Matthew 8:2 MEANING

Matthew 8:2
(2) A leper.--The discussion of leprosy, as to its nature, symptoms, and causes, would be at once long and difficult. The word, which is Greek and not Hebrew in its origin, has probably been used with varying extent of meaning, sometimes including elephantiasis, or even cancer. Even in its narrower meaning, as used by Hippocrates, leprosy was subdivided into three kinds: (1) the mealy, (2) the white, (3) the black, according to the appearance presented by the portions of diseased flesh. Confining ourselves to the Biblical form of the disease, we note (1) its probable origin in the squalor and wretchedness of the Egyptian bondage. It was the "botch," or plague "of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 28:27). In the Egyptian legends of the Exodus, indeed, the Israelites were said to have been expelled because they were lepers. (2) Its main features were the appearance of a bright spot on the flesh, whiter than the rest, spreading, in flaming, cracking; an ichorous humour oozing from the cracks, the skin becoming hard, scaly, "as white as snow" (Exodus 4:6; 2 Kings 5:27). One so affected was regarded as unclean; his touch brought defilement (Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:11; Leviticus 13:15). He was looked upon as smitten with a divine plague, and cases like those of Miriam and Gehazi gave strength to the belief. He had to live apart from his fellows, to wear on his brow the outward sign of separation, to cry out the words of warning, "Unclean, unclean" (Leviticus 13:45). The idea which lay at the bottom of this separation seems to have been one of abhorrence rather than precaution. The disease was loathsome, but there is no evidence that it was contagious, or even believed to be contagious. At the stage in which it reached its height, and the whole body was covered with the botch and scabs, the man was, by a strange contrast, declared to be ceremonially clean (Leviticus 13:13), and in this state, therefore, the leper might return to his kindred, and take his place among the worshippers of the synagogue. In the case now before us, the man would appear to have been as yet in the intermediate stage. St. Luke describes him, however, as "full of leprosy."

Worshipped him--i.e., as in St. Mark, "falling on his knees," or in St. Luke, "falling on his face," in the highest form of Eastern homage. The act gave to the word "Lord" the emphasis of one, at least, of its higher meanings.

If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.--The words imply either that he had seen or heard of our Lord's works of healing, or that His words had impressed him with the belief that the Teacher must have a power extending to acts also. There does not appear to have been any previous case of leprosy miraculously cleansed. The words of the man involve a singular mingling of faith and distrust. He believes in the power, he does not as yet believe in the will. Can it stoop to one so foul as he? If he shared the common feeling that leprosy was the punishment of sin, he might ask: himself, Will He pity and relieve one so sinful?

Verse 2. - And, behold. In this case the unexpected (Matthew 1:20, note) was the near approach (προσελθών), the "worship," and the prayer of an outcast. There came a leper. Loathsome physically and typically. The other passages which speak of the healing of lepers by our Lord or the apostles are

(1) Matthew 10:8;

(2) Matthew 11:5; parallel passage, Luke 7:22;

(3) Luke 17:12;

(4) perhaps Matthew 26:6; parallel passage, Mark 14:3. And worshipped him (Matthew 4:9, note). From the parallel passages we may see that the word here refers more to the posture of his body than to the nature of his thoughts. Saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Leprosy stood in so peculiar and solemn a relation to the Israelites that it would hardly be included under the terms, "all manner of disease, and all manner of sickness," in Matthew 4:23, 24; we have therefore no evidence that up to this time any leper had been healed by our Lord. The man's utterance marks, therefore, a distinct advance in faith. None like him, the object of the Divine "stroke," had been healed; but from lesser examples of Jesus' power he argues to the greater. Sure of Jesus' power, he appeals to his heart. Make me clean (καθαρίσαι). Not merely "heal me;" for a leper could not but think of healing and its consequences - restoration to social and religious privileges (vide infra).

8:2-4 In these verses we have an account of Christ's cleansing a leper, who came and worshipped him, as one clothed with Divine power. This cleansing directs us, not only to apply to Christ, who has power over bodily diseases, for the cure of them, but it also teaches us in what manner to apply to him. When we cannot be sure of God's will, we may be sure of his wisdom and mercy. No guilt is so great, but there is that in Christ's blood which atones for it; no corruption so strong, but there is that in his grace which can subdue it. To be made clean we must commend ourselves to his pity; we cannot demand it as a debt, but we must humbly request it as a favour. Those who by faith apply to Christ for mercy and grace, may be sure that he is freely willing to give them the mercy and grace they thus seek. And those afflictions are blessed that bring us to know Christ, and cause us to seek help and salvation from him. Let those who are cleansed from their spiritual leprosy, go to Christ's ministers and open their case, that they may advise, comfort, and pray for them.And behold there came a leper,.... As soon as he came down from the mountain, and whilst he was in the way; though Luke says, Luke 5:12 "when he was in a certain city"; in one of the cities of Galilee; one of their large towns, or unwalled cities, into which a leper might come: he might not come into walled (b) towns, at least they might turn him out, though without punishment: for the canon runs thus (c),

"a leper that enters into Jerusalem is to be beaten; but if he enters into any of the other walled towns, though he has no right, as it is said, "he sitteth alone", he is not to be beaten.''

Besides, this leper, as Luke says, was "full of leprosy", Luke 5:12 see the note there; and he might be pronounced clean by the priest, though not healed, and so might go into any city or synagogue: the law concerning such an one, in Leviticus 13:1 is a very surprising one; that if only there were some risings and appearances of the leprosy here and there, the man was unclean; but if "the leprosy covered all his flesh", then he was pronounced clean; and such was this man: he was a very lively emblem of a poor vile sinner, full of sin and iniquity, who is brought to see himself all over covered with sin, when he comes to Christ for pardon and cleansing; and is so considered by Christ the high priest, when he applies his justifying righteousness and sin purging blood to his conscience. A leper, by the Jews (d), is called "a wicked" man; for they suppose leprosy comes upon him for evil speaking. This account is ushered in with a "behold", as a note of admiration and attention, expressing the wonderfulness of the miracle wrought, and the seasonableness of it to confirm the doctrines Christ had been preaching to the multitude. This man came of his own accord, having heard of the fame of Christ;

and worshipped him in a civil and respectful way, showing great reverence to him as a man; which he did by falling down on his knees, and on his face; prostrating himself before him, in a very humble and submissive manner, as the other evangelists relate: for that he worshipped him as God, is not so manifest; though it is certain he had an high opinion of him, and great faith in him; which he very modestly expresses,

saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean: he was fully assured of his power, that he could make him clean, entirely rid him of his leprosy, which the priest could not do; who could only, according to the law, pronounce him clean, so that he might be admitted to company, but could not heal him of his disease: this the poor man was persuaded Christ could do for him, and humbly submits it to his will; of which, as yet, he had no intimation from him. And thus it is with poor sensible sinners under first awakenings; they can believe in the ability of Christ to justify them by his righteousness, cleanse them by his blood; and save them by his grace to the uttermost: but they stick at, and hesitate about his willingness, by reason of their own vileness and unworthiness.

(b) Misn. Celim. c. 1. sect. 7. (c) Maimon. Biath Hamikdash, c. 3. sect. 8. & in Misn. Celim. c. 1. sect. 8. (d) Maimon. in Misn. Negaim, c. 12. sect. 5. & Bartenora in ib. sect. 6.

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