Did Jesus break the law by touching the leper ? Also why did the law said to put the blood on the right ear,thumb and big toe, why not the left why not both sides?
Matthew, Mark and Luke all explain this exquisite moment between a Jewish man with leprosy and his Messiah:
MATT. 8:2 And a man with leprosy came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
MATT. 8:3 Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
MARK 1:40 And a man with leprosy *came to Jesus, imploring Him and kneeling down, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
MARK 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
LUKE 5:12 While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
LUKE 5:13 And He reached out with His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Prior to this engagement we are told that Jesus goes off by Himself and prays. Fully man, Jesus must depend upon the wisdom, power, and strength of the Father to accomplish the work and assignment He has been divinely given. Jesus explains His dependence on the Lord clearly in John:
JOHN 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way.
By the order of these events we begin to understand why Jesus had to pull away from the disciples to pray to the Godhead. He would be tasked with something that had never been done before, healing a Jewish leper.
By the time of Jesus’ day, the leprosy cleansing ritual of Leviticus 14 had never been instituted because God had not yet provided a cure for the disease.
Likewise, in the case of sin, a solution had not yet appeared either. It turns out both awaited the arrival of the Messiah. It is key to note that the similarities of leprosy and sin led rabbis to conclude that God intended to associate the healing of leprosy with the arrival of the Messiah. Jewish Rabbis concluded that the first person to heal a leper would be the Messiah Himself.
It was not out of the ordinary for men to perform supernatural healing in Israel, through the Spirit's anointing. However, the Father validated His Son’s claims of being Messiah by performing similar miracles in Him. So that begs the question, how would the Father distinguish between the miracles regular prophets performed from those done by His Son? The answer is, the Father reserved specific miracles for Jesus, miracles that no other man had ever been permitted to perform.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum has coined the term “Messianic Miracles” to describe these special, Messiah-authenticating miracles. One of these unique miracles was the healing of leprosy described here in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Until this moment, no Jew had ever yet been cured of leprosy, so Leviticus 14 had never been put into action.
Upon introduction, a man approaches Jesus with advanced leprosy and he bows before Jesus. As he seeks healing from Jesus, he begins by saying “if you are willing". Those two details tell us everything we need to know about the man’s heart. First, by kneeling before Jesus, the man enters into a posture of worship. He makes a public declaration of deity, which is no small thing in Jewish society. Jews were extremely adamant about not worshipping anything other than Yahweh. Religious leaders barred images of people or animals on their coins for fear of violating the commandment against idolatry. Yet here’s a Jew willing to give His worship to Jesus, which indicates he recognized Jesus to be God.
By this man saying “if you are willing”, the man acknowledges that Jesus has the power to do something that had never been done before in history. The man knew Jesus had the power to heal leprosy, so the only question was whether it was God’s will to do so or not. By this evidence, there’s no doubt this man believed Jesus to be the divine Messiah promised to Israel. In the process, Jesus also takes the opportunity to distinguish Himself once more from the Pharisees. Jesus stretched out His hand and did the unthinkable in Jewish society…He touched the man. No self-respecting Pharisee would have dared to do such a thing, even if he had the power to heal leprosy.
Would this touch have made Jesus unclean? No, because He who embodies cleanliness (Jesus) was pure and Holy. Therefore, Jesus makes the man clean by taking upon Himself the man’s uncleanness. Symbolically speaking, Jesus took the man’s curse so that the man might be freed from it and in the process, Jesus performed the Messianic miracle in these scriptures.
The Gospels say the man was instantly cleansed, as in all traces of the disease were removed immediately…a divine miracle consummated by God. Additionally, Jesus superseded the Levitical law which forbids a clean person to touch an unclean person and establishes His authority and power in a way that would demonstrate who He is.
Jesus touching the Leper is fundamental as it demonstrates a picture of what Jesus would do for us as the suffering King on the cross. By touching the Leper, Jesus takes upon Himself our unclean state and in exchange makes us clean. This is why Paul says these words in Romans:
ROM. 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
ROM. 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
ROM. 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
ROM. 5:11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
What's more, Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill the Law as said in Matthew:
MATT. 5:17 “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
MATT. 5:18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!
Instead, man (Jew and Gentile) has been freed from the Law by grace, for those who believe on the Man of Jesus Christ. It is also worthy to note that by this touch Jesus showed this man, a sinner and outcast, true divine compassion. Genuine compassion has no limits and we must be imitators of this same kind of love.
Additionally, the leper said, “If you are willing … “ We must recognize that God has the ability to heal but we also need to understand that He has the right not to heal should it serve a Godly purpose. For it is in this man's divine illness that the Messiah made Himself known.
Why is the Blood Applied to the Ear Lobe, Thumb and Big Toe in Leviticus 14?
Levitical Law, Chapter 14, explains the ceremonial cleansing of a healed leper:
LEV. 14:10 “Now on the eighth day he is to take two male lambs without defect, and a yearling ewe lamb without defect, and three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and one log of oil;
LEV. 14:11 and the priest who is going to pronounce him clean shall present the person to be cleansed and the offerings before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
LEV. 14:12 Then the priest shall take the one male lamb and bring it as a guilt offering, with the log of oil, and present them as a wave offering before the Lord.
LEV. 14:13 Next he shall slaughter the male lamb in the place where they slaughter the sin offering and the burnt offering, at the place of the sanctuary—for the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.
LEV. 14:14 The priest shall then take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.
LEV. 14:15 The priest shall also take some of the log of oil, and pour it into his left palm;
LEV. 14:16 the priest shall then dip his right-hand finger into the oil that is in his left palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the Lord.
LEV. 14:17 Of the remaining oil which is in his palm, the priest shall put some on the right ear lobe of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot, on the blood of the guilt offering;
LEV. 14:18 as for the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s palm, he shall put it on the head of the one to be cleansed. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the Lord.
LEV. 14:19 The priest shall next offer the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Then afterward, he shall slaughter the burnt offering.
LEV. 14:20 The priest shall offer up the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be clean.
There are four different types of offerings, (i.e., Guilt Offering, Sin Offering, Burnt Offering, Grain Offering), that the diseased person must participate in, in order to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Of the four offerings, we will look more intently at the guilt offering, as this is where the ceremonial blood and oil are placed on the right earlobe, right thumb and right big toe.
The guilt offering was required when a person violated a rule or ordinance of the law. By participating in the guilt offering the Leper is making amends for his uncleanliness, which would atone for the leprosy, which in turn would cause the the Leper to be right before a Holy God. Leprosy, by and large, is not a sin but as mentioned before God used this disease to picture the infectious sin of the world, and through this picture a Jewish Religious Leader should have come to recognize the promised Messiah.
As the Leper resembled a defiled sinner, the priest was a type of Christ, to whom leprous sinners must be brought for cleansing and reconciliation. The Priests did not heal, nor could they, the healing was through the power of God. However, the Priests observed the Leper to see if the plague was healed, while also taking place in the ceremonial cleansing should ever leprosy be healed.
As we walk though the ceremonial cleansing one must first understand that most, if not all, logistics in Leviticus 14 pointed to something far greater – a coming Messiah who could atone for the sin of the world and bring reconciliation to the Godhead.
The guilt offering deals with taking away or removing sin through a payment of penalty, which in this case involved one male lamb to be slain and a log of oil waved before the Lord. This offering was sufficient for expiation, the removal of sin, before God. Therefore, one must take into account that the propitiation is the object of the removal of sin. Today, Christ is the object in which God brought about and by this sacrifice we are then restored into fellowship and favor with a Holy God.
Before Christ, Levitical Law notes that these offerings are used as the instrument to achieve right fellowship before God in the same way that Christ does for us today. Therefore, the embodiment of the leprosy/sin, followed by these offerings, essentially brought this person back into fellowship with God and also with those around him in the town. The very thing that appeases the wrath of God is that which has rightly satisfied the payment of sin (Christ).
Specifically, Leviticus 14 was administered by the Priests as the leper stood at the entry of the tabernacle. At this time he was obligated to put his head, right hand, and right foot across the threshold in order to have the blood and oil (guilt offering) put on by the Priest.
In accordance to tradition, we find in the Mishnah that these body parts were most likely put in all together:
Mishna Misn. Negaim, c. 14. sect. 8; he (the leper) thrust in his head, and (the priest) put (the blood) upon the tip of his ear; his hand, and he put it upon the thumb of his hand; his foot, and he put it upon the great toe of his foot: Rabbi Judah says: he put in all three at the same time.
According to some scholars the application of the blood and oil to these extremities demonstrates that the healed Leper was now at full liberty to partake in all societal privileges without defiling anything. Some would even argue that by God choosing these specific body parts the Jewish Leper now had a right to hear the word of God once again (ear lobe), congregating with others. Additionally, by placing the blood on the thumb this demonstrated the man was now free to serve God once again; because without thumbs a man is hindered in his service to God and the very livelihood of his family is diminished. Moreover, the anointing of the big toe communicates that one must walk in the ways of the Lord because without a big toe it is virtually impossible to walk without impediment.
Additionally, some biblical scholars suggest that the ear, thumb and big toes are directly responsible for the sin of humanity, therefore an anointing ceremony of blood and oil was administered to cleanse the person of all unrighteousness.
After all, today in the same way, we hear the Word of God and come to believe upon the Man of Jesus Christ. With our hands we serve the Man of Jesus Christ and with our feet we walk closely with the Man of Jesus.
Why the Right Side during the Ceremonial Cleansing?
As we see throughout many places in the Bible, when referring to the right hand it shows a place of honor and strength. For example:
GEN. 48:13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him.
GEN. 48:14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
EX 15:6 Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.
IS. 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
GAL. 2:9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.
Furthermore, in the early Jewish and Eastern cultures, the right hand was recognized as the hand to greet people with and eat food with while simultaneously the left hand was reserved for the restroom, which conveyed filth.
In conclusion, God in His mighty wisdom, uses left and right sides scripturally to symbolize something much greater. In this case, Leviticus 14 had never been fulfilled until God appeared in bodily form (Messiah). The Priests seeing this healed Leprous man should have recognized that their Messiah had actually arrived, fulfilling the Law, that gave way to eternal forgiveness of sin. Sadly, the Priests and Religious Leaders of Israel missed their opportunity to witness God at work through His Son, Jesus Christ.
However, the Leper did not.