By Stephen P. Monahan


In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, 4 verses tell the story of a leper who approached and was subsequently cleansed by the Lord Jesus. Part One of this message consisted of a discussion of verses 12 and 13.

Luke 5:12-13:
And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.

We understand that the leper represents me or you, and that his disease represents the practiced sin which holds a person distant from God, thus hindering him from receiving the spiritual nourishment that Christ’s Body and Blood are to us who call upon his name. The conclusion is that anyone who approaches the Lord in earnest sincerity desiring cleansing, will surely receive.

It would be wonderful if we could let the whole issue rest right there, but anyone who truly seeks to walk godly in Christ Jesus knows that it just isn’t that easy. There are more verses in this context which must be considered.

Matthew 8:4 (emphasis added):
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man ; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Luke 5:14-15:
And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.

At first glance, this seems to be a wonderful end to the story, but a look at the end of the same account in another Gospel record reveals a problem.

Mark 1:45:
But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

Now let’s think about this. Instead of obeying the Lord’s personal commandment to him, this man took it upon himself to tell as many people as he could about what had been done. The result was that large numbers of people became involved, a pastor’s dream, but look where it happened; in the DESERT. Wouldn’t it have been so much better if Jesus could have gotten into town where people lived their lives? I say yes! Furthermore, I believe that in places where Christians are free to speak and do as they please, the same scenario is being repeated on a vast scale. Men are receiving Christ and then, ignoring his commandment to put first things first, are rushing off into “ministry.” Buildings are erected and crowds come desiring to receive something of the Lord, but so often the places are spiritual deserts. Everyone is talking about Jesus and God’s grace, but societies and cultures are not really being penetrated: instead, subcultures are being formed. The leper’s intentions may have been good, but the Lord did not need his help. He required the man’s obedience!

Strange as it may seem to the evangelically minded, the Lord told him not to tell anybody, but rather to go show and offer. The specific ordinance to which Jesus referred appears in Leviticus, chapter 14.

Leviticus 14:3-7:
And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
4 Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:
7 And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

Here it may be observed that the priest, having examined the man and finding him clean, performed a ceremony signifying internal cleansing by blood ...

Hebrews 9:14:
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

... and external cleansing by water ...

Ephesians 5:26:
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

... as well as the restoration of his strength, the return of normal color, and the removal of the odor of the illness. Note that the priest did not himself actually do any cleansing, but merely acknowledged and commemorated. The whole exercise looks forward to Christ who would restore the souls of men who have been weakened, stained, and made by sin to stink in the nostrils of God. It is Christ who frees men to rise as freed birds, to the high calling of our Father. But is there something the cleansed leper must do?

Leviticus 14:8-9:
And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.
9 But it shall be on the seventh day that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

My dear fellow lepers: Jesus has washed us spiritually/ceremonially. Now, we must wash practically, time and again, leaving nothing about ourselves wherewith we might be reinfected. The commandment to shave every hair off the body suggests to us that this may require some radical action on our part; perhaps a lifestyle change, or even an alteration of diet. Would you stop seeking certain forms of entertainment, find new friends, or even adjust your sleeping habits? The question here is not what’s displeasing to God, but what opens your conscience to defilement, and will you allow the Lord to lead you away from it?

Genesis 19 tells us that Lot was not exactly enthusiastic about leaving Sodom, where there was “fullness of bread and abundance of idleness” (Ezek. 16:46), even though he was “vexed with the filthy conversation if the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7). But when the angel took his hand and led him out, he went. He left many things that were comforting to his flesh, because it became clear that to remain in comfort would result in destruction. The point I’m making is not that every pleasant thing must go from your life; the point is this:

2 Peter 1:10a:
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure....

The context in which this verse is set speaks of adding such things as virtue, temperance, godliness to your faith. Things which hinder you from doing this, which in and of themselves are not sins, but do make openings in your soul whereby you are beset by sin, need to be done away with.

1 Peter 1:11:
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul;

It is in these things that you “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It’s a practice which must be engaged in continually, for as it was for the cleansed leper, one washing and shave is not enough to certify and establish your cleansing; but let’s not forget that through it all the Lord is near and ever ready to help at every turn. You are clean, tarrying abroad out of your tent, which is to say living your daily life, IN THE CAMP. You are his NOW!

If you will live this way, keeping priorities in order in your own soul, you will experience no compulsion to seek salvation through good works, advertising the gospel, or in some other way trying to further the Lord’s ministry in your own power. You will instead find rest; allowing Jesus to build his church, and having the solid assurance that he will grant you abundant opportunities to speak, to do, to participate freely and joyously in the work that he is doing.



From the June 2003 issue issue of The Vine & Branches