“When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Matthew 8:1–2).
Leprosy was a most feared and contagious disease in the ancient world. Spongy, tumor-like swellings grew on the face and body, and eventually leprosy affected the internal organs and bones.
In ancient Israel lepers were vivid object lessons regarding sin. Like leprosy, sin infects the entire person (cf. Eph. 2:1) and is ugly, corrupting—incurable without extraordinary means.
Several things stand out about the leper who came to Jesus for healing. First, he came to Him with confidence. He obviously sensed Jesus’ love and tenderness and somehow knew the Lord did not mind associating with him. The leper’s primary concern was his tremendous need and Christ’s all-sufficient ability and willingness to meet it.
Second, the leprous man approached Jesus with reverence. His boldness in calling out to Jesus and coming near derived not from presumption but from humble adoration. The word rendered “bowed down” means to prostrate oneself and is also translated “worship” in the New Testament (cf. Acts 7:43; Rev. 4:10). The leper’s attitude suggests he addressed Jesus as Lord, not simply as “sir” but in recognition of His deity. He knew that as God’s Son, Jesus could heal his horrible disease.
Ironically, this man is a striking contrast to the Jewish leaders. They were always clean and lavishly attired, but inwardly were corrupt and unbelieving. The man with leprosy, on the other hand, was outwardly repulsive in appearance, but inwardly he was worshipful and full of sincere faith.
Noting the analogy between sin and leprosy, imagine if sin’s effects actually did show themselves on our faces and skin. How would this affect our behavior and obedience? What does that tell us about the deceitfulness of sin and how to counteract it?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.