The simple fact is that Jesus broke the law when he healed the man with leprosy identified in Matthew 8:2-4.

Jewish law in the time of Jesus regarded leprosy as a grave offense. Upon diagnosis by the priest, the leper’s clothes were burned. The leper’s home was razed. He or she was immediately homeless, forced to live outside the community, outside the city limits. Moreover, the leper was required by law to dress like a mourner and to yell “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever any non-leper came near to him or her. Worst of all, the leper was considered reprobate, a lost cause and totally abandoned by God.

In short, no Israelite was to have anything at all to do with any leper—and this was by God’s command (see Leviticus 13). In spite of that, Jesus broke this law in several ways.

First, Jesus welcomed the leper into his presence—a serious no-no at the time. Second, Jesus allowed the leper to walk in and among the large crowd of people that surrounded him when he came down from the mountain after delivering his Sermon on the Mount. That endangered everyone there, both from the physical contagion of leprosy and from the infectious ceremonial uncleanness that it threatened to others. Finally, and worst of all, Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man” (Matthew 8:3). According to Mosaic law, by touching the leper Jesus himself was instantly made ceremonially unclean too.

Yet…in breaking the law, Jesus fulfilled it completely, both the intent of the law (protecting the community from physical illness and spiritual infection) and its application (declaring the man to be “clean,” or free from leprosy). In that single breathtaking gesture, he demonstrated also that he himself superseded the law and all possible forms of uncleanness, instantly banishing the incurable disease and fully restoring the former leper to right standing with God and humanity alike.

It was a stunning miracle, both illegal and obedient, confusing and joyful. It reminds us anew that Jesus is not tame—and we are all the better for it.


Works Cited:

[ILJ, 187-88]


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