Can you imagine a church that is doing great things to help people who are hurting or struggling in life telling the ones they help not to tell anyone about what has been done for them? Can you imagine a preacher telling a person he visited or helped not to tell anyone how he helped or encouraged them? We seem to have it drilled into us that if something is happening that is good we need to spread the word about it. If we have a great children’s ministry, then by all means shout the news to the whole world. If our youth ministry is really helping young people grow and develop in faith, surely we should advertise how well it is doing to the world so others can be brought in as well. You can just pick any area of work and our attitude is if it is good we should tell everyone about it.
Strangely, Jesus didn’t do that. Over and over again, as you read through the gospel accounts you see Jesus healing someone of some horrible disease and then telling them to not tell anyone about it. It goes against our thinking so much that some people have actually thought that Jesus was using reverse psychology knowing that if he told them not to tell it they would go out and tell all the more what had happened to them. I think the reason we do that is because it just doesn’t make sense to us that he would tell people not to tell others what has happened to them.
Take one example from Luke 5:12-16. “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus, reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said, ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him. 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.’ Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Leprosy was worse than Covid-19. The law was that a person with leprosy was to stay away from anyone who didn’t have the disease. They had to do much more than wear masks and keep social distancing. Imagine having a disease that drove you from home, family, friends and even from the places of worship. You were required if anyone came close to you to yell, “Unclean, unclean!” Perhaps the reason the man fell with his face to the ground was to keep from being offensive to Jesus or to the people around him. But he couldn’t keep from pleading with Jesus that if was willing he could cure his whole body and drive the leprosy away. I can’t imaging how shocked he must have been when Jesus reached out and touched him. After all, one with leprosy was “untouchable”. Jesus didn’t allow fear of catching an awful disease from caring for the hurting person enough to touch him. I wonder how many people in our own time feel like they are untouchable and would give anything in the world to have someone reach out to touch them. But Jesus did more than touch him. He declared, “I am willing. Be clean!” I would love to have seen the man’s expression when Jesus touched him and said, “Be clean.” I would bet the shock on his face was massive.
Let me tell you, there is now and has always been a disease that is far worse, far more deadly and far more contagious than leprosy or Covid-19. It is the disease of SIN. And, here is the thing that should stand out to all of us. We all have it. It not only covers our body, it is in our heart and mind. It affects our soul and it will lead to the ultimate death of hell itself if we don’t find the cure for it. Jesus is willing and able to not only heal the leper, he is willing and able to touch you and me and to drive the sin away, washing us in his blood and making us as clean and pure as a newborn baby.
Imagine the man looking at his skin and seeing the raw flesh healthy again. The white areas look normal. The rotting flesh is now healthy. What would you do in such a situation? Likely you would begin shouting to anyone you saw what had happened, that you were clean, healed and Jesus did it. But Jesus wasn’t through with the man. He gave him two commands. First, don’t tell anyone. Second, go to the priest and follow the law on what is to be done when you are healed from leprosy. I sure understand why he would tell him to go to the priest and follow the law on the matter. It would be what opened the door for him to go home and live among his family and people again. But why Lord, do you want him not to tell anyone?
Most likely because Jesus knew that while it was important to heal those who were sick, that wasn’t his main purpose for coming into this world. His primary mission was about preaching the gospel to the world, training disciples and apostles for the work they would do after his death on the cross. But if the message got out that he was a healer of all kinds of sicknesses and diseases, people would be coming in huge crowds to be healed. A secondary mission would become so massive that the primary mission of preaching and teaching the gospel, making and training disciples, would be lost on the wayside. So, he pleaded over and over again for those whom he healed to remain quiet about it. But, they never did. Their excitement for what had been done for them overwhelmed them and they had to tell someone. Plus they knew tons of others who had the same illness they had and longed for them to have this healing as well. Sure enough the result was that crowds came to hear him and to be healed. Notice what happened with Jesus as a result. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” He tended to go into the small towns and villages sharing the message where the word hadn’t spread so much. Excited people telling what great things had happened to them resulted in Jesus having to stay away from crowded areas to be able to fulfill his mission and have time with the Father in prayer.
I wonder how often today God’s people get pulled away from the primary work God has called us to do by the spread of the message that we are doing some great work in an area that may not ever lead to one hearing the good news of Jesus. It is extremely difficult for us to be in the place of praise for good works we are doing and still have Jesus as the one being glorified for HIs life and ministry. Jesus loved to heal the sick. But his greatest interest was in bringing them to faith in him so they could be healed from the disease of sin. Our mission as the church is to do good and help the needy. But the primary function of the church is to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel of Christ. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.”