(A) Introduction. (Read the passage.)

This wonderful miracle, along with all the rest, raises the question why supernatural healing does not occur today. I have dealt with this problem in the exposition on Luke4v31to44.

We do need to remember the huge contribution Christians have made to the treatment of leprosy. The work of the Leprosy Mission has brought relief to many sufferers.

I shall spiritualise Jesus' encounter with the leper because although he no longer heals men of this dreadful disease he does deal with something far worse - their sin.

(B) The leper's PLIGHT A man came along who was covered with leprosy. v12.

Leprosy is very much like sin:

(1) It desensitises

Leprosy is a disease of the nerve cells - they die leading to a loss of feeling, sensation and pain.

Sin deadens - it coarsens conscience, removes inhibitions and weakens the desire for virtue. Why did the priest and levite pass by the man who fell foul of thieves on the Jericho road? Their lives were dominated by self-interest and this overwhelmed any impulse toward compassion. Envy caught such a hold of the Jewish leaders that Jesus had no hope of a fair trial but was instead unjustly sentenced to death by crucifixion. The Nazis in Germany were so consumed by hatred and prejudice that they cruelly killed 6 million Jews for no good reason at all.

(2) It disfigures.

The loss of sensation and particularly the warning cry of pain means that a leper damages fingers, toes, arms, legs and face. Wounds remain open because the lack of pain makes a leper careless. Open wounds become sores. Gangrene sets in and amputations become necessary. So leprosy leads to bodily and facial deformities.

Sin disfigures. There is something very ugly about sin. Consider how a violent temper, jealousy and meanness deform a man. As a schoolteacher I was never a pretty sight in one of my rages - neither was a colleagues renowned for his meanness. He was a man with a purse - always a bad sign - who hid his packet of biscuits at the back of his locker behind a pile of books. My colleague was never known to offer anyone a biscuit - he even looked mean.

(3) It develops.

Leprosy spreads gradually over the whole body. There is nothing static about it. Leprosy is a progressive disease.

Habitual sin tends to gain a stronger and stronger hold upon a person as time passes; the greedy get greedier, the cruel crueller, the proud prouder and the selfish more selfish. Fortunately there are some checks on sin - culture, religion, friends, family and circumstances. For example, I know a man who belongs to a notoriously tight-fisted family. He married a woman of great generosity of spirit. There is no doubt that the open-handed wife influenced her husband for good. I sometimes found that cruel bullying by boys could be stopped by confronting and shaming the culprits.

(4) It divides.

Lepers were excluded from society. They had to live in groups away from the main centres of population. The Jewish priests pronounced a man or woman suffering from leprosy unclean. This meant they were cut off from the religious life of their people. To this day there is a stigma attached to leprosy. Although it can be treated it is still a dreaded disease.

Sin divides - individuals, churches, nations and mankind from God. I heard only the other day of a middle-aged man driven crazy by his neighbour drumming into the early hours. Eventually he went to remonstrate with the manic drummer and ended up smacking him in the face. The police were called ..... . Two neighbours divided because one was too selfish to restrict his drumming to a reasonable hour. For the last fortnight there has been violence in Kenya because of suspicion that the incumbent President cheated to retain power. Over twenty thousand Protestant groups exist divided by pride - pride in being right! Personal sin creates a barrier between every man and God and unless it is dealt with and the barrier breached it will lead finally to irrevocable separation.

(5) It destroys.

If untreated leprosy leads slowly but inevitably to death.

Sin destroys: For the wages of sin is death. Rom6v23. Sin spoils us to the extent that, unless cleansed, we are not fit for purpose. God the creator will ultimately destroy unredeemed humanity: By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men. 2Pet3v8.

(C) The leper's PLEA.

The leper's plea was characterised by:

(1) Submission. He fell with his face to the ground... . v12.

The leper abased himself before Jesus. The man acknowledged Christ's greatness in comparison with his own insignificance.

If a man is to be saved he must own that Jesus is the Saviour and he is the sinner. A man must repent of the way he is and look to Jesus for help. He must be sufficiently humbled by the knowledge of his parlous condition that he comes unconditionally to Jesus.

(2) Supplication. .... and begged him.

The leper had nothing to offer Jesus! He had no money, possessions, influence or reputation. All the leper could do was beg.

That may seem humiliating but if we had advanced leprosy or terminal cancer we might beg. In fact we have something worse than leprosy - we are riddled with sin. There is nothing we can offer God by way of compensation. We are deeply flawed and it is beyond our power to repair the damage. All we can do is beg. In Evangelical Times December 2007 David Fraser recounts his testimony. He became a Christian at 2.0am on the morning of October 28th in 1973 when he prayed, "Lord, if you are for real, I need you." David Fraser simply asked for help. It is amazing how a few words of honest, heartfelt supplication are the means of bringing about a great change in a person's life.

(3) Sureness. ".... you can make me clean."

The leper was sure Jesus had the power to heal him. He wouldn't have asked for healing otherwise. He was certain Jesus could transform his life because he had heard about what Jesus had done for others. So in faith he declares: "You can make me clean."

This is where so many in the West doubt. Think of all the excuses for not believing: 'What can Jesus do for me.' 'I'm not good enough to be a Christian.' 'I am too old to change now.' 'I could never keep up being a Christian.' 'I've committed too many sins to be forgiven.'

The truth is Jesus has saved and transformed countless millions. I enjoyed reading Dennis Hill's account of his Grandpa John's conversion in Evangelical Times. Dennis witnessed to his old grandfather. He visited him in nursing home and talked about Jesus and the Bible without Grandpa John appearing to be much affected. However, one day Dennis read him a leaflet explaining the way of salvation. When he finished, much to his astonishment, his grandfather prayed and asked Jesus to be his Saviour. Grandpa John broke down in tears and cried out, "It's a miracle! It's a miracle!" He died 3 months later - plucked like a brand from the burning.

In the words of Charles Wesley:

            He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
            He sets the prisoner free;
            His blood can make the foulest clean,
            His blood availed for me.

(4) Scrupulousness.

The leper showed delicacy - he didn't want to offend Jesus. So he prefaces his plea with the words: "Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean."

The leper accepts that everything depends on Jesus being willing. The diseased man was willing enough but that by it self would not save him. Jesus had to be willing!

In the West nowadays people have much less of a problem over Jesus' willingness to save them. It is almost as if they are convinced that they deserve saving! At least the Calvinist never falls into this trap! Our salvation does depend first and foremost on Christ's choice. Fortunately the wonderful words of Joseph Hart's hymn are true:

            Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
            Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
            Jesus ready stands to save you,
            Full of pity, love and power;
            He is able,
            He is willing; doubt no more.

(D) The leper's PURIFICATION.

(1) He was touched.

Nobody had touched the leper for a long time - unless it was other lepers. Even if he had been touched he would not have felt it because he was covered with leprosy. Jesus touched him and he felt the touch.

Jesus touch meant he accepted and identified with the leper. He reached out to reassure the man of his willingness to cleanse him. It was a gracious token of Christ's love.

Fanny Crosby captures something of what Christ's touch means in her hymn, 'Rescue the Perishing':

          Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
          Feelings lie buried that grace can restore:
          Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness,
          Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.

When a person is saved Jesus touches that person's life by his Spirit. He gives a token of his love - assurance of sins forgiven, joy and peace.

(2) He was transformed.

Jesus said: "I am willing, be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him.

If we submit to Jesus and ask him to save us we will be changed. This will be more evident in the lives of some than others. I imagine there was a greater noticeable change in the life of the Philippian jailer after he believed in Jesus than in the life of Lydia whose heart the Lord opened. But a change does occur - a change in status, understanding, priorities and conduct. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2Cor5v17.

Professor Barclay gives a quaint but moving instance of the difference Jesus can make in the life of a man in his commentary on Ephesians: The story is told of a Negro engineer in a river ferry-boat in America. His boat was old and he did not worry over much about it, and the engines were soiled and begrimed and ill-cared for. This engineer was soundly converted. The first thing he did was to go back to his ferry-boat and polish his engines until every part of the machinery shone like a mirror. One of the regular passengers commented on the change. "What have you been up to?" he asked the engineer. "What set you cleaning and polishing these old engines of yours?" "Sir," answered the engineer, "I've got a glory." That is what Christ does for a man. He gives a man a glory.

(3) He had a testimony to give.

The leper was cleansed but it was important for that cleansing to be recognised by the Jewish people and so Jesus told him: "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." The man had to participate in some bizarre procedures - recorded in Leviticus14 - whereby his cleansing was ratified and made official by the priests. In this way the former leper testified to his cleansing and was accepted back into the religious life of the community.

When a person is saved - they are undoubtedly saved! But Jesus expects the convert to testify to the change in his life - and not just by his conduct. There is a procedure for every new Christian to follow namely, baptism and formal acceptance into church membership. This may seem to be a bit of a rigmarole and not really necessary. It certainly isn't such a performance as the healed leper had to undergo! So why is that so many Christians brought up in the Baptist tradition stubbornly refuse to be baptised? It is a joyful occasion and a moving testimony to God's saving grace.

(E) The leper's PHYSICIAN.

The Great Physician was and is:

(1) Powerful.

Jesus was able to heal the worst case scenario. The man who fell at his feet was covered in leprosy yet Jesus could say: "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him.

Jesus is powerful to save for as the writer to the Hebrews put it: Wherefore, he is able to also save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Heb7v25. AV.

            Would you be free from your burden of sin?
            There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
            Would you o'er evil a victory win?
            There's wonderful power in the blood.

(2) Prepared.

Jesus said to the leper: "I am willing." He says the same to any sinner who repents and comes to him for salvation. Jesus said: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Jn6v37. See also v40 and v47.

The word's of Joseph Hart bear repetition:

            Jesus ready stands to save you,
            Full of pity, love and power:
            He is able,
            He is willing; doubt no more.

(3) Popular.

Luke records: Crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. v15.

We might wish that Jesus was more popular; he certainly deserves to be. However the inescapable truth is: crowds of people meet together all over the world to honour his name.

(4) Prayerful.

The gospel writer does not omit to inform us: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. v16.

The secret of Jesus' effectiveness was his close relationship with his father; a relationship maintained by prayer.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. This is something any schoolteacher will tell you! Every year some of my pupils left school and certain of them, mostly girls, would write to me for a few years. I never met up with my correspondents and gradually the warmth of their affection cooled and the letters dropped off. My old pupils realised that the relationship we had at school was going nowhere and so they stopped writing.

If a relationship is to remain strong and healthy there must be contact. If we want to be in a vital and meaningful relationship with God we must pray regularly to him. It is only by so doing that we have any hope of being effective in his service.