Face to Faith- Friday, 12th week in ordinary time – Matthew 8:1- 4
The leper knelt before Him and said, “Lord if you choose you can make me well.”
The Sermon on the Mount has ended and the gospel writer Matthew, having shown Jesus as the Messiah of the word, presents Him as the Messiah of the deed (JBC). In this section spanning Chapter 8:1- 9:38, we will read of nine miracle pericopes that encompass ten individual miracles.
The first of these miracles is the cleansing of the leper. Jesus has finished preaching the Sermon on the Mount and is followed by large crowds. It is a leper who comes to Him, kneels before Him, calls Him Lord and asks to be made clean. In one swift move Jesus does the unthinkable. He touches a leper.
Even with the knowledge that modern science gives us, we loathe touching a leper. For those living in the first century this was one of the most dreaded diseases, enough for God to give Moses extensive instructions in Leviticus 13 and 14.
The Biblical understanding of leprosy, ‘tsara’ath’ in Hebrew, included a variety of skin ailments. Leviticus 13 and 14 list at least seven medical conditions as ‘tsara’ath’, including scaly skin blemish. At the time of Jesus, the lepers were despised from society, driven from their homes as outcasts, had to wear torn clothes, let their hair hang loose, cover their upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ To add to the distress of the person, the physical quarantine was twisted into a moral judgment as sinners.