The Cleansing of the Leper -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:451 (Jul 1956)
Article: The Cleansing of the Leper
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


The Cleansing of the Leper

Charles C. Ryrie

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum was followed rapidly by a sequence of events which led to the miracle of the cleansing of a leper (Matt 8:2–4; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 5:12–16). That evening after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, the whole city gathered at Peter’s door to beseech the Savior for deliverance from various maladies. It had already been a busy day, but the Lord healed many of them (Mark 1:32–34). In spite of His weariness of body, the next day He arose early to seek His Father’s face in prayer, but His disciples found Him and reported that many others back in town were seeking Him. Our Lord’s reply was to remind them of the many others in other towns who also needed Him.

I. The Leprosy of the Man

It was while the Lord was on this preaching tour through Galilee that a leper accosted Him. Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to man, for the Egyptians recognized it before 1500 B.C. It was evidently not at all uncommon in Palestine in Jesus’ day (cf. Matt 10:8; 11:5; Luke 7:22), but this incident is the first record of cleansing in Christ’s public ministry.

The characteristics of leprosy. Leprosy is a disease which seems to know no climatic or social boundaries. Although today’s three million lepers are found chiefly in tropical Africa, South America, India, and China, the disease has appeared and does appear in all parts of the world. “Race, occupation, social status and climate have no bearing on the incidence” (John M. Musser, Internal Medicine, 4th edition, 1945, p. 73).

Leprosy appears in two forms. One affects the nerves

and the other the skin. It is the latter which seems to be the type spoken of everywhere in the Bible, but neither type is a disease of the blood. The bacilli appear in the blood only during times of fever (ibid., p. 74;, cf. C. I. Scofield, editor, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 141: “Leprosy speaks of sin as (1) in the blood…”). A person may harbor the germs for years before the disease erupts. When it does appear, however, it takes the form of nodules or of swelling of the extremities and usually affects the face, legs, or feet first. From then on the disease runs a fearful and sometimes lengthy course. “As the nodules enlarge the skin becomes deeply furrow...

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