Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
Imagine the leper's terrible fate!
Looked upon with horror,
forced to leave his family and friends,
and cast out of the camp.
People fled when they heard his cries, “Unclean! Unclean!”
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.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
Leprosy was the most loathsome disease in Biblical times. It was caused by unclean habits. Leprosy was a foul, spreading, and usually incurable disorder and was looked upon with disgust. If anyone touched a leper, he was almost sure to get the hideous disease.
The book of Leviticus dictates the treatment for leprosy. As soon as the disease was suspected, the person was to go, or be brought, not to a physician, but to one of the priests. Leprosy was believed fatal if not divinely cured.
The only way to stamp out leprosy was to isolate the lepers so that the disease couldn’t spread. Leviticus 13:46 orders, “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” So the leper had to separate himself from the pure. In other words, the leper must separate from the people and the sanctuary. The leper was cast into exile.
As an outcast, the leper behaved as an excommunicate seeking for the mercy of God. He tore his clothes to show extreme agony and grief. His head was bare to express extreme humiliation. He put a covering on his upper lip and cried aloud, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that the pure would keep away and not risk contagion.
Imagine his terrible fate! Looked upon with horror, forced to leave his family and friends, and cast out of the camp. People fled when they heard his cries, “Unclean! Unclean!” The pure ran from him because of his uncleanness and defilement. The lepers led a horrible existence among themselves with nothing to look forward to but increasing suffering and death.
Leprosy symbolizes sin, which infects our moral nature and spreads throughout our body and defiles our life. The moral leper is unfit for the company of the pure in heart, and unworthy of a place in the Church. God makes it perfectly clear that sin is a foul disease only He can cure. And unless divinely cured, moral leprosy must run its fatal course. Moral leprosy ends in spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
How terrible the sinner’s condition – shunned and dreaded by the pure and holy, separated from God, and worst of all, cast into exile with fellow moral lepers in eternal misery and damnation. To be cast out from the presence of God is the worst penalty of sin. Just as the leper was forced to dwell outside the camp, God does not recognize the unclean as part of His Church. They will be sent into eternal exile - hell. The awful sentence pronounced on the unclean by Christ is, “Depart from me!”
Christ warns us in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Shun the close friendship of the debased and unclean as you would shun those afflicted with a contagious disease. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14). “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Corinthians 6:17).
Contact with the moral leper defiles, except in cases where God appoints a servant to seek out and witness to the sinner. At times, God calls a servant to go among the moral lepers to cleanse their wounds and care for their souls. But this servant must be spiritually strong so that he or she can resist the contagion of sin. But, you may say, Jesus ate with the publicans and sinners. Yes, He did, but only to minister to them. All of Jesus' close friends were believers.
The good news is that leprosy could be divinely cured. In the Old Testament, numerous lepers were healed: Moses (Exodus 4:7); Miriam, his sister (Numbers 12:10, 14); and Naaman (II Kings 5). And in the New Testament, Christ healed many lepers (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15; Luke 17:11-19).
The cleansing of leprosy represents the forgiveness of sins. We must come to the Divine Healer feeling the hopelessness of our moral disease. We must acknowledge our perishing and lost condition without Him. We must appeal to Him to cleanse us from the foul and fatal disease of sin. For moral leprosy, if uncured, ends in spiritual death. Moral leprosy – sin – ends in Christ’s command, “Depart from me.”
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father:
Someone this very moment may be crying out in his or her heart, “Unclean! Unclean!” May that person come and kneel down to You and cry out, “Lord, have compassion on me. Touch me and make me clean. Today – right now – cleanse me and by the power of the Holy Spirit enable me to walk in purity and holiness.”
Some material in this message is from The Pulpit Commentary.