Jesus Heals Leprosy and Palsy
Large crowds followed Jesus down the mountainside where He had been preaching. When everyone reached the valley floor a man with leprosy limped up to Jesus and knelt down before Him begging. “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.” Jesus smiled and immediately answered the leper saying: “I am willing. Be clean.” And immediately the leper was healed. (Matthew 8:2-3) When the leper saw that his terrible disease was completely gone, he was overjoyed and began jumping up and down and thanking and praising Jesus. But Jesus asked him not to tell anyone and to go to the priest and be pronounced “clean”
The Jews in Jesus’ day believed that leprosy was a punishment from God and that the person who had this dreadful disease must have committed a terrible sin. Leprosy was thought of as an uncleanness rather than a disease and the society had rules for dealing with it . A person with leprosy was forced to leave his/her family and become an outcast from society. No one was to touch the leper or get near him. The poor leper was forced to live alone or with other lepers outside the city. If the leper walked by another person he or she was to shout the word “unclean, unclean” loudly so that the others could keep their distance. Jesus broke the rules of society, as He often did, and welcomed the lepers to come to Him. Jesus and his disciples healed many people who had leprosy.
According to Scripture, when Jesus walked the earth He never turned anyone down who came to Him and asked to be healed. The leper had seen others healed by Jesus and he knew that Jesus had the power to make him clean from leprosy. But he asked if Jesus was willing. And Jesus immediately responded that He was willing. Jesus healed by a word of power, the power of His authority. “Be clean”. He spoke the word and it was done. He put out his hand and touched the leper and he was clean! Leprosy was a somewhat contagious disease but Christ can make the foulest clean. We are invited to come to Christ as the Great Physician and ask Him for healing.
After the leper went on his way, a centurion came to Jesus asking for help. A centurion was a Roman officer who was responsible for one hundred soldiers. The centurion told Jesus that his servant was lying in his house paralyzed and in terrible pain. Before the centurion could say more Jesus answered him, “I will go and heal him.” (Matthew 8:7)
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes: and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ (Matthew 8:8-9)
Scripture says that when Jesus heard this from the centurion He was astonished at his faith and told the crowd: “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:10-12) Then Jesus told the centurion: “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And that very hour the centurion’s servant was healed. (Matthew 8:13)
The Jewish people longed for their independence and freedom from Rome and they resented Roman rule and the Roman soldiers living in their country. Though the centurion was a Gentile and a Roman soldier who was hated by the Jewish people, Jesus was pleased with him and his faith and praised him and healed his servant. Jesus was as ready to heal the poorest servant as the richest master.
Jesus admired the centurion not for his prestige as a Roman officer but for his faith and his grace. And Christ would want us not to admire worldly pomp, but a kind and faithful spirit. Some of the Jews may have been unhappy with Christ for admiring this centurion’s faith since he was a Gentile and a Roman, and they thought only the Jews were supposed to be able to know God.
Many Jews at that time felt that they were the only nation that knew God and all others would not be saved. Jesus was telling them here that many from the east and from the west (people from all over the world) will find their way to God. Believers who in this world were distant from each other in time, place, or outward condition, shall all meet together in heaven. A society of believers will be a part of the joys of heaven.
And Jesus also said that some of “the subjects of the kingdom (the Jews) will be thrown outside where there will be darkness…” (Matthew 8:12) He might have been saying that just because the Jewish people had a Covenant or promise with God still if they turned away from that promise they would not find eternal life. He might have been thinking about the Jewish religious leaders who would later put Him to death.
What did the centurion do to please and astonish Jesus? First I believe the centurion came to Jesus in humility. He humbly said: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” He also said that he didn’t want to put Jesus to any extra trouble by having him walk all the way to his home to heal his servant. And he must have known that Jesus is Lord because he calls him “Lord”. The centurion was an important man yet he owned his unworthiness before God. The centurion believed that Jesus was compassionate and merciful and was able and willing to heal his servant. He trusted Jesus and that was all important. Many people came to Jesus for their own needs but this centurion came for his servant’s needs. It sounds like he was a caring person.
Also the centurion had enough faith to believe that Jesus didn’t need to go with him to his home and heal his servant. He believed that our Lord Jesus Christ could heal from a distance. Scripture says:” Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) The thing that Christ seeks is faith, and wherever it is, He finds it even if it is small. Do we have a faith that pleases Jesus? That astonishes Him like the centurion’s faith did?
We may believe that Christ can heal from a distance like the centurion did. But do we have the faith to believe that Christ will answer our prayer even though there is a distance in time until they are answered? Perhaps our prayer will not be answered for many years. Or until after we die. Do we become discouraged and give up when too much time passes and our prayer still has not been answered? Can we have faith that Christ will answer our prayer even after many decades have passed?
Jesus healed the centurion’s servant because the centurion asked in faith and believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He could heal. Christ told the centurion: “Be it done as you have believed.” (Matthew 8:13) We see in this story the power of Christ to heal and also the power of faith. We are the modern day centurions. Christ is in our midst today and we are invited to come to Him and ask and believe. He is waiting to answer our prayers if they are in His good will. (James 4:3) Jesus tells us: “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2) “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)