"Thou Canst Make Me Clean."
Of all the diseases known in the East
the leprosy was most dreaded. Its incurable and contagious
character, and its horrible effect upon its victims, filled the
bravest with fear. Among the Jews it was regarded as a judgment
on account of sin, and hence was called "the stroke," "the
finger of God." Deep-rooted, ineradicable, deadly, it was looked
upon as a symbol of sin.
By the ritual law the leper was pronounced unclean. Whatever he
touched was unclean. The air was polluted by his breath. Like
one already dead, he was shut out from the habitations of men.
One who was suspected of having the disease must present himself
to the priests, who were to examine and decide his case. If
pronounced a leper, he was isolated from his family, cut off
from the congregation of Israel, and doomed to associate with
those only who were similarly afflicted. Even kings and rulers
were not exempt. A monarch attacked by this terrible disease
must yield up the scepter and flee from society.
Away from his friends and his kindred the leper must bear the
curse of his malady. He was obliged to publish his own calamity,
to rend his garments, and sound the alarm, warning all to flee
from his contaminating presence. The cry, "Unclean! unclean!"
coming in mournful tones from the lonely exile, was a signal
heard with fear and abhorrence. In the region of Christ's
ministry were many of these sufferers, and as the news of His
work reached them, there is one in whose heart faith begins to
spring up. If he could go to Jesus he might be healed. But how
can he find Jesus? Doomed as he is to perpetual isolation, how
can he present himself to the Healer? And will Christ heal him?
Will He not, like the Pharisees, and even the physicians
pronounce a curse upon him and warn him to flee from the haunts
He thinks of all that has been told him of Jesus. Not one who
has sought His help has been turned away. The wretched man
determines to find the Saviour. Though shut out from the cities,
it may be that he can cross His path in some byway along the
mountain roads, or find Him as He is teaching outside the towns.
The difficulties are great, but this is his only hope.
Standing afar off, the leper catches a few words from the
Saviour's lips. He sees Him laying His hands upon the sick. He
sees the lame, the blind, the paralytic, and those dying of
various maladies rise up in health, praising God for
deliverance. His faith strengthens. Nearer and yet nearer he
approaches to the listening throng. The restrictions laid upon
him, the safety of the people, the fear with which all men
regard him, are alike forgotten. He thinks only of the blessed
hope of healing.
He is a loathsome spectacle. The disease has made frightful
inroads, and his decaying body is horrible to look upon. At
sight of him the people fall back. In their terror they crowd
upon one another to escape from contact with him. Some try to
prevent him from approaching Jesus, but in vain. He neither sees
nor hears them. Their expressions of loathing are lost upon him.
He sees only the Son of God, he hears only the voice that speaks
life to the dying. Pressing to Jesus, he casts himself at
His feet with the cry, "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me
clean." Jesus replies, "I will; be thou clean," and lays
His hand upon him. Matthew 8:2, 3.
Immediately a change passes over the leper. His blood becomes
healthy, the nerves sensitive, the muscles firm. The unnaturally
white, scaly surface peculiar to leprosy disappears; and his
flesh becomes as the flesh of a little child. Should the
priests learn the facts concerning the healing of the leper,
their hatred of Christ might lead them to render a dishonest
sentence. Jesus desired that an impartial decision be secured.
He therefore bids the man tell no one of the cure, but without
delay present himself at the temple with an offering before any
rumors concerning the miracle should be spread abroad. Before
the priests could accept such an offering, they were required to
examine the offerer and certify his complete recovery.
This examination was made. The priests who had condemned the
leper to banishment testified to his cure. The healed man was
restored to his home and society. He felt that the boon of
health was very precious. He rejoiced in the vigor of manhood
and in his restoration to his family.
Notwithstanding the caution of Jesus, he could no longer conceal
the fact of his cure, and joyfully he went about proclaiming the
power of the One who had made him whole. When this man
came to Jesus, he was "full of leprosy," Its deadly poison
permeated his whole body. The disciples sought to prevent their
Master from touching him; for he who touched a leper became
himself unclean. But in laying His hand upon the leper, Jesus
received no defilement. The leprosy was cleansed. Thus it is
with the leprosy of sin-- deep-rooted, deadly, impossible to be
cleansed by human power. "The whole head is sick, and the whole
heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there
is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying
sores." Isaiah 1:5, 6. But Jesus, coming to dwell in humanity,
receives no pollution. His presence was healing virtue for the
sinner. Whoever will fall at His feet, saying in faith, "Lord,
if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean," shall hear the answer,
"I will; be thou clean."
In some instances of healing, Jesus did not at once grant the
blessing sought. But in the case of leprosy no sooner was the
appeal made than it was granted. When we pray for earthly
blessings, the answer to our prayer may be delayed, or God may
give us something other than we ask; but not so when we ask for
deliverance from sin. It is His will to cleanse us from sin, to
make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life.
Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from
this present evil world, according to the will of God and our
Father." Galatians 1:4. "And this is the confidence that we have
in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He
heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask,
we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." 1
John 5:14, 15. Jesus looked upon the distressed and
heart-burdened, those whose hopes were blighted, and who with
earthly joys were seeking to quiet the longing of the soul, and
He invited all to find rest in Him.
"Ye Shall Find Rest."
Tenderly He bade the toiling people,
"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew
11:29. In these words, Christ was speaking to every human
being. Whether they know it or not, all are weary and
heavy-laden. All are weighed down with burdens that only Christ
can remove. The heaviest burden that we bear is the burden of
sin. If we were left to bear this burden, it would crush us. But
the Sinless One has taken our place. "The Lord hath laid on Him
the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6.
He has borne the burden of our guilt. He will take the load from
our weary shoulders. He will give us rest. The burden of care
and sorrow also He will bear. He invites us to cast all our care
upon Him; for He carries us upon His heart. The Elder
Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon
every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He
knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what
are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations;
for He was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without
sin." Hebrews 4:15. He is watching over you, trembling child of
God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will
strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you
wounded? He will heal. The Lord "telleth the number of the
stars;" and yet "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up
their wounds." Psalm 147:4, 3.
Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before
the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will
be open for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and
difficulty. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to
be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier
your burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon
your Burden Bearer. Circumstances may separate friends;
the restless waters of the wide sea may roll between us and
them. But no circumstances, no distance, can separate us from
the Saviour. Wherever we may be, He is at our right hand, to
support, maintain, uphold, and cheer. Greater than the love of a
mother for her child is Christ's love for His redeemed. It is
our privilege to rest in His love, to say, "I will trust Him;
for He gave His life for me." Human love may change, but
Christ's love knows no change. When we cry to Him for help, His
hand is stretched out to save.
"The mountains may depart,
And the hills be removed;
But My loving-kindness shall not depart from thee,
Neither shall My covenant of peace be removed,
Saith Jehovah that hath mercy on thee."
Isaiah 54:10, A.R.V.