And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, If you will, you can make me clean.
You remember the story of the leper which the poet Swinburne has woven into one of his most beautiful, most painfully realistic, poems. He tells about a lady at the French Court in the Middle Ages, who was stricken with leprosy. She had been courted, flattered, idolized, and almost worshipped for her wit and beauty by the king, princes, and all the royal train, until she was smitten with leprosy. Then her very lovers hunted her forth as a banned and God-forsaken thing; every door in the great city of Paris was slammed in her face; no one would give her a drop of water or piece of bread; the very children spat in her face, and fled from her as a pestilential thing, until a poor clerk, who had loved the great lady a long way off, and had never spoken to her until then, took her to his house for pity's sake, and nursed her until she died, and he was cast out and cursed himself by all the religious world for doing it. That was what the leper had become in the Middle Ages, and something like that he was among the Jews of our Saviour's time, hated by men because believed to be hated by God, carrying in his flesh and skin the very marks of God's anger, contempt, and scorn, the foulest thing on God's fair earth, whose presence meant defilement, and whom to touch was sin. That was the thing that lay at Christ's feet, and on which that pure, gentle hand was laid. He stretched forth His hand and touched him, and said, "I will, be thou clean;" and straightway his leprosy was cleansed.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.