Understanding Luke 5:12-16



Could someone please explain to me what this story in the Bible means:
The Cleansing of a Leper.
12Now there was a man full of leprosy
in one of the towns where he was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” 13Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. 14Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;* that will be proof for them.”g 15The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, 16but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.h * (Luke 5:12-16)

I don’t understand why Jesus always tells the people not to say anything, and then they do. Does this represent anything?

Thank you for answering my question! :thumbsup:

  • SnowAngels


My personal take only:

I see Christ applying reverse psychology here. In similar cleansing stories, we see Christ noting how he cured ten or so men of afflictions but only one returned to give Him thanks. He seems to want to ensure that His presence is mentioned by using the human tendency to do the opposite of what others instruct them to do.

Hopefully others have better theological or magisterial answers to go with my opinion.


Hi Snow,

He asked the man who was cured not to tell anyone. There is no record that he disobeyed. As far as the crowds are concerned, it just says that Jesus became more popular following this miracle.

Jesus did not wish to perturb the powers that be before the time came for his passion. And when the time came, after raising Lazarus from the dead, he made a solemn entry in Jérusalem to make sure he would be noticed.



By touching and healing the leper Jesus is teaching that it is not the Christian who is contaminated by coming in contact with the sick, poor, sinner or any other part of the world. Rather the sick, poor, sinners and the world are purified, cleansed and healed by coming on contact with us.



I dont buy it. Why would Jesus encourage us to disobey him. It would really be problematic. We would then have to ask what other times did He purposely instruct the opposite He meant.

I would say that it was because He hadn’t yet revealved Himself fully; the time was not yet at hand for that.

I don’t think it was reverse psycology…that’s not Jesus’ way.


What is really interesting is that when he healed the demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, where he cast the demons into the herd of swine, he actually commands the man he healed to go into his country and tell everyone what Jesus had done for him. Obviously he had no issue with people telling about what he did. So then why would he tell the Jewish people he healed not to tell anyone?

The reason is the Gadarenes were Gentiles (that’s why they were herding pigs) and as such, they had no nationalistic concept of the messiah that the Jews did. They could be told about all the works Jesus did, and they wouldn’t try to crown him king, as the Jews did multiple times whenever they witnessed a huge miracle. The Jewish people knew the prophecies of the messiah, that he would heal the sick, but they had a severe misunderstanding of what exactly the messiah was to be. Jesus didn’t want to perpetuate that misunderstanding.

So the way I see it, Jesus was trying to avoid being seen as a worldly leader or a miracle man who’s only concern was for the body. His main mission was to save souls. He did heal people, if they had faith, but he was trying to avoid being seen as an earthly king. That’s not what he came for.


. There is no reverse psycho, Jesus never needed psycho mumbo jumbo in anything He did.


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.


Good post. Welcome to CAF.


Sometimes it’s helpful to compare stories as they appear in the other Gospels (although other times it can be a bit frustrating). Mk 1:40f and Mt 8:1f both omit any comment that the leper was in a city–lepers were expelled by Jewish law as has been mentioned in other posts above. I think it’s possible that Jesus tried to protect him from punishment by telling him to tell only the priest. Remember how the blind man was interrogated by the authorities?
Or I wonder if because Luke wasn’t Jewish he didn’t understand Jewish law.
Also, it seems very clear that Jesus attracted enormous crowds even though (as Mark’s version says) Jesus quickly decided to avoid preaching in towns, both to protect himself and the disciples (he later commented that a prophet should die in Jeruslem) and to protect the people (Luke reports later a crowd so large that people were being trampled).
Do you think its OK for Christians, even Catholics, to have different interpretations–as long as we are sincerely seeking truth, inspiration, and discernment? I like the concept that Scripture is a living Word, and as we mature we will change how we read it.


There is nothing here in this passage that indicates that the man didn’t do as Jesus commanded. It only states that even though he instructed him not to tell anyone (he tried to remain low-key), word spread and his fame grew. We don’t know that he told every single person he healed the same thing, but it was fitting for him to tell this man to go straight to the priest to make an offering, because that is what the Law prescribed.


[Do you think its OK for Christians, even Catholics, to have different interpretations–as long as we are sincerely seeking truth, inspiration, and discernment? I like the concept that Scripture is a living Word, and as we mature we will change how we read it.

No it is not OK to have different interpretations. Careful hermeneutics is what it takes to divulge what Scripture is saying. You are dealing with a culture that is thousands of years old, to take the Scripture and to try and apply todays culture with the Jewish language and try to figure out what it is saying without proper teaching is how cults are started and people get trapped in them. First, to whom is the Bible speaking to, Jews? Gentiles? Romans? Pharisees? A large crowd? Second, what is the political climate of the time? war?, peace, a transition of power, like a new king, or a new Chief Priest. To just try and make up your interpretation is wrong, or to think that “well this verse means this to me”. The Bible is a book of order not confusion. Let me give you an example. How would you interpret this verse? " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"? It only has one meaning, correct? So does every other living breathing Word of God. For instance when John uses the word “Word”, in John 1:1, he was speaking of the word Logos , a term the Greeks used to refer to who they thought the creator of the universe was. John was saying "hey you know that spirit you Greeks call Logos?, Jesus is the Logos (Word) that created the universe. That is the audience that John is speaking to in the opening of his letter.


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