And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and sought him…
We noticed how Jesus called the fishermen to be fishers of men, and how they nobly responded to his call, and forsook the fish and boats and friends that they might follow him. We have now before us two instructive miracles performed during his evangelistic work, and resulting in an extension of his influence. Between them there is interposed a significant remark about our Lord's private prayer, so that the order of our thought is miracle, prayer, and more miracle. It is thus that Divine work goes on. We must, consequently, give ourselves unto prayer as well as the ministry of the Word if we would follow Jesus or his apostles.
I. CONSIDER THE CURE OF THE LEPROSY. (Vers. 12-15.) It was manifestly a very serious case - the man was" full of leprosy." It was the disease in its worst stage. Humanly speaking, it was incurable. So far as man was concerned, the case was hopeless. Now, in this respect, the leprosy is a type of sin. Sin is leprosy in the soul. It is so far incurable by man. But further, the leper was isolated from his kind, not because the disease was infectious through contact, which seems to be quite disproved, but because in this way God would show his abhorrence of sin and its essentially separating power. The poor lepers, as they went up and down the land with rent garments, and crying, "unclean!" were virtually dead men mourning over their lost and hopeless condition. But this poor leper had heard of Jesus, had come to him, convinced that he was able to save him. He throws himself down consequently at Christ's feet, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He was convinced of the Saviour's power, and he threw himself upon his sovereign mercy in the matter of the willingness to save. And it is just to this that every sinner must come. Persuaded of Christ's ability to save, he must throw himself upon his sovereign clemency. For the Saviour might justly refuse to save any, though, as a matter of fact, he is anxious to save all. And now let us notice Christ's method in saving him. He might have saved him by a word, but to show his sympathy and freedom from all fear of defilement, he heals him by a touch, saying, "I will: be thou clean." And immediately the leprosy departed from him. In the very same way can the Saviour heal the leprosy of sin. If we only ask him, he will tenderly touch us, and instantaneously the soul's disease will depart. But, when healed, the man has certain duties to discharge at the instigation of Jesus. He is directed first to tell no man; for Jesus wants to be something more than a physician of the body, and he might, through the patient's report, be so overwhelmed with physical cases as not to have sufficient time for the preaching and spiritual work which with him was paramount. Secondly, he is directed to repair to the priest, and fulfil all that the Law of Moses required, "for a testimony unto them." In this way our Lord desired to demonstrate that he had not come, as they basely insinuated, to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil them and to get them fulfilled. Notwithstanding these precautions, his fame so spread that multitudes came flocking together to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. We have thus presented to us the way of salvation and its results. It is by coming to Jesus that we are saved from sin; it is by doing what Jesus requires that we are made useful among men. Let us test Jesus as the appointed Saviour, and live as our Lord directs.
II. CONSIDER OUR LORD'S RETIREMENT TO THE WILDERNESS FOR PRAYER. (Ver. 16.) There is a certain measure of exhaustion in such work as was performed by Jesus. He bowed to the necessity of private communion with God. Even Jesus could not be always in public; solitude was as needful for his soul's health as society for his opportunity of usefulness. Vinet, in a fine sermon on this passage, says, "We do not believe that we exaggerate when we say that those who do not love solitude do not love truth." It is in the secret place with God that we renew our spiritual strength and are fit for further service. And what perfect prayers our Lord's must have been. No personal sin to confess, but simply to confer with the Father about the salvation of the world and how best he could promote the welfare of men. The time of solitude with God is the most fruitful time. Without it how barren all else proves!
III. CONSIDER THE HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC. (Vers. 17-26.) It was in Capernaum, it is believed, and in the house of Peter, that the miracle happened. The audience was a critical one with whom Jesus was dealing, composed of Pharisees and doctors of the Law, out of every town of Galilee and Judaea and Jerusalem. They had come to pass judgment on the new movement under Jesus. And the Spirit was waiting there as the Agent to apply the healing Word of the Messiah to those not unwilling to be healed. But alas! these hard-hearted lawyers gave him no opportunity. But four friends bring along the street a paralytic neighbour, in the hope that he may be healed by Jesus. They cannot at first get near, and so they repair to the house-top, and proceed to tear up the tiles in sufficient numbers to allow of their lowering their helpless friend to the feet of Jesus. Here was the Spirit's opportunity. And here let us notice the twofold paralysis under which the poor man laboured - the one was the paralysis of the soul, the other the paralysis of the body. Both appealed to the sympathy of Jesus. Besides, he is pleased to notice the faith of the bearers. We are not told that the paralytic at this time had faith in Jesus, but his friends had for him. They believed that if they could only get their friend before Jesus, they would not have to carry him home again. And disinterested faith for a blessing upon others Jesus respects and rewards. But which of the two paralyses will Jesus cure first? The more serious - the paralysis of soul through sin. Hence, in endearing accents he says, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." It was a case of absolution, as Robertson boldly puts it in his sermon upon this passage. And to absolution by one whom they regarded as a mere man the scribes and Pharisees secretly objected. They rightly said that none but God alone could forgive sins as against God; they wrongly concluded that Jesus was not Divine. There was no blasphemy, for this was God incarnate. Their objection was not publicly taken. It was a mental note they took of the matter. Jesus soon shows them that he can read their thoughts, by laying bare their objection, and putting his prerogative to the proof. The demonstration he proposes is this: he has pronounced the absolution. It may be deemed easy to do this, since no one can tell that it has not taken place. But he is willing to rest his claim to absolving power by saying the harder word, "Rise up and walk." According as this takes place or fails is he willing to be judged. And so, before his enemies and to the palsied patient, he says, "Arise, and take up thy conch, and go into thine house." Here was a demonstration of his ability to forgive sins as against God, for the paralysis departs and the powerless patient starts to his feet and reaches home with his bed as Jesus commands him. In doing so, moreover, he glorifies God, doubtless, for the double blessing. Now, these miracles are signs and symbols of spiritual things. This healing of the body is a sign of what Jesus is willing and waiting to do for our souls. Paralysis is what has seized on many. What a living death it is! It is only Jesus who can free our spirits from it. If we look to him he will give us his Spirit to strengthen us with all might in the inner man, and to help us to earnestness and action. And first we shall show to all about us that we are able to help ourselves, and will no longer be burdens upon others. The four burden-bearers here were spared their hard work ever after. This is the first manifestation of spiritual strength in the carrying honestly our own share of life's responsibilities! Secondly, we shall glorify God through our spiritual powers. We shall praise him for his loving-kindness and tender mercy towards us. And lastly, we shall lead others to fear and to glorify God too. Hence the great importance of getting rid of spiritual paralysis and of rising into the exercise of spiritual power. We should also learn distinctly from this miracle what possibilities lie awaiting intercessory prayer and disinterested faith. We may do much in bringing helpless souls to Jesus, that they may be healed by him. He is able to do much for our friends as well as for ourselves, and the joy of bringing others to Christ is only exceeded by the joy of coming ourselves. Let us keep coming to Jesus for ourselves and with others, and strange and blessed experiences shall still be ours. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
WEB: It happened, while he was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face, and begged him, saying, "Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean."