Luke 5:14, Cleansing the Leper

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

//All four gospels tell the story of a leper whom Jesus heals. Jesus then orders the man to go show himself to the priest in the temple, and offer the appropriate sacrifices.

This command puzzles many people. the ritual to which Jesus alludes is this: The leper, in order to be cleansed, must bring two birds to a priest. One of them is sacrificed that day, while the other is dipped in its blood and then released. The blood is sprinkled on the leper, after which he must shave all his hair and bathe daily for a week. Then the leper brings two spotless lambs and one spotless ewe back to the priest to be sacrificed as a burnt offering. The blood of this second sacrifice is dabbed on the leper’s right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe. After the leper is sprinkled seven times with oil, he is finally pronounced cleansed, free of sin and allowed to rejoin the community.

So is this what Jesus expected the man to do? No, of course not. Let’s read what happened just prior to day’s verse, when Jesus agrees to heal the leper:

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” –Luke 5:13

So the leper was cleansed immediately, with no need for a week-long cleansing ritual! No need for expensive sacrifices, no need to bow to the priest’s authority! Jesus has superseded the temple rite and the need for a priest. Why, then, does Jesus send the leper to the priest with this instruction?

Perhaps Jesus was joking. Perhaps he was sending a little message to the priesthood that their time was ending.

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