How Do I Love Jesus Like a Leper, Not a Pharisee?
- Alicia Purdy Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 27 Jun
Out of the many different types of people that Jesus Christ healed, the Bible shows that He healed some specific needs more frequently than other types of diseases. Blindness is one and leprosy is another.
There are numerous accounts of Jesus being moved with compassion, reaching out and healing the lepers who were social outcasts and desperate for His healing touch. But why leprosy, specifically? Certainly there were many other types of physical, emotional, and mental needs Jesus could have highlighted, yet those suffering with leprosy were often noted by the writers of the Gospels.
There was no cure for leprosy. It was a hideous, contagious, ravaging, visible, deadly, painful illness that left them physically untouchable and “unclean” under the Law. They were willing to scream, reach, fall down, and beg, forsaking shame and criticism to throw themselves at Jesus’ feet for their desperate need. What beautiful desperation!
In stark contrast to the “ugliness” of the lepers were their spiritual counterparts, the Pharisees.
Perfect, beautiful, clean, and healthy. Pharisees didn’t run to or from anyone. They kept themselves separate and remained distant, “pure,” and whole.
Yet Jesus Christ discerned the difference and it had nothing to do with the physical realm. The leper and the Pharisee both suffered from a disease and Jesus held the cure for both, yet only one of them was made whole. What made all the difference?
You must understand you are sick to be well.
In Luke 5, the Pharisees asked Jesus why He chose to spend His time with the tax collectors and sinners. It mystified them because their primary goal was to appear spiritually clean and righteous at all times, and before all people.
Jesus, on the other hand, was constantly among the spiritually and physically unclean.
His response to their question? “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Jesus wasn’t interested in “perfection.” Instead, Jesus came to minister to those who would acknowledge their need, recognize their sickness, and admit they were imperfect and in need of Him.
Jesus is attracted to the most unattractive things about ourselves; the ugliness, the sick, broken parts. He can make well anyone that understands they’re sick.
In Matthew 23, Jesus does not mince His words with the Pharisees.
“Woe to you” He cried, multiple times. There were points in Jesus’ ministry that He was just done with them and their self-righteous piety, and He absolutely spoke up and wasn’t afraid to make things get awkward!
In Matthew 23:15 He said to them,“You travel sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Ouch.
Then He went on to say, “…hypocrites! You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and greed. You blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may also be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26) Jesus was taking no prisoners that day!
Lepers? They were physically, undeniably dirty.
Their bodies were rotting away and falling off in pieces. They were sent away from the population because their disease was highly contagious. They were beggars by the roadside, getting spat on, kicked, and eating garbage, if they ate at all.
Yet, Jesus was not repelled.
In Matthew 8, a leper broke away from the crowds to throw himself at Jesus’ feet and worship Him. Matthew records that the man was healed. Many followed Jesus, and it’s safe to assume that many of them had a need. But only one person was healed.
Jesus can’t work with a Pharisee who stays “safe” in secrecy, hiding among the “clean” in the crowd, but He will absolutely reach out and touch and heal the unclean leper at His feet.
We can reveal the ugliness of our sin to Jesus.
One thing Jesus wasn’t afraid of: Sin. The “ick” factor we all thing we have. So often we fear the ugliness of our sin and we’re convinced Jesus will deem it hideous, too. So we hide it! We avoid prayer and worship and devotions because we feel our sin has made us to disgusting even for Jesus. What an effective lie of Satan!
“I came to call sinners to repentance,” Jesus said in Mark 2:17. That’s us! 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
A Pharisee refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong, but a leper takes his ugly right to Jesus.
We can’t live by how we feel; that isn’t true faith. Yes, you should confess your sins to the Lord. You, maybe you need to do better and be more like Jesus, but how can you do that if you aren’t close to Him? How can you be close to Him if you’re not in His presence daily? And reading His Word? And talking to Him in prayer?
Remember, a Pharisee feels clean and a leper feels dirty. And only one of them can Jesus truly make well.
The Pharisees were trapped by their traditions.
They loved their ceremonies and rituals and repetitious prayers (Matthew 6:7). They loved the security of knowing that everything on their spiritual to-do list was perfectly checked off. It made them feel clean.
And yet Jesus repeatedly called them out for being hypocrites.
Lepers on the other hand? They weren’t allowed in the temple. They couldn’t offer sacrifices or attend worship services. In terms of the Law, they could uphold no traditions and because of that, they could not be “clean.”
In Matthew 8, when Jesus sends the leper on his way, He tells the man to immediately go to the temple and offer sacrifices. What an offense that must have been to the Pharisees. What a joy to the former leper! To finally be allowed to officially offer thanksgiving to the Lord. How the Pharisees must have grimaced and recoiled!
“You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. You hypocrites…” Jesus said to them in Matthew 15:6-9. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. In vain they do worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” Ouch, again.
Jesus knew the Pharisees “worshipped” with their lips, but what He loved more were the lepers who threw themselves at His feet and worshipped with their hearts right there in street.
Do you want to be well? Break out from the crowd, and run to Jesus!
The leper in Matthew 8 who broke away from the crowd did one thing that no one else dared to do. He worshipped at the feet of Jesus. Worship is what made the difference! Worship is what makes you stand out from the crowd. Who cares what everyone else thinks? Throw yourself at His feet and worship Him.
If you can find the leper’s courage, you’ll experience the leper’s miracles. Are you as desperate and in need as a leper? Get right to feet of Jesus and He will reach down and touch you.
“Many” followed Jesus, the Bible notes in Matthew 8. It’s the same today, isn’t it? Many claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, and crowds of people from all walks of life use His name to do all sorts of things.
Worship is the dividing line. Humility. Submission. Obedience. It was exactly what the Pharisees missed.
They were fixated on being perfect, the kind of people someone should look up to, instead of looking to Jesus. They wanted to be followed. They didn’t want to do the following.
Jesus doesn’t care how many followers He has on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or who is reposting His best quotes. The one who worships is the one who will receive His touch.
Thank Jesus, and then ‘go your way.’
In Luke 17, when Jesus healed the 10 lepers, only one came back to say thank you. Did you ever wonder why that was? Because worship and thanksgiving come from a heart condition. The 9 lepers who didn’t bother to thank Jesus were physically changed, but their encounter with the Lord did nothing to change what was inside.
They didn’t attribute their miracle to Jesus, so they didn’t thank Him for it. How many times does Jesus do miracles in our lives that we fail to recognize and thank Him for? “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Jesus said. Certainly Jesus does notice those who bless, glorify and thank Him. And He does also notice those who don’t, because worship begins in the heart. Developing a habit of worshipping the Lord in all things will ensure He always gets the glory due His name.
Another important aspect of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers is what He said to one in Matthew 8 – testify! “Go your way.” What He meant was this: Get back to living your life and let everyone see what the Lord has done in you. They “knew you when,” but let them “know you now” – as the person Jesus made whole.
Tell people. Testify. They all saw you sick. Let them see you well and tell them Who made you well. Be a living witness to the goodness of God, “known and read of all men.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
Alicia Purdy is an author, blogger and professional writer with an M.A. in Journalism, and a human with an ongoing education in all things life-related! Her passion is to write about real life and a real faith in a real Jesus to inspire, encourage and entertain people from all walks of life. You can learn more about the 7 Hebrew Words for Praise in her book “The Way of the Worshipper” and subscribe to her blog: TheWayoftheWorshipper.com. If you need a laugh today, check out her snarky side at An Everyday Kind of Jesus. Alicia and her husband have 5 kids and 1 cat, named Chester. You can find and follow Alicia on Facebookand Instagram. If you meet her in person, she will most likely try and wipe you down with essential oils and then ask if you want to grab a coffee.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kevron2001