Following the ministry of Jesus can be a bit confusing. On one hand is his definitive effort to travel widely and preach the Kingdom of God to as many people as possible. Yet on the other hand we often see Jesus – as is today’s passage – putting a damper on spreading the news about healings, etc.
We can understand this by referencing the modern phrase – “needing to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
The healings were particularly dramatic, especially as in this case of the cleansing of a leper. The disease was dreadful, both in appearance and what it meant for the victim in terms of social and religious isolation. A sudden reversal of leprosy was indeed quite extraordinary and the stuff of exclamatory notice and reports near and far.
As we always recall about miracles, they were primarily for the purpose of authentication of the message and the messenger. The masses of the people in Israel, along with the religious leadership and hierarchy, were to see this display (along with hearing the teaching) and welcome the coming of the Messiah. Instead, the religious leaders resented the threat to their “deep state” authority, and the people were quick to envision Jesus as a political and social revolutionary. Christ needed to keep the focus on the main thing – the coming of the promised Kingdom by the acceptance of the promised King.
Of special note in this passage is that Jesus tells the leper to go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them. It was exceedingly unusual for the priests to see someone cleansed from leprosy. Such an event would/should signal that something extraordinary was happening.
The clamor for Jesus to heal and to do miraculous deeds spread, along with his fame. It was necessary for Christ to retreat from time to time from all of this – to refocus on the mission and to pray. And that is not a bad admonition for us to consider. Like Jesus, we need to retreat occasionally and refocus with God – to be sure that we are keeping the main thing, the main thing.
Luke 5:12 – While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.