In Matthew 8, as Jesus has just concluded his famous Sermon on the Mount, a man with leprosy approaches him. The man comes before Jesus, kneels down, and humbly says:
“Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (8:2).
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon. On the mountain, he taught the multitude about the kingdom of God. It was powerful, revolutionary, and for Jesus, exhausting. Matthew tells us that as Jesus departs from there, “great crowds followed him.” So around this time–either literally as Jesus is making his exit through the crowd or shortly after–this man makes his way to Jesus.
When Jesus looks down at the man kneeling at his feet, he acts with mercy and compassion. In his response to this request for healing, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man– a shocking thing to do. When the New Testament mentions “leprosy,” it is referring to different types of skin diseases. People with leprosy in this time were treated as outcasts. They were separated from the rest of the population. No one would even go near them, much less touch them. But Jesus did.
Jesus reaches out his hand to touch this man, presumably in view of the crowds following him at the time. He was unafraid of their judgment; Jesus simply acts. And when he touched the man, Matthew tells us Jesus said these four words:
“I will; be clean.”
Any of us could utter those words. But none of us could do so with the healing power Jesus possessed. When Jesus says, “I will,” he shows us his willingness. When Jesus says, “be clean,” he shows us his power. And when he spoke, the man was immediately cured of his leprosy.
Jesus is God. He is the Son of Man sent from heaven. He came to seek and to save what was lost. And his mission was to establish God’s kingdom on the earth.
These four words show us Jesus because they show his power and point us toward his mission. When the kingdom is fully established, there will be no more leprosy. There will be no more disease or death or sorrow or pain–only peace and perfect joy. The sick will be made well. Our broken world will be made whole.
But notice that Jesus gives us this sign of the kingdom by healing a single person. I think that is intentional too. The kingdom of God is the future of creation, but it is only this man’s future because of his faith in Jesus. The same thing goes for us.
In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one will see the kingdom unless they are born again. That seems like bad news unless we realize that Jesus is the one with the willingness and the power to give us new life.
The secret to securing your future in the kingdom of God is seen here in this passage.
Like the man kneeling before Jesus, we are also afflicted by disease; our lives are covered with the stains of sin. Salvation is found in calling out to Jesus. With a humble heart, we say these words: Lord, if you will, make us clean.
To all who call upon his name, Jesus says: “I will; be clean.”