All day long, the multitudes were with him. All day he was talking, or healing, or journeying. But we shall read very frequently that Jesus, before the crowds came, or after they had sought their homes in the evening, found solitude in the waste places or the quiet hills and prayed. Jesus could “of his own self do nothing.” His Father had given him the power, To his Father he gave thanks for all that had been bestowed upon him.
Even thus, when he sought relief from the wearying crowds, he was often followed. But no word of reproof comes from his lips. When, upon this early morning, “Peter and they that were with him had found him,” and said: “All men seek thee”, Jesus shows no vexation, but says: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth.”
Then began a journey throughout all Galilee, of which we are told but little. One incident alone is recorded, but we know it is only one of many, for the multitudes were always with him.
There came a leper unto him. We can, I think have little idea what leprosy is. Fortunately in temperate climes it is almost unknown. It is a dreadful disease, best described as living death, for the sufferer gradually dies. This man was “full of leprosy”.
With head bared, garment rent, mouth veiled, he had for weary months and years wandered in the countryside, crying out, “Unclean, unclean,” as he neared habitations or passed by his fellow creatures. A walled city he must not enter, a synagogue must not shelter him unless it were in an unwalled village. Even then he must sit in a part partitioned off, and be the first to enter and last to leave.
Such had been his hard lot. But it was to continue no longer. He had heard of Jesus. He hastens to him as quickly as his disease will allow.
Falling upon his face before Jesus he says, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” This poor leper is not like the rich noblemen of Capernaum, whose son was ill of a fever. Jesus saw that the nobleman would not believe unless he saw miracles. The same knowledge of man enabled Jesus to see that this leper had faith and trust. He immediately says, “I will, be thou clean,” and touching the man, he healed him.
The leper, who, but a few moments before, had no hope but for death, was now in full glow of health. He looks at his hands, a moment ago shiny, scaly, loathsome, and now they are healthy and soft. In his joy he would tell all and sundry; but no, the voice that healed him now commands:
“Tell no man, but go and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
You will, by recalling what was said in a previous chapter about being clean and unclean, be able to understand here what is meant by a leprous man being unclean. He was ceremonially unclean, and must go through many rites before he could be called “clean” and be allowed to mix freely with others. He could only fulfill these ceremonies at the Temple in Jerusalem.
He sets off quickly, but not before he meets some who had known him in his uncleanness. They can see the change that has been wrought, some even daring to ask what has happened. The overjoyed man cannot keep it secret, he must tell them.
The news of this and other notable miracles, spreads into the remote districts of Galilee, so that “great multitudes come together to hear him, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.”
We should always, I think, try to see this background of people in the work of Jesus. Many willing to hear him gladly, as sheep which had no shepherd, following him, sometimes far from their homes, sometimes even when weary and hungry. And we should remember that he, too, was often far from any place he might call home, having “nowhere to lay his head”, that he was as weary, or more so, than they, yet always having compassion on them, tending them and ministering to them quietly and without rebuke.
The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Michell