Jesus Heals the Leper
Pastor Roger Sylwester
Matthew 8:1-4. 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.”
As I read this account in Matthew’s Gospel, I hear (or see) the word in action. The word for word in the Hebrew culture is about moving and action. “To stand” is to move and take a stand. You begin with rest and move to action and rest when the action is completed. This ‘word’ contains concrete action. In the beginning God spoke and it came into being. And on the seventh day God rested! If it didn’t come into being, it was a “non” word! The word had substance and moves to action and back to inaction. Time for these people had substance and went from inaction to action to inaction: sundown to daytime to sundown. The year had substance and moved from earth at rest to action and back to rest. Something happened!
In the story for today, consider the authority of the “words being spoken” as words that carry with them power. A leper steps forward. Lepers were to keep their distance and cry out “Unclean” if anyone comes close. Imagine the crowds parting, keeping their distance, lest they become contaminated. We’ve experienced some of this ourselves as we’ve struggled with our pandemic. But this man comes, knelt before Jesus, addresses him as Lord, and trusting that words carry power says, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” His word assumes Jesus’ words carry with them the power to do what they say. And Jesus reaches out, touches him whom others see only as unclean, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed! His word carries with it the power. They are real!. Jesus then sends him off so the priest can say the word that permits him to rejoin his family and community.
Later in this chapter v. 17, Matthew writes “This was to fulfill (fill full!) what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore out diseases.” How will this Word speak to you and to me this Lenten season? Listen as Jesus speaks to us and declares us forgiven, restored, given a place in his family. Speak a word of grace or love or forgiveness. It may just carry with it great power!