Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Godet on leprosy
Note: I preached Sunday from Luke 5:12-26 on the accounts of the healing of the leper (vv. 12-16) and the paralytic (vv. 17-26). In expositing the account of the leper's healing, I leaned heavily on F. Godet's vivid comments on the depth of the man's illness which, in turn, accentuate the magnitude of Christ's compassionate healing. Here are some notes:
The subject is introduced with the stark “behold a man” (cf. 4:33: “there was a man”). On the heels of the introduction of this man there is also made clear his malady: he was a man “full of leprosy” (v. 12). Leprosy is the classic Biblical ailment that is known today as “Hansen’s disease,” a chronic infectious disease affecting the skin and peripheral nerves. In the ancient world there was no treatment for the disease other than isolation.
Godet notes: “Leprosy was in every point of view a most frightful malady” (p. 166). This was true in three aspects:
First, physically: “In its physical aspects it was a whitish pustule, eating away the flesh, attacking member after member, and at last eating away the very bones; it was attended with burning fever, sleeplessness, and nightmare, without scarcely the slightest hope of cure.” It was “a living death” (p. 166).
Second, socially: “the leper was separated from his family, and from intercourse with men, and had no other company than that of others as unhappy as himself” (p. 167). We have just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, but what if you had been barred from being with family and friends due to such a disease? Lepers lived in bands outside the community. Food was left for them out of charity. At the approach of others they had to announce their uncleanness (cf. Leviticus 13:45 says the leper had to tear his clothes, leave his head bare, put a covering over his mouth and cry out “Unclean, unclean.”).
Third, religiously: “the leper was Levitically unclean, and consequently excommunicate. His malady was considered a direct chastisement from God” (p. 167). This disease cut him off from public worship, from both synagogue and temple.