I am continually amazed at how the Gospels portray what an amazing man Jesus is. Early in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17), Jesus warned his followers not to assume he had come to abolish the law, that is the Old Testament law given through Moses. Rather, he came to fulfill it. Immediately, after descending the mountain from teaching, having said those words, Jesus encountered a man suffering from leprosy. The man didn’t actually ask for healing, he declared that Jesus could heal him if he were willing. Jesus responded that he was and pronounced him cleansed. Then we read something curious. Matthew wrote that the leprosy was cleansed (Matthew 8:3), he didn’t say that the man was healed, but that the disease itself was cleansed. That is a curious statement by Matthew, but I believe it relates back to what Jesus said earlier about fulfilling the law. Jesus went on to tell the man that he was to tell no one what had happened, but go show himself to the priest and present the offering prescribed by Moses as a testimony to them.
Jesus’ command was not merely a testimony to the priests to substantiate the healing that Jesus had done, but it was a fulfillment of the law regarding those who suffered from leprosy. In Leviticus 13-14, Moses had given specific actions the priests and sufferers of leprosy were to take if someone were to be healed of leprosy. It was the priest who had the authority to declare a person clean from leprosy. Although Jesus healed the man and informed him that he was cleansed, Jesus honored what Moses had written and left it to the priest to declare the man officially cleansed. Even though many priests and Pharisees opposed and would oppose Jesus, he still honored the authority that God had bestowed upon them through the law. In so doing Jesus also gave honor to his Father in heaven who had originally given the law to Moses. We often assume we should only give honor to those whom we consider to be honorable, or who agree with our position. We should take note of Jesus’ example to us. We give honor to those our heavenly Father has declared should receive our honor regardless of whether they are honorable or whether we agree with them. God determines who should be honored, not us.