Matthew 7:28-29, 8:1-4
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
When people speak with authority, it is always good to listen. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continually refers to the authority of God, as opposed to the Pharisees, who referred to their own authority or the authority of other rabbis. As a result of his teaching, many people followed Jesus down the mountainside, probably curious to see what he would do or say next. Great crowds followed Jesus around frequently during his ministry, but not all of them became true believers (remember Matthew 7:21-23). Many people followed Jesus just because he was a new voice, not because they genuinely believed him to be God.
A single individual approaches Jesus when he is coming down from the mountain. A leper, who would have been physically blemished by disease, and potentially contagious, kneels before Jesus and acknowledges the power of God. I don’t want to get too caught up in semantics here, but I love the phrasing of what he says. “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” This is how we should acknowledge the power of God. Not demanding, but recognizing that if God wills, he can heal us of all things.
In the Old Testament, there were many things that could make an individual “unclean”. And leprosy made not only a person unclean, but the person who touched them as well. Jesus chooses to heal the leper, and he also chooses to physically touch him when he performs the healing. Yet, Jesus does not become unclean. This is the power of the Gospel, that God touches us in our physical and spiritual decay, and does not decay Himself.
Jesus commands the leper to show himself to the priest, because that is what the law of Moses stated. It’s interesting that Jesus also tells the man to not say anything. From the footnotes, it is mentioned that this is because Jesus doesn’t want people to follow him simply to view miracles. Jesus wants us to trust in him all the way, not just for physical acts.
As we move deeper into Matthew 8 and 9, we will see Jesus heal more people from all different backgrounds. We have heard the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. In Matthew 8-9, we will see Jesus emerge as not just a teacher, but as a healer. Jesus is beginning to reveal that he is much greater than anyone who came before him.