Sermon: The High Priest Who Heals (Luke 5:12-16)

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The High Priest Who Heals

Jesus can do what men cannot do.  Today, especially we are going to see that Jesus can do what an OT priest could not do.  In Levitucus 13-14 we are given regulations concerning lepers and ceremonial law.  It’s important to see that in the OT all the priest could do was examine a person to see if they were ceremonially clean or unclean.  When it came to leprosy, they inspected skin issues and made determinations according to Mosaic Law but they could do nothing to alleviate the suffering.

This text today and the text for next week, we will see that Jesus can do some things priests couldn’t do.  He can forgive sin.  Luke shows us in both these stories that the theme that runs through them is the truth that Jesus alone can forgive sin.  Secondly, Jesus can actually make someone who formerly was unclean, clean.

Since the fall of man in Genesis when sin entered into the equation of the human experience there has been death and disease.  One of the worst manifestations of sin and the curse which causes death and disease is the disease of Leprosy.

Dr. Alan Gillen gives us a quick rundown of the disease called leprosy:

Many have thought leprosy to be a disease of the skin. It is better classified, however, as a disease of the nervous system because the leprosy bacterium attacks the nerves…Its symptoms start in the skin and peripheral nervous system (outside the brain and spinal cord), then spread to other parts, such as the hands, feet, face, and earlobes. Patients with leprosy experience disfigurement of the skin and bones, twisting of the limbs, and curling of the fingers to form the characteristic claw hand. Facial changes include thickening of the outer ear and collapsing of the nose…
Tumor-like growths called lepromas may form on the skin and in the respiratory tract, and the optic nerve may deteriorate. The largest number of deformities develop from loss of pain sensation due to extensive nerve damage. For instance, inattentive patients can pick up a cup of boiling water without flinching.
— Dr. Alan Gillen

The disease of leprosy is often compared to the spiritual disease of sin.  Like leprosy, sin may look to be only on the surface but in reality runs very deep.  It is seen as incurable apart from the work of God.  In the Bible a priest examined the victim not a doctor.  A disease that separates from loved ones.  And finally, it leads to hopelessness and despair.

This man today has been excluded from the temple and is a religious and social outcast.

Luke 5:12-16 (ESV)
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”  [13] And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.  [14] And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”  [15] But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.  [16] But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
1. The Man’s Condition (5:12)
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
Luke indicates clearly that this man’s leprosy was in the advanced stage, full of leprosy. At this stage he would have been very much disfigured in appearance.  His fingers and toes were probably gone.  Perhaps even blindness was setting in.  He walked stooped over and probably limped up to Jesus.  Luke wants us to see he was terminal.
The leper was isolated from others.  The only people he could speak to were other lepers.  No longer could he be with friends and family.  A husband had to leave his wife or a wife her husband.  Children had to leave home and live alone, isolated from all they knew and loved.
Leviticus 13:45-46 (ESV)
“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’  [46] He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Jesus was probably traveling on the outskirts of one of the cities because those with leprosy were not permitted to enter into a town because their illness was contagious.  Perhaps the man was so desperate he came right on in to the city.
Somehow this man heard that Jesus was healing many people. Mark’s Gospel places this event in sequence right after the Sermon on the Mount which places Jesus outside the city probably on His way into it.
Looking at the psychological condition of one infected with leprosy, the biblical scholar from last century, Alfred Edersheim writes,
as the leper passed by…it was as one going to death who reads his own burial service, while the mournful words, Unclean, Unclean! Which he uttered, proclaiming that his was both living and moral death—Edersheim
The Leper was literally the living dead or a walking corpse.  One with this disease was to stay outside the camp or the walled city.  Notice, that’s where Jesus was.  That’s where Jesus was crucified.  He went outside the camp to save those who were unclean and forbidden by Levitical Law to enter.
Hebrews 13:11-12 (ESV)
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.  [12] So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
There’s something else about this man’s condition that we should notice.  As deformed and mangled as he was on the outside, there was something quite amazing happening on the inside.
He didn’t approach Jesus as a long shot for healing.  He wasn’t trying Jesus.  So many times today I read or heard someone say, just try Jesus. As if to say, You’ve tried everything else to gain happiness, you might as well give Jesus a try, you never know He just might give you what you’re looking for.
This poor soul knew Jesus could heal him.  It wasn’t a question of whether Jesus had the power to heal him or not.  He knew that power wasn’t the issue, he believed and had faith that Jesus possessed the power.  The issue was willingness.
The trend in the days of Jesus was for Rabbis to avoid those who were sick.  Rather than ministering to the sick and the terminal they often avoided these individuals.  One account says that a Jewish Rabbi in those days boasted that he would not even buy bread on a street where a Leper had been and another boasted about throwing rocks at a leper.  Jesus was different.  He didn’t throw rocks.
And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
Literally, Lord if it pleases you…or Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean. This man was desperate.  He was a hopeless case.  Place yourself in this man’s situation.  You are slowly dying by literally rotting away.  Your loosing fingers and you are so horrible to look at that you’ve stopped looking into a mirror years ago.  You stay covered with old tattered clothing and there is a horrible stench because the disease is working on your skin and it hurts so much to bathe.  You’ve not had contact with those you love.  And you can do nothing about it.
You’ve heard that there is a man whose words have authority.  He’s preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and He’s healing all diseases.  You go from hopelessness to hopefulness.  You’d long since given up and now there is a spark of light that causes you to trust in the only one who can heal.  You believe He has the power to cleanse you but will He? Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.

Does Jesus have the power to heal today?  Have you ever prayed for healing?  Most importantly, Jesus has the power to heal us of our sin disease.  He has the power.
2.  Our Lord is Willing (4:13)
[13] And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Mark tells us…
Mark 1:41 (ESV)  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
Aren’t you so thankful that our Lord is moved with compassion and willing to heal?  We must see that the compassion Jesus had for this hopeless man is the same compassion He has for the hopeless sinner.
kaqari,zw katharizo 1) to make clean, cleanse 1a) from physical stains and dirt 1a1) utensils, food 1a2) a leper, to cleanse by curing 1a3) to remove by cleansing 1b) in a moral sense 1b1) to free from defilement of sin and from faults 1b2) to purify from wickedness 1b3) to free from guilt of sin, to purify 1b4) to consecrate by cleansing or purifying–BibleWorks
When Jesus spoke katharizo the man went from having rotting flesh to having flesh like a newborn baby.  He was totally clean.  Not only was the healing total but it was immediate.  One second, he was covered with leprosy and the next covered with pure skin.  Everyone saw it.  This wasn’t like the foolishness that happens today by those on TV.  The person in the wheelchair stands and says, I think my back is feeling better. This wasn’t like that; this healing was visible and immediate.

It seems that this man was completely cleansed, body and soul.  He recognizes that Jesus is Lord and calls Him that.  He recognizes that Jesus has the power to heal an incurable disease; one that everyone knew could only be cured by God.  In humility, he approaches Christ and begs Him to help.  Then Jesus says He’s willing to cleanse this man.  It was the will of the Son to cleanse him.  Then Jesus speaks katharizo which means to cleanse externally from defilement and dirt and disease and also means to make clean in the sense of being purified from the guilt and defilement of sin.  With this one Word Christ removes the disease of leprosy and the disease of sin; one is immediately seen plainly by everyone the other is immediate as well but is between this man and Christ alone.  No one could say anything less than they had seen a miracle of God because the change was immediate and very noticeable.  This has been the pattern so far.  When Jesus heals, the healing is instantaneous.  Remember Peter’s mother in law?

It was a well known fact that only God could cure the disease of leprosy.  So when Jesus does it with a word, what is He telling everyone?  He is God.  He is the Great High Priest who can do what no earthly priest could.  Not only is He willing to cleanse disease, our Lord is willing and able to forgive sin.

One other thing, Luke reports that while Jesus spoke this word of healing He touched the man.  The divine power left Christ and entered into this poor soul and cleansed him inside and out.  To think that King Jesus would stoop so low as to care for and even touch one so vile to heal him should blow us away.  God is not far off and uncaring.  He bends over to touch and heal.

Jesus’ touching the leper is significant, since such contact rendered him ceremonially unclean (Lev 13:42-46; all of m. Nega`im). The physical communication of charity meant suffering ceremonial uncleanness that could affect his involvement in corporate worship. Given that Jesus’ other miracles have occurred through the mere speaking of his word, it’s clear that the act of touching is conscious. The healing is immediate; the compassion is demonstrable. Jesus is able and willing.–Block

He saw the need of the human race and entered into the time-space continuum as a baby born of a virgin.  He grew up and lived a perfectly sinless life and He was crucified for the sin of His people, He was buried and in three days came back to life to prove that death and the grave could not hold One so holy.  This Jesus tells us to come to Him.

John 6:37 (ESV)

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

This leper was one the Father had given the Son.  This diseased leper was the reward that Christ received for going to the cross.  This disfigured hideous man was hated and mocked by everyone but deeply loved by Christ.  What a Savior we have!  He touched him and spoke Be Clean!  With the creative Word a new body was created and a sinful soul was forgiven.

If you, like this leper, come to Jesus by faith He will speak that same word to you…katharizo…be clean!  Your sins will be forgiven and you will be made clean.

3. Our Lord’s Command (5:14, 15)

[14] And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

Jesus first tells the healed man to tell no one about this by bringing more attention on yourself and by bringing more attention to Me as a healer.  We must remember Jesus’ purpose was to heal souls of sin by seeking out and saving the lost.  His primary purpose was not to heal physically.

Along with this prohibition, Jesus also gave the man a positive command.  Go show yourself to the priest and make the approved offering.  In doing this, the man would be reinstated back into society.  He could go home to his wife and family.  He could have his life back.  He didn’t have to stand at a distance anymore shouting Unclean, Unclean.

Leviticus 14:1-7 Tells of the offering that the cleansed leper had to bring to the priest.

The leper goes to the priest and passes inspection.  Did he keep silent?

[15] But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.

Mark reports that it was actually the cleansed man who took the lead in sharing this amazing news that there is a Man from God who can even cure leprosy.

Mark 1:45 (ESV)

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

We see that Mark gives us the reason Jesus didn’t want the news spread.  He was so famous He could not enter into a town without be mobbed by the people.  So He began teaching outside the gates of the cities and people came out to Him to hear the Gospel.

Luke closes this section by telling us that Jesus also went out into remote places to steal away and be alone with His heavenly Father.  He prayed to God.  For Luke prayer is very important part of Jesus’ ministry.  More than any other Gospel writers, Luke speaks of the importance of prayer in the life of Jesus.

Jesus said he came to minister to those in need, and Luke 5:12-16 shows how that ministry extends to the very bottom rungs of the social ladder. No one is beyond the potential touch of Jesus’ love.—Block

No matter if you are king or a lowly leper, Jesus’ touch is needed for cleansing.  Have you been touched by Christ, the Great High Priest?  He not only declares one to be clean He alone has the power to make one clean.  Are you in need of a touch from Jesus?  Are you in need of forgiveness?  Do you need to have your sin removed?  Come to Christ by faith and experience the forgiveness of God today.

Next week we’ll see another healing that shows He can do what no priest can do and what only God can do.

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