Boundless compassion—rooted not in any sentimentalism, but in his own blood-stained cross—that ought to make us want to root out every vestige of remaining sin in our lives. We can’t live in the sin he died to free us from. We must be driven, by his own loveliness, to make war on our sin.
While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.“ And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately the leprosy left him.
Luke 5:12-13 (NASB95)
The vile skin disease of leprosy was designed by God to be a picture or a parable of human sin. John MacArthur calls it an “irresistible analogy” of sin. The leprosy of sin has infected all mankind to the core of our being. All our faculties—our minds, our hearts, our wills, our consciences—have all been diseased by spiritual leprosy. Because of that, we all stand in need of cleansing from that great fountain that is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must come to him alone for cleansing, and we must come to him in precisely the way that this leper comes.
Consider five observations from the scene in Luke 5.
1. The Sinner’s Contamination
A leper, unclean and potentially dangerous to others, had long been commanded to live in isolation according to the law. Because of that, a leper was often a stranger to the comforts and pleasures of any sort of companionship. In some cases, he would struggle to remember what it felt like to touch another human being. The man in Luke 5 who approached Jesus would have been an outcast, a castaway. Not only was leprosy defiling and isolating, it was also eminently shameful. A leper’s uncleanness became his identity, as he was required to cry, “Unclean!” signaling his uncleanness to any passersby.
As we consider the awful corruption of leprosy, we must see ourselves in this leper. How appropriate is the picture leprosy is of the corruption of sin that afflicts each one of us by nature. Like leprosy, sin is defiling. Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Like leprosy, sin’s defilement is totalizing. Our entire constitution is infected with sin. Like leprosy, sin isolates. It makes man unfit for fellowship with God. If physical uncleanness couldn’t dwell alongside the manifestation of God’s presence and people in Israel, how much more does our spiritual uncleanness alienate us from the very presence of God himself?
In our sin, we have belittled His glory. We have preferred filth over beauty. Nobody should want anything to do with us, least of all the thrice Holy God of the universe. We are outcasts, fit only for the depths of hell itself. If we had any sense of ourselves at all, we would cry out in grief over our betrayal and for mercy from Him who we betrayed.
2. The Sinner’s Contrition
We can do nothing to rid leprosy from our bodies. Still less can our filthy rags rid the sinfulness from our souls. But the leper in Luke 5 sees Jesus. And when he saw him, verse 12 says, “He fell on his face and implored him.”
This is total brokenness, total humiliation. This man knows who he is. He knows he is undeserving, and so he takes the posture of humility, of reverence, even of worship, as he says in the next word, “Lord.” This man does not try to soft-sell his condition. He doesn’t say “Yes, sure. I’ve got a little leprosy, but on the whole, I think I’m a pretty healthy person.” We certainly hear much of that mindset today as sinners flatter and deceive themselves, convinced their sinfulness isn’t as foul and vile as the Bible says it is.
The leper comes in full confession and acknowledgment of his uncleanness, just as the truly repentant sinner must come to Christ, not making excuses for his sin, but openly confessing that he is totally corrupted, recognizing that he has no hope for forgiveness apart from the mercy of God. And so he falls down, bowed in abject humility, and begs God for undeserved grace.
3. The Sinner’s Confidence
But in one sense, this is not supposed to happen. According to the law of Moses, this leper shouldn’t be approaching anyone, let alone a rabbi. What drives his holy recklessness? Consider the sinners’ confidence. Verse 12, “He fell on his face and implored him saying, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”