Lepers were confined to the outskirts, but this man comes into town. Matthew tells us that he came to Jesus. He wasn’t just wandering, he knew exactly to whom he was going. They were forbidden, actually, to come near anyone without the disease because of its contagion, because of its disgusting and tragic effects. This man, Luke, tells us and Luke, remember, is the beloved physician, had leprosy in its maximum form, he was full of leprosy…visible, frightening, ugly, isolated, destitute, that’s what became of the leper. They became beggars. They had no connection with anybody in society who wasn’t a leper. It was a kind of living death. This man could be stoned for violating the quarantines that surrounded leprosy which were based on the Old Testament law. But at this particular point, stoning may have been relief. Jesus offered to him the only hope.Outside of Leviticus chapter 13 there are a number of other places in the Old Testament in the law where God says Lepers have to be kept apart from other people because this is such a terribly disabling and disfiguring and deadly and contagious disease. And so, if you have the time you might want to read through the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus and you will note there the careful way in which a person was to be diagnosed by the priests. Remember now, the priests were the officers of the theocracy. They were the senate and the congress and they were the governors and the mayors, they were the people who were the officials and at the inspections of people from the medical side to protect the society was to be done in front of the priests and prescriptions were given them in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus as to how to conduct those kind of examinations. The worst situation, leprosy as we know it, Hansen’s Disease, caused for the person to be stamped “unclean.” In the forty-sixth verse of that chapter, Leviticus 13, this person shall remain unclean all the days in which he has the infection, he is unclean, he shall live alone, his dwelling shall be outside the camp. Immediate, permanent isolation unless in some rare conditions the disease abated and disappeared and they could be introduced back into society.Well, there’s a reason. “But go and show yourself to the priests, make an offering for your cleansing just as Moses commanded for a testimony to them.” There is in the Old Testament, Leviticus chapter 14, a prescribed way for the leper who is cured to get back into society clearly laid out by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God when He gave the ceremonial law to Israel. Leviticus chapter 14 says this is what you have to do, it was the priests in chapter 13 who did the diagnosis and it is the priests in chapter 14 who have to affirm the cure. So He says, “Before you just go running off telling everybody, you need to do what’s right so that the healing can be affirmed and that you can have the certificate that was given at the end of the eight days.” It may well be that he had to go to Jerusalem for this, that would take a few days, a few days down, eight days there, a few days back. Not only would he be doing what the law of Moses prescribed and making a very important testimony to the priests about the power of Jesus, but he would be buying Jesus some time because a miracle of this massive kind would just generate more crowds, more people and become potentially debilitating for Jesus. The crowds were already so big He had to go off the shore in a boat or they would have pushed Him into the water, as you know. So He says don’t tell anybody, that’s so hard.
You go to the priests, you go through the prescription indicated in Leviticus 14, and it was a quite interesting one. Two birds were taken and killed over running water and there are some cedar and scarlet and hyssop and the bird, the dead bird is wrapped in that, and it’s a very interesting cleansing ceremony. The man washes himself, he washes his clothes. He has to go in and get everything shaven so they have a clear view of all of his head. He has to offer certain sacrifices. There was two male lambs, there was a ewe lamb, there were at least three animal sacrifices and other offerings that he had to give, flour mingled with oil and then the blood was sprinkled on him and so was the oil. All of this and leprosy was this graphic illustration…I mean, if you had leprosy you had to go through all of this cleansing and God was saying…and you’ve got a much deeper problem that requires a much more profound cleansing. So all the ceremonial system and sacrificial system pointed to the need for the cleansing from sin. But the man had to go through this and it would be a testimony to the priests. “Them” at the end of the verse, I think, refers to the priests. “For a testimony to them.” Go down there, let them do this and when you get all through this and they say, “You don’t have leprosy anymore, it’s gone,” and, of course, he could give them the story of his life and what it had been like and all of that, and then they would say, “How did you get like this?” And he could say, “Jesus did this,” and this would be a great testimony also of Jesus to the priests. Also, as I said, it would buy Jesus a little time.