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Dead Man Walking! Matthew 8:1-4.


Dead Man Walking!

Text: Numbers 12:1-15,  Matthew 8:1-4.
Lepers fell under the prohibitive measures of the ceremonial laws of Israel, and in this encounter, where Jesus shows that the ceremonial law (types and shadows of the anew Covenant) is fulfilled and abolished in Him, he demonstrates how sinners like us, under the condemnation of the moral law (the commandments) can be fully cleansed and restored to fellowship with God. Let’s look at that encounter:-

1. Leprosy and the Law! v2. And, behold, there came a leper
Do you know the difference between the ceremonial law, the civic law and the moral law under the Old Covenant? It’s really important, for sometimes confusion over these laws will be used against Christians.

  • The ceremonial(religious)  law, included purity laws, worship regulations, what kept Israel separate from the other nations.
  • The civil law was for the ordering of Hebrew society. (Lev. 25:29,)
  • The Moral Law was summarised in the 10 Commandments. Jesus by his death fulfilled and abolished the ceremonial law and the civil law, but FULFILLED the moral law for us. The moral law is NOT abolished. It is because the Ceremonial law is abolished, that there is now no division between Jews and Gentiles. Ephesians 2:14-15.

Lepers, under the ceremonial law, were to stay well away from others. They were like dead men… Untouchables. Let’s think about leprosy in Israel…

  1. A leper – the most hopeless situation. The leper was an outcast in Israel.
    The nature of the illness. Leprosy was and still is, a terrible illness, a mass of suite rating growths, that spread over the body. The body of a leper would literally rot away, while the sufferer was still alive. It was incurable, so over a period of 20 or 30 years the leper would suffer helplessly as he dies a progressive death. Numbers 12:11-12
  2. The response of the ceremonial law. Now in Israel, there were specific laws concerning leprosy, and they were CEREMONIAL – in other words, they were concerning religious uncleanness, and were a shadow, a type, to teach God’s people something that would be more fully revealed in the NT. Leviticus 13:45 A rabbi would walk six feet away from a leper to avoid him, if the wind was blowing he would stay upwind of the leper, some would even lift stones and throw them to keep a leper away. Lepers were spiritually unclean, like a dead body, and anyone who touched one, even by accident would also be unclean. So lepers were spiritually separate from the blessings and the covenants of Israel.
  3. A sinner – through Adam’s fall. Now have you noticed that when preachers speak of leprosy, or when they preach on these accounts of a leper being healed, they will often equate leprosy with sin? Are we reading too much into the text, over allegorising it? Actually no, we are not! I was reminded of this when I read again the comments on this passage by RC Trench. Leprosy is NOT contagious! You can’t catch leprosy from a leper, by normal human interaction. So, asks Trench, – why does the Law have such strict regulations regarding leprosy? Either
    1. The Jews didn’t know the facts? Some would see this as the obvious answer.
    2. The Jews and the other people who lived in that time period were so backward and uneducated that they couldn’t possibly know anything about which illnesses were infectious and which were not. I simply wouldn’t accept that argument. Let me show you why it was well known in Israel that leprosy couldn’t be spread by normal contact…
      1. Naaman the Leper, a Syrian, held down an important job, was the captain of his nation’s armed forces, appeared in the presence of his king – lived in a house with a wife and a servant, so he certainly was no social outcast. But then he didn’t live in Israel. 2 Kings 5:1
      2. Gahazi, the leprous servant of Elijah, could enter into the presence of the apostate law-breaking king of Israel. 2 Kings 5:27 cf 2 Kings 8:5
      3. In Israel itself, strangers and visitors were EXEMPT from the leprosy legislation! And when a leper went to present himself to the priests, the descendants of Levi, they were required to handle and to examine the man, and they did so knowing that they would come to no harm.

The exclusion of the leper is, like all aspects of the ceremonial law, a shadow (type) of sin and grace. Numbers 5 1-3 For Israel, leprosy was a sign and a consequence of mankind’s sin, as was death. Like death, it brought uncleanness, and separated the sinner from God. But why the poor leper, for isn’t every sickness a consequence of sin? Yes, but God is gracious, and while He uses his OT people as an illustration of sin and his grace and mercy, – and he chose just this one, very visible, obnoxious, odious malady to impress upon his people the awfulness of sin. So, for Israel, leprosy is a visual reminder of the consequences of sin.

So, without doubt, the leper is representative of our human condition without God. We are unclean, we cannot approach God in our filth and sin, we are living, but it is a living death, dragging us slowly but surely to the grave and to a lost eternity. We are in a hopeless situation. We are dead men walking.

The Old Covenant law had three aspects. Write down an example of each of them:
The CEREMONIAL Law. Numbers 12:1-15 _______________________________________________
The CIVIL Law. Lev. 25:29, _______________________________________________
The MORAL Law. Exodus 20 ________________________________________________

Think about this:

  1. Which of the three aspects of the Law was FULFILLED but NOT abolished by Jesus’s perfect life and death?
  2. Is the Sabbath Day part of the Ceremonial (religious) law or the Moral law?
    Is the Sabbath Day part of that aspect of the Law which was both fulfilled and abolished, so rendering it now obsolete for Christians?
  3. If a Christian can eat shellfish, (banned under the Law) why can’t they commit adultery (also banned)?
  4. Why must both Jews and Gentiles be considered as equal, in sin and in need of salvation? Ephesians 2:14-15
  5. If lepers weren’t infectious, why were they isolated from Hebrew society? Leviticus 13:45

2. Leprosy and the Lord! v3 and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Under the Ceremonial Law, the isolation of the leper, in his living death, is a type of the sinner – cut off from his creator and perishing. But this sinner comes to Jesus! Look at the evidence of God’s grace in the sinner’s life:-

  1. The ‘worshipping’ sinner. A guilty sinner can never worship God. The ESV can cast some light on this for us. It reads, behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him. He HUMBLED HIMSELF BEFORE THE LORD. He knelt in humility! The only way for a sinner to approach the Lord is with deep humility, a humility born out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the divine call.
  2. The willing Saviour. Would Jesus be willing to cleanse a leper, a sinner, would he be willing to cleanse him from his sin and give him a new life? Yes He would. He is always WILLING TO SAVE! A humble, repentant sinner will always find a willing Saviour. Note his double actions. His condescension to the leper’s flesh and His Word!
    1. The Divine Identification with Humanity. He touched a leper! No religious man, no rabbi would do that! But Jesus did, and rather than making Him unclean, the leper was cleansed!
    2. The Word! He spoke. And his voice confirmed his willingness to save. Note the authoritative tone of the words of Christ. Be cleansed!
  3. The Wonderful Salvation. And he was cleansed. Right away! He had a new life and was set free.

Notice that all of this is of the grace of God alone. The leper could do nothing to cleanse himself, but Jesus and Him alone could save him and cleanse him from all his uncleanness and bring him into fellowship with God, within his covenant people.

3. Leprosy and the Law of Love! v4. 4And 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.
Having been set free from the ceremonial law that kept him enslaved and separated, the leper will now willingly seek to obey the moral law, for love and law are not contrary, one to the other.(John 14:15, 21, 1 John 5:3). Yet look at how he must live from now on…

  1. HUMBLY! How grateful must that leper have been, – he must have wanted to tell everyone what had happened. Sometimes we can be tempted to boast about our salvation. Live humbly – remember that we didn’t deserve to be be saved, we have nothing to boast about, except the cross! In context, Jesus was not, at this stage in his earthly ministry, drawing attention to himself, not like he would later when he raised Lazarus from the grave.
  2. CONSISTENTLY. Live your life. He told the man to go his way! It would be a new way! A way of forgiveness and inclusion, and worship and joy.
  3. OBEDIENTLY. There were legal matters to attend to. He must go and show himself to the priest. Leviticus 14:2-4. Now that he is cleansed for sin, he will seek to keep the law that before he had carelessly broken. Live for Jesus.

What a succinct summary of the Gospel in the cleansing of the leper. It’s all here, from the hopeless living death of the sinner, to the call and grace of the Saviour and the resultant change in the life of the repentant believer.

© Bob McEvoy

From → Matthew

  1. Stephen Hanna permalink

    Hi Bob

    How’s it going? You keeping ok?

    Thanks for that message


    Sent from my iPad


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