1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
I will; be thou clean
Jesus had not come as a disease-healer in the philanthropic sense, else would he have sent his healing power throughout all the country without waiting for personal contact with the afflicted.
He had come to show the great power of God in proof of his identity as the appointed way of approach to the Father. But blended with this there wrought that noble element of loving-kindness which gives grace and beauty to every gift.
Jesus was "moved with compassion" at the suppliant form before him. The man took the acceptable attitude. He did not demand to be healed. He did not claim the exercise of Christ's power. He acknowledged the existence of the power, and Christ's right to refrain from putting it forth. Jesus
"put forth his hand and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him."
How simple! how graceful! how beautiful!
"Truly this man was the Son of God,"
is the exclamation which his every look and word and action compel.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 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.
For the Law, with its symbolical idiom and allegorical designs, "every leper, and everyone that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead", was a signal type of sin and its effects. When therefore the Law excluded them from the Camp and denied them access to the Sanctuary it did so with a distinct didactic purpose that of teaching its fundamental lesson that sin cuts men off from God.
But having banished them from the Camp, there it left them to their unhappy plight: so long as they remained defiled there was no question of their returning to it. Now on rare occasions lepers and those with issues recovered normal health. When this occurred the Law could of course with perfect consistency re-admit them to the Camp, and this it did as we have seen. Yet until this recovery occurred it did nothing whatever to help them recover bodily soundness; having banned them it ceased, as it were, to be interested in them in any active way.
In the case of those defiled by the dead, however, common sense demanded some action on the part of the Law, yet the action which it took to deal with this special case did not in fact alter the general principle. During their seven days' uncleanness those defiled by the dead were ritually dead (i.e., they symbolized the dead), and like lepers and those with issues the Law held them at a distance yet did nothing to succour them. It was compelled, however, to make allowance for the fact that they were all still living people and that it could not sustain the illusion that they were dead indefinitely at their expense.
It was here that the ritual of the Red Heifer so wonderfully came to the rescue. It first of all enabled these technically "dead" people to come "alive" again, and make a new beginning as normal living people on the eighth day after they had contracted defilement. Then it did this in such a way as to make it clear that it was not the Law itself which restored these dead to life. It thus served to maintain the principle that the Law could not take an active interest either in lepers, those with issues, or the dead, so long as those in any of these three categories still remained in their wretched state.
Having excluded them from the Camp the Law had no further use for them. It was thus perfectly consistent even in the anomalous case of those defiled by the dead. In all three cases it confessed that it killed but could not make alive - that it specialized in denouncing sin, but could do absolutely nothing to remove it.
Now how strikingly different in the light of this is the treatment which those in all three of these classes received from Jesus! The Law chased them away and they fled before it: but, in contrast, they sought the presence of Jesus of their own accord.
The Law did" nothing for them because it could do nothing: Jesus on the other hand, took pity on them and delivered them from their plight. Descending from the mount he was confronted by a leper. The Law ordered the latter to shun the company of his fellows like an outlaw; but instead of crying, as the Law commanded, "Unclean, unclean", espying Jesus the man came and "worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean".
The drama of the situation was tremendous. The Law declared the man unclean; but he was convinced that Jesus could make him clean! It was not the power of Jesus which the man doubted, but only his willingness - hence the pathetic plea, 'Lord, if thou wilt ... " There came the gracious answer which he longed for: "Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean". The Lord's fiat took instant effect. "Immediately", we read, "his leprosy was cleansed". It was cleansed, we note, by the touch of Jesus.
That fact is remarkable. We know from the next miracle (the healing of the centurion's servant) that Jesus did not need actually to touch any diseased person in order to heal him. Yet he deliberately touched the leper! That is, according to the Law, he deliberately came into contact with sin as embodied in the man and as symbolized in his disease. Yet with what effect? The man's disease (and so his power to communicate uncleanness) ceased upon the instant!-a fact more staggering still if we visualize Jesus touching not only the man as such, but his leprous sores in particular.
The miracle accomplished, the leper could proceed forthwith to present himself to the Priest as a cleansed man as the Law prescribed (Matt. 8: 1-4; Lev. 14: 1-32). In view of what happened, therefore, it would clearly be incongruous and grotesque to think of Jesus as contracting defilement by such contact.
Law and Grace Ch 13
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For want of understanding the Scripture doctrine of the two seeds some very fatal mistakes have been made by many well meaning persons. They have gone so far as to deny that the seed of Abraham after the flesh will ever be restored to the land of Canaan; which is in effect to deny the fulfilment of a vast proportion of "the testimony of God." The seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman, indicated before the flood, were afterwards distinguished in the seed of Ishmael, and the seed of Isaac."
The children of the flesh are not the children of God: neither are they all Israel, who are of Israel." This is true; but it does not therefore follow that there is nothing more to be done with "the children of the flesh" than to burn them up. To carry out the allegory, God has yet to make of the Ishmael-seed a great nation; for though Ishmael was an outcast and a wanderer in the wilderness, God promised that he should be great, and dwell in the presence of his brethren (Gen. 16:12; 17:20).
The children of Abraham according to the flesh are "the children of the kingdom," as well as the children of the promise; only these two classes of children stand in a different relation to the government and glory of the commonwealth, and to the dominion of the nations in the age to come. The Ishmael-children were cast out of the government by the Romans; but the children in Isaac will "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," when the kingdom is restored again to Israel (Acts 1:6).
"In the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory," the children in Isaac will reign as "sons" while the children of the flesh will be the King's subjects, or "servants." This distinction is apparent from the following testimony:
"Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes throughout all the earth" (Psalm 45:16); of whom it is said, "If the Prince give a gift unto any of His sons, the inheritance thereof shall be His sons'; it shall be their possesion by inheritance. But if He give a gift of His inheritance to one of His servants, then it shall be his to the year of liberty; and after it shall return to the Prince: but His inheritance shalt be His sons' for them" (Ezek. 46:16, 17).
The sons of the Prince are joint heirs with Him; but the servants of the Prince are only lease-holders for a certain number of years. If the natural Israel are not restored to Canaan, the spiritual Israel, that is to say, the Prince and His sons, would inherit a kingdom without subjects to serve them. This would be like Victoria and her family reigning in Windsor Castle over the realm of Britain after all its inhabitants had expatriated themselves to the United States. it requires more than a staff to make a regiment; so also it requires a multitude of people as well as princes, priests, and kings, to constitute a kingdom in Canaan, or in any other country.
Now, the children in Isaac become the children of the heavenly Jerusalem by believing "the exceeding great and precious promises" set forth in "the manifold wisdom of God." They hope to see Canaan and Jerusalem under the new covenant, which will constitute them both heavenly.
They are even now said to have "come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, and to the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22); but it is as yet only in spirit, that is, by faith and hope: and as the city and land will be made heavenly by the Lord from heaven, their glorious attributes are in truth "above;" to believe, then, in what will be brought down to the city from above, is for the children of the promise in Isaac to stand related to "Jerusalem which is above, the mother of them all" (Gal.4:26).
Hence, the apostle exhorts them, saying, "If then ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead (to earthly things) and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then, shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:1-4).
Elpis Israel 2.2.
17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
"Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." Isaiah 53:3: 4.
Now let us see how this accords with the truth of the passage, as explained by Matthew in his Gospel, chapter 8:16, 17. Here we read,
"When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils, and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses."
Here Matthew shows us how he understood the words of the prophet. Christ bore the griefs and carried the sorrows of his people, in casting out demoniacal spirits, and healing all that were sick! Thus he took (away) the infirmities, and bore (away) the sicknesses of them to whom he ministered, and fulfilled that which was spoken by Esaias.
Will any person venture to say that in fulfilling what was spoken by the prophet, Jesus took the diseases or sicknesses of his people in the sense of becoming diseased or sick? Or that he experienced any "pangs" or "woes" in the performance of his godlike work of "healing all that were oppressed of the devil?" Far from it.
He felt pity for, and had compassion on the sick and suffering; and rejoiced to give evidence at once of the power, tender mercy, and loving kindness of his Father, in miraculously curing all who came or were brought unto him, bearing away their divers griefs, and carrying off their fevers and leprosies, by virtue of the Spirit which filled him.
"Yet," the prophet goes on to say,
"we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." "Yet,"
notwithstanding Jesus had gone about continually doing good, performing most miraculous works in healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, causing the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk; cleansing the lepers; restoring lunatics and maniacs to soundness of mind; yea, even raising the dead! although he had confessedly done all these things, which no man could have done except God had been with him, working in and by him.
"Yet," we accounted him a blasphemer, a deceiver, mad, possessed by a devil; and, when finally he was scourged, buffeted, spitted on, crowned with thorns, mocked, reviled, crucified with transgressors, and his life's blood poured out, "we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted for his wickedness and presumption in professing to be the Christ, the Son of God."
Oh! the blindness, perversity, and ignorance of Israel! They knew not the voices of the prophets which they heard every Sabbath day. They had made void by their glosses and false interpretations those Scriptures which testified of Messiah's coming as a meek and lowly man, to redeem his people by a life of perfect love and obedience to God, and a cruel and ignominious death on the cross—dying the just for the unjust—shedding his precious blood—precious in God's sight, as being the blood of his obedient, beloved Son, in whom his soul delighted—for the remission of sins—and thus rejecting the Scriptures of the prophets, they would not, could not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, no matter what evidence God gave them.
In vain John came heralding his approach! In vain the Father's voice was heard proclaiming, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him!" In vain the Spirit visibly descended and abode upon him, enabling him to speak as never man spake, and perform all manner of wonderful works! It was all in vain; they had rejected the word of God spoken by the prophets, and to be consistent they must needs shut their eyes and their ears to all other testimony.
Oh! what a warning to false interpreters of prophecy in these latter days! If the consequences of ignorance and unbelief of what the prophets testified of Messiah's first appearing were so terrible to Judah, will the consequences of tenfold greater wilful ignorance and unbelief of what the prophets and the apostles testify of Messiah's second appearing, be less dreadful and terrible to the Gentile churches?
But thus it must be, else how shall the Scripture be fulfilled which speaks of the apostate nations of Christendom rushing upon their own destruction, in plotting and confederating against Yahweh's anointed King of Zion, and making war with the Lamb?
We, like Israel, have a sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed and see that we misconstrue it not, lest, not hearing the voice of the prophets, we fulfil them in rejecting Messiah's second appearing and his kingdom.
Bro J. R. Lithgow.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Nov 1860
21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus demands to be put first; and when we realize who he is, and what it is he calls us to, we can see the reasonableness of his demand. He is only exacting of us that which will be for our supreme benefit, though it may not appear so now. Joy unspeakable and full of glory is latent in all his commandments. In due season we shall reap the rich harvest of obedience, if we faint not.
The man who gives Christ the second place will realize his position when this puny life is gone; and it will go, however filled up and impressed with its concerns we may be at the present moment. The time will come, as sure as the sun tracks his daily course in the heavens, when we shall have to say good-bye to the things of the present life, and when they are cut away, they will be gone for ever, and the man who lives for them, and is part and parcel of them, will vanish with them.
Nothing but the truth will remain. "The world passeth away, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
The man who has lived for Christ, has something laid up in store which nothing can touch and no time decay, an inheritance undefiled and that fadeth not away.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1868
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
"Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father."
Was not this a reasonable request? It might have been reasonable under ordinary circumstances, but not when the Son of God commands. Divine obligations are imperative. This is the lesson.
The answer was apparently unfeeling:
"Let the dead bury their dead."
It will not seem unfeeling to those who have learnt to estimate things as Jesus estimated them -- and that is according to the standard of eternal truth.
...Now, where men have no connection with God, it is impossible that this death-state of theirs can be changed. Continuing in alienation from Him, they are "the dead" in contrast to that section of them who have
"the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. i. 1).
Their burial is, therefore, from Christ's point of view, a very insignificant affair, and not to be allowed to come at all into collision with affairs connected with the great and stirring hope and work of life which he, and he alone, has in hand.
Where men see human life as Christ saw it, they will think and act in it as he did -- and with a like appearance of harshness and a like certainty of being misunderstood by the children of the flesh -- with whom the affairs of the flesh are everything, and the affairs of Christ of secondary practical moment.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18