When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’
Yesterday we heard of Zechariah’s first words following the birth of John the Baptist, and the restoration of his power of speech. Today we hear Jesus saying to the leper whom he had cleansed: See that you say nothing to anyone. Two very different responses to God’s presence in the lives of ordinary people.
In today’s reading we hear of someone suffering from leprosy who comes to Jesus for healing. Leprosy is a general term that is used in scripture to describe a wide range of debilitating and life-restricting medical conditions. To be identified as a leper was not only the confirmation that one was suffering from an incurable disease, but also that you were condemned to a life outside normal society. To suffer from leprosy was to be identified as being unclean and untouchable. The sufferer from leprosy in today’s story took a bold step, a step that demanded both determination and faith.
Jesus quickly became well-known for his power to heal the sick. We should not be surprised, therefore, that the leper in today’s reading felt confident that Jesus was the one and only chance for his condition to be cured. However, there was no demand for healing, instead there was an affirmation of faith. It was in answer to this depth of faith that Jesus bestowed the life-changing cure that saw the end of that life-inhibiting condition.
What must that leper have felt like? Imagine yourself into that man’s position. In a moment you are cured, the disease is defeated and you can resume your place in normal society. Wouldn’t you want to shout that from the rooftops? But, Jesus says, ‘No.’ Rather than shouting for joy, the leper is sent to fulfil the appropriate religious ceremonies and to give thanks to God for his cure.
There were so many ‘false prophets’ who pretended to be messiahs, holy teachers and miracle workers in Jesus’ time and place. But, Jesus was different. Jesus was the genuine article. Jesus really was the Messiah, the Holy Son of God, the miracle worker who could change lives. As we are able to look back and differentiate between the two, in his time Jesus was keen for his contemporaries to be similarly discriminating. It would have been easy for the healed leper to forget his religious duty if he began his renewed life by feeding the rumour mill of the day. Instead, Jesus told him to say nothing but to fulfil all that was required in the law of Moses.
Let us pray that we might not be diverted by the superficial and the unreal. Let us pray that we might place our thanks and praise of God before all else in our lives. Let us pray that we might root our telling of the Good News in the reality of Jesus’ presence in our lives.