Bible Readings for April 9th
Leprosy gets significant attention in the book of Leviticus, both in chapter 13 (our reading for today) and even through chapter 14, which we will look at tomorrow. It is important to note that the word for leprosy here does not necessarily refer to Hansen’s Disease, the proper name for the condition that we refer to as leprosy today, which causes severe nerve damage in the body’s extremities. Rather, this word should probably be translated more generically as “skin diseases.”1
The larger context surrounding the issue of leprosy is the issue of cleanness, which we discussed yesterday. There were two ways that skin diseases meant uncleanness, and therefore defiled the holiness of Yahweh in their midst.
First, problems like disease, deformation, and death all came as a direct result of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin—that is, skin diseases are a physical manifestation of humanity’s spiritual problem. In the Garden of Eden, only perfect life, health, and purity existed. For Yahweh to re-create a holy dwelling place on the earth (the tabernacle) similar to what was lost at the fall, no product of the fall may remain in his presence.
Second, leprosy also provided a physical illustration of a spiritual problem: the clinging, corrupting influence of sin on humanity. Splotchy, swollen, or boil-infected skin vividly illustrates how sin takes hold of us and ruins our health. As such, the people who lived in the midst of a holy God needed to address leprosy and other skin diseases immediately. Even more, lepers were powerless to do much to cure themselves except to watch, wait, and pray that God would heal them. And because they didn’t know much about the causes or cures of these skin diseases, other people could only wait in fear and pray that they would not contract those diseases from their fellow Israelites.
This is why Jesus surrounded himself with lepers during his life on earth. Leprosy was one of the ugliest, most feared, chronic reminders of the reality of sin and death, and victims of the effects of the fall were helpless to save themselves.
But Jesus, out of deep compassion, came as the Great Physician to heal the sick. Certainly, he could have healed them at a distance, by his word, but Jesus chose specifically even to touch lepers as he healed them (Matt. 8:3).
Why? Just as Jesus came to make lepers clean, he also came to make sinners clean. In the same way that he rolled back the vivid effects of the fall in the form of skin diseases, he also came to roll back the whole scope of the curse of sin, death, and the devil through his life, death, and resurrection.
And still today, when sinners ask Jesus, “If you will, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40), Jesus responds with mercy: “I will; be clean” (Mark 1:41).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.