After preaching, Jesus came down the hillside followed by a large crowd. A leper approached Him, knelt before Him worshiping, and pleaded, “if You want to, You can cleanse me”. Jesus touched the man, and said to him “I am willing, be clean”. And instantly the leper was healed.
The law of Moses gave detailed instructions about the cleansing of lepers and even their residence, see Leviticus 13 – 14. The Levitical Priesthood had the duty to carry out these rules whenever a leper approached them. The legal specifics were long & drawn out with time consuming details. In the gospels, the lepers come to Jesus, who is not a priest, but was the obvious source of power when the Priests failed in their duty. Jesus was actually overriding the authority of the law, when he touched a leper, instead of breaking the law, he was over-riding it because of his instantaneous success. He wasn’t acting like a priest, but he was speeding up the process beyond anyone’s expectations. Why did he do this so powerfully? Because he was “moved with compassion”, Mk.1:41. His divine compassion would not allow him to become unclean by touching the leper, instead, the leper instantly became wholly clean!
There is no natural remedy, or self-cure, nor topical ointments that could touch the depths of this bacterial infection. This lack of a cure, however, did not mean that people were not cleansed of the disease. God healed Naaman by having him wash seven times in the Jordan (Lk. 4:27 & 2nd Kings 5) What is impossible with men, is possible with God. Leprosy was an inward disease, Even though you saw leprosy on the outside of the body, the real cause of the disease was lying beneath the surface. The sores and other problems were symptoms of the disease, but the cause ran deeper still. Sin is precisely the same. Sin proceeds from a sinful heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:19. Just like the leper would have the disease long before it even began to show, sin does its work in us well before others may ever see it. It often starts with secret sins, when we are ignorant of sin’s consequences. Then it begins to show itself in public sin, then when we defend and justify our sin, it starts to fester and putrefy, it all starts from within. James 1:14-15
The fact that Jesus touched the leper (Mt. 8:3) is astounding because if anyone else had come in contact with a leper, they would have become unclean. Jesus, however, touches the leper, and the opposite happens; the leper becomes clean. We are sinners deserving judgment, and God being a just God must punish sin. It is by His loving will that His merits are applied to us. We should ‘fear’, because He does not reach out with His healing hand and touch just anyone; We should ‘hope’, because He very frequently touches the most miserable. He bore the wrathful justice that sin deserved when the Father sent his Son to the cross. For those who have faith in Jesus, their sins can be forgiven because their just punishment was placed upon Christ. God will judge every sin, and His wrath will either be poured out on the sinner or upon Christ in their place. This substitution is why God can be both just and the justifier of sinners. How do we receive this cleansing? Are there works of righteousness we must fulfill to merit this forgiveness? The answer is no. But back in Lev. 13 we see a picture of how Jewish Priests could declare cleansing. Now, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. This is the point of Jesus sending the leper straight to the Priesthood, proving to the Nation, that their God-given authority was coming to an end, Luke 5:12-15.