A Man Full of Hopelessness

Luke 5:12—16

Man without Jesus Christ is not only lost, but hopelessly lost, living in despair. To someone like that, Jesus’ words offer the only hope:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies… (John 11:25)

Man’s withered hopes can be resurrected at the touch of Jesus. A man full of despair can be made clean by God’s grace.

In this stirring incident, Jesus heals a man full of leprosy, void of hope; a lost man. Matthew tells the same story, but he places it right after the Sermon on the Mount. Luke, the physician-historian adds a detail to Mark’s account: the man was “covered with leprosy.” He as literally FULL of leprosy. In other words, the disease had run its course and was in a very advanced state. This man had no future.

This kind of man offered Jesus a chance to demonstrate His compassion and healing power in a way that caused onlookers to think twice about who this Jesus was.

1. Misery does not love company, verse 12

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. (verse 12a)

This incident is recorded in Mark 1:40—45 and Matthew 8:1—4. Mark’s account is the most vivid and all three Gospels place these events during different periods of Jesus’ ministry. This is not unusual. It was not uncommon for Biblical writers to record history, not chronologically, but logically, grouping together teachings and incidents that had common themes. Regardless of precisely when the healing took place, the fact is it did and one man’s life was radically changed by our Lord.

Luke doesn’t tell us what town Jesus was in, but He was probably on the outskirts of the town since lepers were not generally to be found IN any town. This man was not destined to remain in this world for much longer; his leprosy had eaten him up. His health was almost gone. He had no friends, yet he was able to get close enough to Jesus to be touched by Him! The fact this this leper was able to get so close to Jesus is remarkable given what Leviticus 13:45, 46 says—

The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

It’s interesting to compare what happened in this incident with a similar one later on in the ministry of Jesus:

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance… (Luke 17:12)

Like sin, leprosy works slowly but irresistibly. It can be deadly. It poisons the blood, ultimately polluting the whole body. Sin affects the heart, which in turn directs the whole course of one’s life. Sin corrupts a person’s entire being, inside and out. A sinner without Christ is not only in a hopeless state, he is already dead. During the early days of the Church, Rome considered lepers as dead and actually had “rites” said over them!

A person living in sin is dead to God, regardless of how he may feel.

When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (verse 12b)

Seeing Jesus was enough to inspire hope in this man’s heart. No doubt he heard about this “miracle working” teacher and somehow he realized that in this Man rested his last, best hope for life. This poor leper had no guarantee that he would get the help he needed. But he stepped out in faith in a most humble manner: he fell on his face before Jesus.

This leper demonstrated not only faith but submission. He was sure Jesus had the power to heal him, but he wasn’t so sure of Jesus’ willingness to heal him. He had begged Jesus to heal him, but at the same time he was willing to submit himself to Christ’s sovereignty. What an important lesson for all believers to learn! This very short prayer reveals two important things:

(1) A knowledge of Jesus. He didn’t know much, but this leper had some knowledge of Jesus, and intelligent faith grows out of knowledge. The problem with too many believers today, and why so they are so often disappointed with their prayer lives, is that they really don’t know much about the Savior they are praying to! The more you know about Jesus through what the Word reveals about Him, the greater your understanding of Him will be, and the stronger your faith will be.

(2) The burning desire of the leper. He wanted to be healed. The leper prayed a focused prayer. It wasn’t long, but it was to the point. The leper confessed his need simply and succinctly.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6—8)

2. Instant healing, verse 13

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Over and over again, the Gospels attest to the “healing touch” of Jesus! Every miracle in the Gospels is linked not only to Jesus’ “I am willing,” but also to His coming into contact with the one who was in need. However, it is interesting to note that sometimes, the one in need wasn’t touched by Jesus; sometimes they (the needy ones) took the initiative and reached out to touch Him. Either way, somehow there had to be a connection between the needy one and the healing power that flowed from Jesus. It wasn’t magic! It was the willingness of Jesus and the faith of the leper. Mark gives us an important detail Luke leaves out:

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. (Mark 1:41a)

The man may have been full of leprosy, but Jesus was full of compassion. The compassion was where need met power.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

(1) The touch. Jesus touched the leper. Unthinkable! No healthy person would dare touch a leper. According to the Law, the moment Jesus touched this man, Jesus became defiled. But, the power of God, flowing through the Jesus, cleansed the disease.

(2) The word. Jesus told the man: “I am willing to heal you. Be clean!” Jesus not only touched the man, He gave the man assurance by His word. We are saved by the blood of Jesus along with the power of His Word. Jesus speaks and it is done.

(3) Total healing. What a miracle! Immediately the leprosy left this man’s body. One moment this man was full of sickness but his heart was empty. The next moment his situation was completely turned on its head! The disease was completely gone and his life was full of hope.

Jesus was a rule-breaker! He loved to “go rogue” around the religionists. Here He touched a leper, in defiance of the Law. Later on (7:14), Jesus would touch a coffin, another forbidden act. Jesus would not let any rule or man stop Him from His work. He did what He had to do. And He still does.

3. A curious command, verse 14

Then Jesus ordered 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.”

Why would Jesus tell this healed man to keep quiet about his healing? That surely goes against not only human nature, but also the mandate to witness and share one’s faith. Some have asserted the idea that Jesus wanted to prevent or at least forestall a national “crown the Messiah” frenzy. Jesus may have wanted to prevent some other crisis. Jesus may have wanted to correct the misconception that He was some kind traveling miracle worker. This wasn’t the first time Jesus wanted a miracle kept quiet; it happened back in 4:41.

But hand-in-hand with the command to keep quiet about the healing, this former leper was to do something else.  Jesus was mindful of the Law of Moses, and He commanded this man to go and present himself to the priest so that the priest could confirm that he was clean; that the leprosy was gone and so that he could be restored to full social and religious fellowship. In addition, he was to make a special offering, two clean, living birds, according to Leviticus 14:1 – 7.

If the command to be silent about a healing was a recurring pattern in the Gospels, so was the urge to disobey it. Instead of silence, there were voices. Lots of voices!

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.

Even Jesus couldn’t stop people from talking! Of note is the telling phrase, “all the more.” Clearly, during these early days of His ministry, Jesus was a genuine phenom, at least among the common folk.We read this in Mark’s account:

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:45)

Huge crowds were now looking for Jesus. They came from all over for two reasons: to “hear Him” and to “be healed of their sicknesses.”

Here is where and why Jesus began His practice of withdrawing from the public arena to be alone and to pray by Himself. As a man, Jesus would need to rest. We may be sure that the Gospels record merely a fraction of Jesus’ work among the sick and lost. Anybody who has every engaged in public speaking of any kind, but especially of preaching or teaching the Gospel, knows how exhausting a few minutes behind a podium or pulpit can be. Add to that the compassion and heartfelt love Jesus had when He saw the sick and dying coming to Him as their only hope, and we can totally understand why Jesus the Man needed to rest.

But Jesus the Son of God needed to get by Himself so that He could commune with His heavenly Father; so that He could seek His Father’s will and direction and receive divine strength. If any man knew about the importance of prayer, it was Luke. Luke had that in common with his friend Paul, whom he would later travel the world with, taking the Gospel to other people who were lost and full of hopelessness.

Jesus, the Son of God, is still full of compassion and still has the power to heal.  Maybe you don’t have a disease like leprosy, but maybe you feel a sense of hopelessness, or a sense that your life is far from what it could be.  Maybe you need to come into contact with Someone with the power to heal you and make your life right.  These are things things Jesus is so good at!  And these are things He still does.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  (Revelation 3:20)

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