Jesus Heals The Leper and The Paralytic
By Joseph Magno
Key Verse 1:41
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
In the last passage, we learned one of the main purposes of Jesus’ coming to this world. The crowds who had come to Jesus were numerous. Their needs were endless. Their painful struggles were many. When Peter and the other disciples saw how the crowds were coming to Jesus for healing, they ran to Jesus’ sanctuary of prayer and demanded that he come to tend to the needs of the crowds. But after quiet prayer with God, Jesus confirmed his priority in life and in mission. He firmly decided to do what he came to this world to do. So he said to them: “Let us go somewhere else —to the nearby villages —so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (1:38) Jesus had come to teach the word of God and lay down his life as a ransom sacrifice for the sins of the world. Therefore, from the time Jesus made that decision to preach the word of God until his crucifixion, Jesus devoted himself to the teaching of God’s word.
Today’s passage relates two separate incidents of healing. The story about the healing of the leper and that of the paralyzed man answer the purpose of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus taught the word of God to plant faith in the word of God in people’s hearts. If people listen to the word of God, believe it and accept it, faith is born in the heart. When faith is born in the heart, the purpose of the word of God is then fulfilled. Therefore, the few who received Jesus’ healing in these stories are they who had received the word of God, believed it, and put it into practice. May God help us to learn their faith.
Now let’s read verse 40. “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” The first story is about a leper. In Jesus’ time leprosy was an incurable disease. It was a very painful disease. The parts of the body decayed and fell off one by one. So lepers must have asked the timeless question “What have I done to deserve this?” To add insult to injury, lepers were banished to leper colonies far away from any human contact. Most people want to live among others and be part of a community. This leper was a human being as well. He wanted to make friends. But because of his disease, he became an outcast of society. How miserable he must have been- a most lonely and hopeless man in the world. What could he do? He could do nothing! He could only curse his fate. He could only wallow in self pity night and day.
He could do nothing for himself. But there was one thing he could do for himself. One day, he did something for himself that changed his impossible situation. He came to Jesus. He had heard that Jesus preaches the good news of the kingdom of God, and that “Jesus healed many with various diseases”. (1:27-34) When he heard such things, he did not just hear them with his ears. He heard them with his heart. He heard them with his heart because they were indeed words of hope and truth. He heard them with his heart because they were words of life. He heard them with his heart because Jesus’ words spoke to his heart revealing to him the depth of God’s love and hope for all people, including himself. And the remarkable thing about this person is that when he heard the words of Jesus, he believed them. And when he believed them, faith was born in his heart. And faith changed his life around. With faith he came to Jesus.
There were many in those days who heard Jesus’ words with their ears but not with their hearts. So, even if they could climb the highest mountain, they could do nothing for their soul. They could do nothing to change their situation. Today, billions of people on planet earth want to change their situation in life. But not many know that there is only one thing a person can do for themselves to change their situation. They must believe and accept Jesus’ words, until faith is born in their hearts. And with that faith, they must come to Jesus. For without faith a person can do nothing for themself, nor for others nor for God. Rom.10:17 says: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” This was exactly the purpose of Jesus’ preaching, that through his words, people might believe, and by believing, faith might be born in their hearts- almighty faith to do what is even impossible to do, let alone to come to him for healing. Faith, then, is what compelled this leper to come to Jesus. With faith, believing in Jesus’ words, he could be healed.
Let’s read verse 40 again. “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” It wasn’t easy to come to Jesus, for no leper could approach another person without the risk of being stoned to death. But this leper could come to Jesus by faith. His mind warned him that the Holy Jesus would reject a sinner like him. But his heart, equipped with faith, assured him that Jesus would not turn him away. His mind urged him that his condition was hopeless, and his disease beyond cure. But his heart, equipped with faith, urged him not to give in to despair but to hold on to the hope that Jesus can make him clean. His heart, equipped with faith, compelled him to humbly ask Jesus to cleanse him. His earnest prayer was: “Jesus, If you are willing, you can make me clean.” In today’s generation, there are many bitter anguished souls whose bitterness at life, at people, and at God leave them in a state of perpetual helplessness, such that they cannot do anything for themselves. But like this leper they must come to Jesus and pray: “Lord Jesus, I want to be clean.”
Let’s read verses 41,42. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” A person’s personal agony, or one’s deepest sin is too shameful. Many people have such painful sores in their hearts and on their souls. Even though their lives may look like open books, no one really knows their inner lives nor the secrets of their hearts. They become masters of disguise in society. Even the thought of their secret sores becoming public knowledge would bring about thoughts of suicide, let alone allow others to touch their sores. However, Jesus touched the leper’s sores. Jesus touched his sores because God is willing to touch people’s deepest sores in order to heal them. Jesus touched his sores to teach us that he is willing to touch our sins with the compassion of God in order to rid us of sin which makes our lives miserable. If a person does not come to Jesus for healing, the shameful sore can only become worse and worse, no matter how many bandages we might put on it. But when, by faith, we come to Jesus for his healing, surely he is willing to heal the shameful sore.
Look at verses 43-45. After his healing, Jesus warned him not to tell anyone but to go and offer sacrifices to God. Surely his healing would encourage many to come to Jesus for similar healing. But Jesus did not come just to give away free healings. He came to preach the word of God, that through the word of God people might believe and by believing, faith might be born in their hearts. And with this faith, they could soar on wings like eagles. To Jesus, it was not enough that others should hear about his mercy. He wanted them to personally believe it and come to him by faith. So, he warned the man not to tell anyone, so that Jesus’ word might be the way through which faith is born in people’s hearts. On the other hand, Jesus told him to go and offer sacrifices to God. Why? It would be easy for him to be so consumed with his new life that he would forget to give thanks to God. Without a thankful heart, he could end up as a self righteous man who takes the grace of God to him for granted. So Jesus urged him to give thanks to God as a priority in his life. Ultimately, a thankful heart is the best witness to the grace of God in one’s life. And a thankful heart leads to a spiritually healthy heart and a joyful heart. (44)
Let’s read 2:1,2. “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.” Again, many came to Jesus for different reasons. Jesus wanted to heal each of them personally and make their sores go away. But Jesus taught them instead, the word of God, in the hopes that they would listen with their hearts, and by listening with their hearts they might believe and by believing, faith might be born in them- faith to make them rise above the difficulty of their personal problems, and to enable them to do something for themselves, for others and for the glory of God. Jesus hoped that faith would enable them to do something for themselves that no other person could do for them- to come to Jesus and in coming to Jesus to do the impossible as well.
Let’s read verses 3,4. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” There were four friends who had heard Jesus’ words with their hearts. They had believed and faith had now been born in their hearts. So they were ready to act out the faith they had burning in their hearts. They had a friend who had been paralyzed. They had believed that if only they could bring him to Jesus, then Jesus would heal him. But when they came, there was no way to get to Jesus. At this point they should have turned back and said, “well, at least we tried.” But they did not. Rather, their faith compelled them to do something for their suffering friend. So they decided to do something that had never been done before. Then the mission impossible theme song came on. They got their shovels, climbed on top of the roof, dug through it underneath the hot blazing sun, and lowered their friend in front of Jesus. Their faith became the avenue to bring their friend to Jesus by any means. In life there may be many who want to come to Jesus. But at the same time there are always many hindrances. Family responsibilities may be hindrances. Social ethics may also be hindrances. There are many hindrances in coming to Jesus. But the worst of hindrances are the personal inner hindrances of the heart. Of these, keeping up appearances are the worst of the hindrances of the heart from coming to Jesus. For example, a teenager wants to come to Jesus because he hears the voice of Jesus calling every day to “follow Jesus.” No matter how much he wants to come to Jesus, his image among other teenagers and peer pressure hinders him. He must not let any hindrance prevent him from coming to Jesus, otherwise his faith is idle faith, and cannot be blessed by God. But for the person of faith, there is no hindrance worth losing the grace of God. With this same faith, these friends brought their friend to Jesus.
Their friendship was also amazing. They were willing to do anything for their friend. They were willing to do anything to bring him to Jesus. In our society today, there is not much true friendship. Mostly people have many acquaintances. Young people growing up in this selfish generation can only long for true friendship and envy make-believe friendships they see on the tv or movie screen which do not exist in real life. Many parents dread getting old, because even their children are not their friends, and they cannot but imagine a lonely life in a home. Many children have no role models of friendship except the make-believe electronic friendships that drive them instead to become more and more secluded from each other and the world around them. Young people cry bitter tears at night because there is no real friend whom they can depend on and who can understand the troubles of their hearts. Friendship is a treasure, not easy to find in this world. How difficult it is to find a friend. But the four friends who brought their friend to Jesus were real. They had a friendship that defies the world in which they lived in. When they believed the words of Jesus, somehow a deep bond joined them together. They may have been of different ages. They might have been of different character. But through faith they formed a great friendship that made the world a wonderful place to live in. And their friendship compelled them to bring one helpless friend to Jesus. “What is friendship” is a good question? “What is real friendship” is yet a better question? Real friendship is a bond made among men and women, through Jesus, who gives his life as a ransom sacrifice for his friends. When we have Jesus, we can have real friendship. When we have real friendship, we can bring our friends to Jesus for healing and for life.
So How did Jesus respond to their actions? Let’s read verse 5. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Because of their faith, Jesus was compelled to help their friend. So he offered him the best gift a person can receive from God- not the healing of the body, but the healing of the soul, decayed because of sin. Jesus forgave his sins. In forgiving his sins, he delivered him from the power of sin that made him miserable. When Jesus’ words “your sins are forgiven,” entered his heart, his heart was set free. The love of God expressed through the forgiveness of his sins was all the medicine he needed to feel once again like a human being made in the image of God. When he experienced the forgiveness of God, even his paralyzed body did not complain any more about its helplessness, for he felt that his soul was now free to soar on wings like an eagle. The Bible says: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered”. (Ps.32:1-5)
Every person must believe that Jesus wants to forgive their sins and wants to set them free. It is the will of God. But every person must use their faith and come to Jesus. The paralyzed man was forgiven. His friends had used their faith and their friendship in a most praiseworthy way.
Then Jesus demonstrated that he indeed has the authority to forgive sins. Let’s read verses 9-11. “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…He said to the paralytic, ‘ I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’” What happened next? Verse 12 says “He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.” Jesus demonstrated that he is the only one who has the authority to forgive our sins and make us whole again. It is not enough to simply hear the word of Jesus with the ears. It is absolutely necessary to listen with the heart, to believe and to let faith grow in our hearts. When faith is alive in our hearts, we can do anything. With faith we can do something for ourselves to change our situation. With faith we can also do something for others. Ultimately, with faith, we can do so many great things for the glory of God. Mostly with faith we can come to Jesus. And by the grace of God, we can also bring others to Jesus as well. Lets read key verse again, 1:41.