Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.Matthew 8:3(NASB)
In the first few chapters of his gospel, Matthew introduces the reader to Jesus.. as God's anointed King. His ancestry, which is traced through David and Abraham, and His prophesied advent as "Immanuel" which means, 'God with us', sets the stage for Christ's ministry, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The Lord Jesus was identified as God's beloved Son at His baptism, and started His mission and ministry, by calling His disciples to follow Him. He went throughout the Galilee teaching, preaching, and healing all that were sick and continued to authenticate his Person and work, to priests and people alike, through His sermons, speeches, actions and attitudes. From Chapter 8, Jesus began to present His Messianic credentials through a series of miraculous works and healings.
The first recorded healing in Matthew, following His sermon on the mount, was a man with leprosy.. a highly contagious, skin disease, which made the man, and anyone he touched ritually unclean. Leprosy was considered to be a curse from God, with little or no cure. It was considered by the Jewish leaders to be a punishment because of a person's sin.
This healing was highly significant - not only because the leper was cleansed but because of the man's demonstrable faith, and Christ's compassionate actions. We read how the leper knelt before Jesus reverently, giving Him worship and paying Him homage. The actions of this leper demonstrated the reverence he afforded Christ.. as he bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
The very words of this man showed the genuine, depth of faith this leper had in Christ's power to heal, for he acknowledged Jesus as "Lord". No doubt he had heard about Christ's ability to heal the sick, and had an assurance, in his heart, that Jesus was able to make him clean. Any doubt he expressed was that Jesus may not choose to do so. "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
The leper no doubt knew that those who touch him would become defiled, and become ritually unclean. He had probably found himself to be shunned by those with whom he came in contact. But we read in this verse.. "Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing. Be cleansed.' And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." Jesus was both able to heal, and He was willing to heal this leprous man, who trusted in Him.
I wonder if a deathly hush fell over the crowd as they waited to see Christ's response to this man's challenging statement., 'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean'. But the compassion and grace with which Jesus replied and the expression of love that followed when he touched the leper's diseased body, is not only moving but powerful evidence that His Messianic claims were true.
By His action Jesus demonstrated a fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy.. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed - to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord." In this healing Christ's Messianic claims were translated into action.
The significance of this passage is enhanced when we realise that 'leprosy' was frequently considered as an archetype of sin. The one who is plagued with leprosy is diseased and dying, cursed and incurable, ostracised and an outcast, wretched and miserable and without hope in the world. How similar the diseased body of this leper is to the hopeless state of the fallen sinner - who is dead in their sins and estranged from their God and Creator.
What a stupendous change the diseased leper experienced when Christ's spoke those words of comfort and said, "'I am willing; be cleansed', for immediately his leprosy was cleansed." And what an awesome exchange is made when a lost sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is redeemed from the slave-market of sin and transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's everlasting light.
May we never lose track of the incredible privilege God's gift of salvation is to each of us who are saved by grace through faith. May we be ready and willing to extend the same compassion and love towards every lost soul we meet as Jesus did to the leprous man, when He touched him and he was made clean.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus is the Friend of sinner, the Healer of the sick and the Saviour of the world. Thank You that I have been redeemed from the slave-market of sin and received health and healing.. like the leper who worshipped at Christ's feet and was cleansed by the gracious touch of His hand. Thank You that You sent Jesus to preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give recovery of sight to the blind, free the oppressed and proclaim the favourable year of the Lord. Thank You for His healing touch on my life. I pray that I may be used by You in Your unfolding plan of redemption, and for His name's sake, AMEN.