Humble Hero


The First Leper to Be Cleansed by Christ

This chapter is based on Matthew 8:2-4; 9:1-8, 32-34; Mark 1:40-45; 2:1-12; Luke 5:12-28.

Of all diseases known in the East, leprosy was most dreaded. Its incurable and contagious character and its horrible effect on its victims filled the bravest with fear. The Jews regarded it as a judgment for sin, calling it “the finger of God.” It was looked upon as a symbol of sin. HH 115.1

Like someone already dead, the leper was shut out from any place that people occupied. Whatever he touched was unclean. The air was polluted by his breath. Anyone suspected of having the disease must present himself to the priests. If they declared him a leper, he was doomed to associate only with other lepers. The law was inflexible. Kings and rulers were not exempt. HH 115.2

The leper must bear the curse apart from friends and family. He was required to announce his calamity and sound the alarm, warning everyone to avoid his contaminating presence. The cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” coming in mournful tones from the lonely exile was a signal people heard with fear and revulsion. HH 115.3

News of Christ’s work reached many of these sufferers, igniting a gleam of hope. But since the days of Elisha, no one had ever seen a leper cleansed. There was one man, however, in whose heart faith began to spring up. Yet how could he present himself to the Healer? And would Christ heal him? Would He take notice of one who was suffering the judgment of God? Would He pronounce a curse on him? HH 115.4

The leper thought of all that people had told him about Jesus. Not one who had gone to Him for help had been turned away. The suffering man determined to find the Savior. Perhaps he could cross His path in some remote place along the mountain roads or as He was teaching outside the towns. This was his only hope. HH 115.5

The leper was guided to the Savior as He taught beside the lake. Standing far away, the leper caught a few words from the Savior’s lips. He saw Him laying His hands on the sick, the lame, the blind, and the paralyzed, and those who had been dying of various illnesses rose up and praised God for their deliverance. Faith strengthened in his heart. He went closer, forgetting the restrictions laid on him and the fear everyone had for him. He thought only of the blessed hope of healing. HH 115.6

He was a repulsive spectacle, his decaying body horrible to look at. When people saw him, they fell back in terror, crowding one another in their eagerness to avoid any contact with him. Some tried to prevent him from approaching Jesus, but he neither saw nor heard them. He saw only the Son of God. Hurrying to Jesus, he threw himself at His feet with the cry, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Italics added.) HH 116.1

Jesus replied, “I am willing; be cleansed,” and laid His hand on him. HH 116.2

Immediately a change came over the leper. His flesh became healthy, the nerves sensitive, the muscles firm. The rough, scaly surface on his skin disappeared, and a soft glow, like that of a healthy child’s skin, took its place. HH 116.3

Christ urgently instructed the man about the necessity of silence and prompt action. Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” If the priests knew the facts concerning the healing, their hatred of Christ might lead them to give a dishonest judgment. Jesus wanted the man to present himself at the temple before rumors of the healing had reached them. In this way, the restored leper could secure an impartial decision and be permitted to unite with his family and friends again. HH 116.4

The Savior also knew that if news of this leper’s healing spread, other sufferers from this disease would crowd around Him, and the cry would be raised that the people would be contaminated. Many lepers would not use the gift of health as a blessing to themselves or others. And by drawing lepers around Him, Jesus would open the way for His enemies to accuse Him of breaking down the restrictions of the law. This would hinder His preaching. HH 116.5

A large crowd had seen the leper’s healing and were eager to learn of the priests’ decision. When the man returned to his friends, there was great excitement. The man made no effort to hide his cure. It would have been impossible to conceal anyway, but the leper told it widely, thinking that Jesus had laid this restriction on him only out of modesty. He did not understand that every such exhibit of power made the priests and elders more determined to destroy Jesus. The restored man rejoiced in the vigor of manhood and felt it impossible to hold back from giving glory to the Physician who had made him whole. But his act of spreading the matter far and wide caused the people to flock to Jesus in such great numbers that He was forced for a time to stop His work. HH 116.6

Every act of Christ’s ministry had a far-reaching purpose. He tried in every way to reach the priests and teachers, who were steeped in prejudice and tradition. By sending the healed leper to the priests, He gave them a testimony designed to disarm their prejudices. The Pharisees had claimed that Christ was opposed to the law, but His instruction to the cleansed leper to present an offering according to the law disproved this charge. Christ gave evidence of His love for humanity, His respect for the law, and His power to deliver from sin and death. HH 116.7

The same priests who had condemned the leper to banishment certified his cure publicly. And the healed man, reinstated in society, was a living witness for his Benefactor. Joyfully he praised the name of Jesus. The priests received an opportunity to know the truth. During the Savior’s life, His mission seemed to call forth little response of love from them, but after His ascension “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7. HH 117.1