While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell facedown and begged Him, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
I. THE FAME OF JESUS TRAVELLING TO A LEPER.
II. A LEPER TRAVELLING TO JESUS HIMSELF AT ALL RISKS. III. THE WELL-LEARNT HUMILITY OF THIS LEPER. IV, THE CLEAR DECISIVE FAITH OF THIS LEPER.
V. THE PROMPT AND PRACTICAL COMPASSION OF JESUS: HE TOUCHED THE LEPER. It was legal defilement to touch a leper, because he was a leper; but it was not defilement to touch a leper, if he thereby ceased to be such.
VI. THE PROBABLE REASON OR REASONS OF THE CHARGE OF JESUS TO HIM.
1. The reason may perhaps solely have had reference to what the Saviour knew of the real tendencies of the leper he had cleansed.
2. The reason may have had rather some outer aspect, and may have had it in view to obtain before men, and as a much-needed "testimony against" themselves, a true and unprejudiced and confessed verdict from the priests as to the genuineness of the great work of cleansing which he had accomplished.
3. The reason may have been strictly that, for Jesus, his "time was not yet ready," while the defence of the cleansed and happy, late leper, will ever be that he could not contain his joy, his praise, and his gratitude. - B.
Behold a man full of leprosy.I. LEPROSY AFFORDS A STRIKING REPRESENTATION OF THE CHARACTER AND CONSEQUENCE OF SIN.
1. This spiritual leprosy has rendered all our race unclean in the sight of God and in the judgment of His holy law.(1) It shuts us out from His presence,(2) and from a place among His people.
2. No skill or power of man can cure this disease.
3. This malady, if not healed, will issue in death. And remember, death is not cessation of being, but a state of awful terror, pain, and wretchedness. This is the issue to which sin is bringing its victims.
4. Yet, thank God, our case is not altogether hopeless; there is a cure.
II. OBSERVE THE STEPS TAKEN BY THIS LEPER TO OBTAIN A CURE. Thus we may learn what the disposition is, in which we should endeavour to approach the Saviour, who alone can heal our spiritual leprosy.
1. The first thing I would notice in this leper's conduct is the eagerness and haste with which he ran to Jesus immediately he met Him.
2. His reverential selfabasement. His eagerness in seeking relief did not cause him to forget what was due to the character of Him from whom that relief was sought.
3. The confidence he entertained of Christ's power. Have not we far stronger grounds for this than he had?
(J. Harding, M. A.)I. Observe HOW MANY ANONYMOUS BELIEVERS THERE ARE IN THE BIBLE RECORD WHO GIVE HELP ALL ALONG THE AGES. Here are mentioned "multitudes," and among them two persons in particular — a leper and a paralytic. And that is all we know about any individual to whom that eventful day was the beginning of renewed life. No name, no history, no after. career; but we suppose that these cripples are in heaven now, and we know that their story has helped thousands to be patient and cheerful on the way thither. It is of little consequence who we are; it matters more what we are.
II. EVEN IN EXTREME HOPELESSNESS OF DISEASE ONE MAY EXHIBIT A SUPREME AND ILLUSTRIOUS FAITH. The cases of these two men were as bad as they could well be; yet did our Lord find in them faith enough to be healed. In the rooms of the American Tract Society, in New York, are still standing two objects which I studied for some meditative years, once a month, at a committee meeting. One is a slight framework of tough wood, a few feet high, so bound together with hasps and hinges as to be taken down and folded in the hand. This was Whitefield's travelling-pulpit — the one he used when, denied access to the churches, he harangued the thousands in the open air, on the moors of England. You will think of this modern apostle, lifted up upon the small platform, with the throngs of eager people around him, or hurrying from one field to another, bearing his Bible in his arms; ever on the move, toiling with Herculean energy, and a force like that of a giant. There, in that rude pulpit, is the symbol of all which is active and fiery in dauntless Christian zeal. But now, look again: in the centre of this framework, resting upon the slender platform, where the living preacher used to stand, you will see a chair — a plain, straight-backed, armed, cottage-chair — rough, simple, meagrely cushioned, unvarnished, and stiff. It was the seat in which Elizabeth Wallbridge, "the dairyman's daughter," sat and coughed and whispered, and from which she went only at her last hour to the couch on which she died. Here again is a pulpit; and it is the symbol of a life quiet and unromantic and hard in all Christian endurance. Every word that invalid woman uttered — every patient night she suffered — was a gospel sermon. In a hundred languages, the life of that servant of God has preached to millions of souls the riches of Christ's glory and grace. And of these two pulpits, which is the most honourable is known only to God, who undoubtedly accepted and consecrated them both. The one is suggestive of the ministry of speech, the other of the ministry of submission.
III. AN EXPLANATION OF THE MYSTERY AND THE PURPOSE OF SUFFERING. Pain is a sort of ordination to the Christian ministry. Pure submission is as good as going on a foreign mission. Souls may be won to the Cross by a life on a sick-bed just as well as by a life in a cathedral desk.
IV. Hence, we may easily learn WHAT SHOULD BE THE CHIEF OCCUPATION OF AN INVALID. NO one can preach from any pulpit without the proper measure of study. He must thoughtfully ascertain what will make his efforts most pertinent.
1. He will study doctrine.
2. He will study experience, too.A month ago I saw a brave soldier of the Cross who had been passing through a fiery history of years with broken health, which had taken him from the pulpit of his usefulness and bidden him look into the grave season after season. He was now only able to stand, and sought a new field. Only yesterday he visited me again; in his feebleness he lay on my couch while he talked. He had just come from putting the wife of his manhood, his patient helper and the stay of his home, in the bedlam of a madhouse. Poor in spirit and poor in purse, broken-hearted and alone, he feared he should break again. Yet there he lay, and spoke hopefully and gently. Oh, that valiant brother, quivering in every muscle, but bold and firm in his trustful courage, preached to me in my study as I know I never preached in my church!
V. Some people recover from long illness; Christ heals them, as He did these men in the story. So there is one more lesson for convalescents: WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO WITH THEIR LIVES HEREAFTER? "It is a solemn thing to die," said Schiller, "but it is a more solemn thing to live." We know the story of the Scotch mother, whose child an eagle stole away; half maddened she saw the bird reach its eyrie far up the cliff. No one could scale the rock. In distraction she prayed all the day. An old sailor climbed after it, and crept down dizzily from the height. There, on her outstretched arms, as she plod with closed eyes, he laid her babe. She rose in majesty of self-denial and took it (as she had been taught in that land) to her minister. She would not kiss it till it had been solemnly dedicated unto God I What shall a man do with a life given back to him?
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. CONSIDER, FIRST, WHY JESUS HEALED. Not to show that He could, but because He pitied the sufferer. When asked to work miracles to prove His ability to do so, He habitually declined. Every act of healing wrought by Christ was an act of pure compassion. He never healed to attract attention to Himself. He often commanded those He healed to say nothing of their cure.
II. CONSIDER, NEXT, HOW JESUS HEALED.
1. The fact that He had compassion upon them was itself the first step in the cure of many who came to Him. There are diseases in which recovery must begin by regaining lost self-respect. In Christ the most dissolute and disgraced found not only pity, but delicate considerateness. Think, e.g., of His treatment of this leper. We can scarcely conceive what the effect must have been upon a man who had for years been closeted with his loathsome self, or with still more loathsome fellow-sufferers — a man who might not eat with human beings unless the same deadly taint was upon them, nor appear in the street except jangling a bell to give warning of the peril his presence brought; who, if he patted upon the head a carrion dog, it must be instantly killed, lest it should brush against others and defile them, because he had touched it; who, if he saw his mother, his child, his wife approach, must fly or shout, "Unclean, unclean! Keep afar!" We can scarcely conceive what the effect must have been upon such a man, when he saw Jesus draw nigh. The multitude attending the Saviour falls back as men shrink from the plague; for crowds are always cowards. But the Master approaches, and, paying no heed to the jangling bell, the warning cry, lays His hand upon him. For the first time for years the leper feels the touch of a hand that is not hardened by the awful malady. That touch must have made the leper a new man in heart before the quickened pulse could shoot new life into the decaying limbs.
2. In healing, Christ made effort. One must be blind to read the New Testament, and fancy Christ's cures cost Him nothing because He was Divine. It was because He was Divine that they cost Him so much. If you would seek beings incapable of suffering, you must not go up toward the angels and the great white throne, for there you will find "the Lamb as it had been slain," but down among the oysters. Do you ask, How did Christ bear men's diseases? Thus: He sighed, He prayed, He lifted them in His arms, He put His hands upon them, He drew them to His bosom, He groaned, He felt His strength go from Him, to heal their bodies. If He had done less, He would not have made manifest the longsuttering God; and His saving men's bodies, His bearing their infirmities and healing their diseases, would have been no illustration of the agony with which He wrestled in Gethsemane for the salvation of their souls.
3. In many instances Jesus employed known remedies in physical healing. He manipulated the palsied tongue and the stopped ears — "put His fingers in the ears," "touched the tongue." He covered the blind eyes with moist clay, a well-known Egyptian remedy for ophthalmia. He inquired minutely the symptoms of the demoniac boy. He bent over those He healed, He touched them, as careful physicians do. Thus He encouraged, not the breach, but the observance of God's order. He put honour, by His example, upon the use of scientific remedies. At times He healed by a word, without approaching the sick one. But He seems to have dispensed with remedies only when to employ them was impossible, or when they would have been obviously useless, or when there was a special reason for neglecting them. His example said to those apostles to whom miraculous powers were given, "Use the best means; pray God to bless their use; and when you can do nothing more, pray." And that is what every wise and instructed Christian tries to do.
4. In all Christ's healings there was conspicuously revealed the authority of absolute power. When He spoke, devils obeyed, the dead heard, the despairing hoped, the lost knew that they were found.
(William B. Wright.)
1. Perhaps because the world is so used to seeing power used arbitrarily and selfishly.
2. Because of the consciousness of sin. It was when Peter saw the Divine power of Christ displayed in the draught of fishes that he said, "Depart from me," &c. And in the light of this fact, the incident of our text has a peculiar force; for —
I. THE DISEASE FROM WHICH THIS MAN WAS SUFFERING WAS REPRESENTATIVE OF SIN. It was a decomposition of the vital juices, putrefaction in a living body; hence an image of death. The leper was treated throughout as a sinner. "He was a dreadful parable of death." The case of this leper, therefore —
II. GAVE OUR LORD AN OPPORTUNITY, NOT ONLY TO DO A WORK OF MERCY AND LOVE UPON A DISEASED MAN, BUT ALSO TO GIVE A SYMBOLIC TESTIMONY OF HIS WILLINGNESS TO DEAL LOVINGLY AND FORGIVINGLY WITH A SINFUL MAN. Let US see how Christ's willingness comes out in this incident.
1. It is not repelled by an imperfect faith.
2. It was shown in Christ's express declaration. How striking is the way in which He meets that timid "If Thou wilt" with "I will."
(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
(J. Ogmore Davies)I. PHYSICAL ASPECT.
1. White pustules — eat away flesh — attacking one member after another — at last the bones.
2. Attended with sleeplessness, nightmare, and hopelessness of cure.
3. A living death.
II. SOCIAL ASPECT.
2. Lived in a several house, or in bands at a distance from ordinary dwelling.
3. Went with head uncovered, crying, "Room for the leper."
III. RELIGIOUS ASPECT.
1. Excommunication — no communion with the commonwealth of Israel.
2. In every way a type of the impenitent sinner. For —
3. Sin is a living death; contagious, and separates from God.
(F. Godet, D. D.)
(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)Psalm 51:1) were bound, being used to do so — was let free in such a direction that it should fly to the open country. After the scrutiny by the priest, the leper put on clean clothes, and carried away those he had worn to a running stream to wash them thoroughly, and to cleanse himself by a bath. He could now enter the city, but for seven days more could not enter his own house. On the eighth day he once more submitted to the scissors of the priest, who cut off whatever hair might have grown in the interval. Then followed a second bath; and now he had only carefully to avoid any defilement, so as to be fit to attend in the Temple next morning, and complete his cleansing. The first step in this final purification was to offer three lambs, two males and a female, none of which must be under a year old. Standing at the outer edge of the court of the men, which he was not yet worthy to enter, the leper awaited the longed-for rites. These began by the priest taking one of the male lambs destined to be slain as an atonement for the leper, and handing it to each point of the compass in turn, and by his swinging a vessel of oil on all sides in the same way, as if to present both to the universally-present God. He then led the lamb to the leper, who laid his hands on its head, and gave it over as a sacrifice for his guilt, which he now confessed. It was forthwith killed at the north side of the altar, two priests catching its blood, the one in a vessel, the other in his hand. The first now sprinkled the altar with the blood, while the other went to the leper and anointed his ears, his right thumb, and his right toe with it. The one priest then poured some oil of the leper's offering into the left hand of the other, who, in his turn, dipped his finger seven times into the oil thus held, and sprinkled it as often towards the Holy of Holies. Each part of the leper which before had been touched with the blood was then further anointed with the oil, what remained being stroked on his head. The leper could now enter the men's court, and did so, passing through it to that of the priests'. The female lamb was next killed, as a sin-offering, after he had put his hands on its head, part of its blood being smeared on the horns of the altar, while the rest was poured out at the altar-base. The other male lamb was then slain for a burnt-sacrifice; the leper once more laying him hands on its head, and the priests sprinkling its blood on the altar. The fat, and all that was fit for an offering, was now laid on the altar, and burned as a "sweet-smelling savour" to God. A meal-offering of fine wheat meal and oil ended the whole; a portion being laid on the altar, while the rest, with the two lambs, of which only a small part had been burned, formed the dues of the priest. It was not till all this had been done that the full ceremony of cleansing, or showing himself to the priests, had been carried out, and that the cheering words, " Thou art pure," restored the sufferer once more to the rights of citizenship and of intercourse with men. No wonder that even a man like St. Peter, so tenderly minded to his ancestral religion, should speak (Acts 15:10) of its requirements as a yoke which "neither our fathers nor we are able to bear."
(J. Ogmore Davies.)
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