We do not know how many leper colonies there were in Israel in New Testament times, but lepers and former lepers were common enough; common and perennial, eliciting a bold and decisive move from Yeshua. On one occasion He touched a leper and cleansed him instantly. That incident must have caused an earthquake in the levitical system, and Yeshua made sure the priesthood knew what had happened. Compared to what they were instructed to do Yeshua’s touch and cleaning was outrageous. None of the Jewish lepers returned with praise. They were likely to have been there and done that, with no relief of their condition.
Leper cleansing front and centre
The mission of the first disciples included dealing with lepers. The evangelists do not reveal the exact method of cleansing lepers, except in Yeshua’s case. It goes without saying that the disciples did not engage in a potentially months long inspection like the priestly process (Leviticus 14:2-32).
““Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.”(Mat 10:8, NASB)
One leper delivers clarity
Luke reports that Yeshua cleansed ten lepers and instructed them to present themselves to the priesthood.
15) Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16) and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17) Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? 18) Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”Luke 17:15-18
Not a single leper in Israel was cleansed of leprosy, despite a lengthy procedure in place for the priests. If you believe that Christ is delivering people (and not necessarily believers) from life’s financial, social, marital, medical and legal ups and downs should not the deliverers be examples of the delivered? Should we expect the lives of the deliverers to show the effects of deliverance?
History haunts and a community taunts
We can fantasize all we want about law and obedience but no one – God included- appreciates ingratitude. No, we are not going to force people to go to church, to sing praise, to pray. If these actions are not spontaneous we are stuck in the mud of confusion and hypocrisy. Perhaps the lepers and their families in New Testament times had come to realize that God was not going to help them. They might well have known that God miraculously cleansed a Syrian military officer and they might well have been aware that there is no record of the levitical service – Law of the Leper – being successful. Yeshua knew those two things too. He also knew that Israelite lepers had suffered and were suffering beyond remedy.
“27) “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”28) And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29) and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:27-29, NASB)
A rash of leper cleansing
The priestly response to lepers being cleansed apart from their intervention is not recorded. The examination of the man born blind may give us hints of how they may have taken on a rash cleansed lepers showing up to register their gratitude.
The illusion of favour and happiness has crested. It is endemic. The people who believe that law (secular and sacred) will fix our problems and keep us safe are the same people who believe that those Christ saves can die. They believe that the people made whole by Yeshua need addons. They believe that law – designed for bad actors – is the foundation of God’s kingdom.
“And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22, NASB)
Tune in to the Messiah channel! When these events listed in Luke 7:22 happen in the twenty-first century there is no need for an explanation and everybody knows they do not happen because of law. People who sense God’s grace need no law to tell them to say thank you.