Jesus and the Living Dead
Perhaps the most pitiable person in the Bible is the man in Mark 1:40 who was terribly and utterly afflicted with leprosy.
Imagine having a disease so deforming that when people saw you, they recoiled in disgust. Imagine yourself reeking of rotting flesh, oozing wounds, and lesions. Imagine fumbling to tie dirty bandages with deformed fingers or hobbling with rotten, crippled feet.
Lepers often have collapsed noses and blind eyes. In fact, the bacterium causing leprosy attacks the nerves so that eventually lepers harm themselves without even knowing it.
Many in the Old Testament had leprosy. Miriam was struck with leprosy when she criticized Moses’s marriage to an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1-10). God struck King Uzziah with leprosy when in pride he tried to serve as priest (2 Chronicles 26:21). Gehazi extorted money from a healed leper, Naaman the Syrian, and God struck him with that same leprosy (2 Kings 5:27).
Aaron said of Miriam’s leprosy, “Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away” (Numbers 12:12). So Leprosy was almost a living death.
The Bible says that you and I were dead in our sins apart from Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3). Spiritual leprosy infects us from conception, and without Christ, it destroys all.
In Mark, the leper came to Jesus and said, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” He considered himself completely dirty before God, and he knew he could not help himself. Jesus touched him and said, “I am willing, be clean.” Jesus is so powerful and so full of life, that he transforms the living dead into a new creation.
Could that be a spiritual picture of what Jesus does for us (2 Corinthians 5:17)? We all were inevitably headed to spiritual destruction, but Jesus’ power makes us new.
Moses outlines two gifts which the healed leper should offer (Leviticus 14:1-14). Jesus tells the man to offer those gifts (Mark 1:44).
The first gift is two live birds: one dies and bleeds into living water; the other is immersed into that water and flies away free. Then, the priest sprinkles the healed man with that bloody water. The second gift causes the healed leper to go through a ceremony which looks similar to the one which makes Aaron a priest (Exodus 29:20): blood is placed on his right earlobe, thumb and big toe. Since those were areas often attacked by leprosy, Jesus’ command implies he had restored the man’s ravaged body as well.
Jesus pleads for his redeemed just like Moses pled for Miriam. Jesus saves Christians from a life of utter living death. May we all live in the joy and thankfulness of that healing.