A man “full of skin disease” falls down on his face and begs Jesus, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus is willing, stretches out his hand, touches the untouchable and says, I am willing, be clean” – and the man is cleansed.
In the Old Testament “skin disease” was viewed not primarily as a health issue as a religious issue. The OT refers to skin disease as ‘a blow’ or plague. The Hebrew word is always used of God’s action. Skin disease, like mildew, was something ‘sent by God’. It was usually a judgment for some moral sin or sin against God’s holiness (Key examples include Miriam, Gehazi, Uzziah).
Skin disease was also associated with death. In Leviticus it is described as being like scaly or flaky skin that appeared as if it was decomposing. Hence Aaron says of Miriam: “Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
The man full of skin disease is a man with a spiritual problem rather than just an uncomfortable health condition. He is afflicted under ‘blow from God’, he is separated from God’s presence and God’s people and he is halfway toward a death-like decomposition.
Generally physical contact with such a man was defiling but when Jesus touches him as an act of compassion, rather than Jesus becoming unclean, it is Jesus’ cleanness and wholeness that is transmitted to the man.
The man’s healing demonstrates Jesus’ power but it also shows that Jesus is the one who removes ‘blows’, cleans and makes people acceptable to God and restores the (half-)dead to life.
J.C. Ryle says: From the sole of our foot to the crown of our head, there is no soundness about us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. (Isa 1:6.) Such is the state in which we are born. Such is the state in which we naturally live. We are in one sense dead long before we are laid in the grave. Our bodies may be healthy and active, but our souls are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. Who shall deliver us from this body of death?
We have our answer in the account above!