put the blood—the right earlobe, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot. He would then put all the remaining olive oil on the head of the cured leper. Thereafter the priest would offer one of the lambs (probably the female lamb; compare Leviticus 4:32) as a sin offering and the other lamb as a burnt offering, accompanied by the grain offering. (Leviticus 14:8-20)

For one who could not afford all these offerings, two pigeons or two turtledoves could be substituted for one of the male lambs and the female lamb. The amount of choice flour would be reduced to one-tenth ephah (over two dry quarts). The procedure followed would remain the same. (Leviticus 14:21-31)