The Sunday of the Leper

The Sunday of the Leper Gospel Reading

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Each Sunday in Lent we remember one miracle Jesus performed. The Gospel of the Leper has parallels in all the synoptic Gospels’. However, these are more than just miracles, they are also life lessons. This is not the first time we have seen leprosy in the Scriptures.

In Numbers 12:9-15, Miriam, had leprosy for seven days as a punishment for speaking against Moses.  More importantly it links leprosy with sin and Numbers makes clear that leprosy represents the spiritual disease of sin.

“And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

“When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.”

In Kings 5:1-14, in a foreshadowing of what Christ would do (a typology) Elisha cures Naaman of leprosy

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy….

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”  So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Unlike Naaman, the leper of this Sunday, who has no name, approaches Christ in humility.  He kneels down and prays “Lord, if you are willing, make me clean.” This is a powerful lesson about confession and reconciliation with God. When we approach God for confession, we should seek forgiveness in a spirit of humility. The leper did not demand (like Naaman), he was not selfish, rather he surrendered to God’s will and realised that if Christ willed it, he could make him clean.

This week also continues the theme that Jesus came to complete the law. The people were being crushed beneath the Mosaic Law. Neither Moses nor the Pharisees could give rest from the pressing burden or offer release from the oppressive load that the Law had brought. This Gospel demonstrates that there is no other course to rest and peace than submission to Christ and he came to invite people out of their old discipleship to a new one.

This Gospel makes clear to us that Christ has come to offer a way to deliver his people from this yoke. Jesus did not run from the leper. No matter how unclean we are, if we approach Christ with humility, he will make us clean.

Amen


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