The Cure of the Leper

Posted by Thaddaeus

Mark 1: 40-45


A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean."  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean."  The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.  Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.  He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."  The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.  He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.  He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.


Background:  In ancient Judaism, leprosy and other skin infections are believed to be manifestations of sin.  A leper is considered unclean both physically and spiritually.  Anyone suspected of leprosy has to show themselves to a priest for examination according to the prescriptions of Moses.  Lepers are marginalized and isolated from the community until they recover or die.  Jesus cures the leper by touching him.  Under Jewish law, touching a leper is second only to touching a corpse; except, in this case, Jesus cannot be accused of defiling Himself by such contact because the leper is cured.  Jesus dismisses the leper harshly and sends him away.  As the leper retreats, Jesus commands that he tell no one anything, but go show himself to the priests, which will be proof for them: the Sadducees.  Quite possibly the leper was being used by the Sadducees in their plot to discredit Jesus with the people of this town.


The Cure of the Leper:  There are various theories why Jesus tells those He heals not to tell anyone about it.  The so-called Messianic Secret.   First, recall that Jesus withdraws to Galilee after the arrest of John the Baptist because He doesn’t want to draw the same attention of the Romans to Himself before the appointed time.  He arrives in Galilee to a flurry of demonic activity.  When Jesus expels demons, He binds them from spreading the news that He is the Holy One of God.  Jesus is not the kind of Messiah the Jewish people expect.  In first century Judaism, many are waiting for a military Messiah to set them free from the Romans and reestablish the nation of Israel.  He teaches the Apostles that the true Messiah is foretold as the suffering servant.  And, while the Messiah will rule kingdoms on earth, that kingdom will be accomplished by His passion, death and resurrection.  This is the real Messianic Secret.