“Behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’ ” (Matthew 8:2).
Hansen’s disease—leprosy—is a chronic infectious disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. It’s quite rare in the United States, with only sixty-three cases reported in 2015. The disease is caused by infection from bacteria and may not show symptoms for up to twenty years! The damage to nerves results in a lack of ability to feel pain and causes patients to repeatedly wound themselves without noticing their injuries.
Though leprosy is not highly contagious, it is spread between people through physical contact. The disease is curable through antibiotic treatments, which are provided free of charge to anyone by the World Health Organization. In the 1980s, over five million people in the world had leprosy, but today the number has fallen below 200,000. In the past twenty years, sixteen million people have been cured of leprosy. Over half of all cases of leprosy are in India.
Leprosy has affected people for thousands of years. The Bible word translated as leprosy can include other infectious skin diseases. To protect the community from the spread of disease, people with leprosy or other skin infections would be separated from others. Such was the case with the leper who approached Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount.
The diseased man must have heard Christ’s words from a distance, causing faith to spring up in his heart. After being separated from his loved ones and labelled an outcast by society, it took great courage to approach Jesus and ask to be healed. But his faith was rewarded. “Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1: 41, 42).
Are you in need of the compassionate touch of the Healer?
Heavenly Father, I am in daily need of Your healing touch. Wash me thoroughly from my disease of sin.
For Further Study: Matthew 8:2–4; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 5:12–16