Jesus heals a man with leprosy

To begin at the beginning, click here  –>   BIBLE STUDY: LUKE

Leprosy today

Luke 5:12-16:

Jesus was once in a certain town where there happened to be a man covered with leprosy; seeing Jesus, he bowed to the ground and begged his help.

“Sir,” he said, “if only you will, you can cleanse me.”

Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Indeed I will; be clean again.” The leprosy left him immediately. Jesus then ordered him not to tell anybody. “But go,” he said, “show yourself to the priest and make the offering laid down by Moses for your cleansing; that will certify the cure.”

But the talk about Jesus spread all the more; great crowds gathered to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. And from time to time Jesus would withdraw to lonely places for prayer.

Leprosy: What laws applied to people with leprosy? *

* Leprosy:

Leprosy is a bacterial disease affecting the skin, with lesions developing as the disease progresses. In 2016, there were 216,00 new cases around the world, with 200 new patients in the U.S   Today known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is curable with multi-drug therapy.  However, fear of contracting this disfiguring disease still keeps the afflicted in isolation.

Leviticus 13 dictates procedures for dealing with leprosy: a priest would inspect the lesions, and if they did not disappear after a specified time, the person would then be declared ritually “unclean”. Lepers had to live outside their communities, isolated from family and friends. In approaching Jesus, this man was in violation of Levitical law. In touching the leper, Jesus also violated the law.

Jesus calls his first disciples

Galilee:  fishing at sunset

Luke 5:1-11:

One day as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and the people crowded upon him to listen to the word of God, he noticed two boats lying at the water’s edge; the fishermen had come ashore and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore; then he went on teaching the crowds from his seat in the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we were hard at work all night and caught nothing at all; but if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  They did so, and made a big haul of fish; and their nets began to split.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  This they did, and loaded both boats to the point of sinking.

When Simon saw what had happened he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go, Lord, leave me, sinner that I am!”  For he and all his companions were amazed at the catch they had made; so too were his partners James and John, Zebedee’s sons.

“Do not be afraid,” said Jesus to Simon; “from now on you will be catching people.”  As soon as they had brought the boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Gennesaret:  Where is this? *

* Gennesaret:

Kinneret is the Hebrew name for the freshwater lake we usually call the “Sea of Galilee.”  Luke is the only Biblical writer who calls the lake “Gennesaret” (the Greek form of the Hebrew Kinneret), which is what Jesus and his disciples would have called it. 

Other towns, other responses


In Capernaum today: this synagogue was built
on top of the synagogue Jesus preached in.

Luke 4:31-44

Coming down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, Jesus taught the people on the Sabbath, and they were astounded at his teaching, for what he said had the note of authority.

Now there was a man in the synagogue possessed by a devil, an unclean spirit. He shrieked at the top of his voice, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked him: “Be silent,” he said, “and come out of him.” Then the devil, after throwing the man down in front of the people, left him without doing him any injury. Amazement fell on them all and they said to one another: “What is there in this man’s words? He gives orders to the unclean spirits with authority and power, and out they go.” So the news spread, and he was the talk of the whole district.

On leaving the synagogue he went to Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was in the grip of a high fever; and they asked him to help her. He came and stood over her and rebuked the fever. It left her, and she got up and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had friends suffering from one disease or another brought them to him; and he laid his hands on them and cured them. Devils also came out of many of them, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and forbade them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

When day broke Jesus went out and made his way to a lonely spot. But the people went in search of him, and when they came to where he was they pressed him not to leave them. But he said, “I must give the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do.” So he proclaimed the Gospel in the synagogues of Judaea.

Devil: What did people believe about the devil? *

Thoughts: on receiving the message

Jesus may have held the same ideas about what causes illness as everyone else in his day (he was, after all, as human as they were). But he refused to let these old ideas shape his response to people needing help. He also did not assume that sickness was deserved because it was a punishment for sin. He listened with compassion and prayed with authority, because he knew that God does not abandon people to their suffering, but really cares for them, and wants them to be healed.

* Devils:

If you did not know about the existence of bacteria and viruses, where would you think illness comes from? In Jesus’ world, people believed they were surrounded by evil spirits, always seeking entry into their bodies and minds. There were spirits of blindness and deafness; spirits of fever and infection; spirits of insanity and moral uncleanness – and all illness was attributed to these spirits.

The town reacts to Jesus


In Nazareth: at the brow of the hill

Luke 4:22-30

There was a general stir of admiration; but they were surprised that words of such grace should fall from his lips. “Is not this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Then Jesus said, “No doubt you will quote the proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself!” and say, “We have heard of all your doings at Capernaum; do the same here in your own home town. I tell you this,” he went on, “no prophet is recognized in his own country. There were many widows in Israel, you may be sure, in Elijah’s time, when for three years and six months the skies never opened, and famine lay hard upon the whole country; yet it was to none of those that Elijah was sent, but to a widow at Sarepta in the territory of Sidon (see 1 Kings 17). Again, in the time of the prophet Elisha there were many lepers in Israel, and not one of them was healed, but only Naaman, the Syrian” (see 2 Kings 5).

At these words the whole congregation was infuriated. They leapt up, threw him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which it was built, meaning to hurl him over the edge. But he walked straight through them all, and went away.

Surprised: Why were they surprised? *

Thoughts: on rejecting the message

How do I know if a speaker is truthful? And how do I know the speaker’s message is true? (And even when I trust the speaker, I may not accept the message if it conflicts with what I already “know” to be true.)

The Brow of the Hill – Dave Baldwin (Luke 4:16-30)

Jesus spoke after reading from the prophet Isaiah,
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The stunned silence was broken by one sneering
villager who wondered: “What makes you so special?”
(The Israelites claimed God was only on their side.)
The villager asked, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
“No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town,”
said Jesus. “The Gentiles are not to be denied:
They are not created to fuel the fires of hell;
Elijah sought out lodging with a widow of Zarephath
and Elisha cleansed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy.”
For praising the Gentiles, the good people of Nazareth
were furious. They led Jesus to the brow of the hill,
but he passed through their midst to launch his ministry.

* Surprised:

The congregation was not only surprised by Jesus’ gifts (since he was only Joseph’s son), but surprised by his interpretation of Isaiah. In Jesus’ day, the rabbis interpreted “the year of the Lord’s favor” (see Isaiah 61:2) as the time when God would restore Israel’s fortunes, freeing the people from their Gentile captors. But Jesus is clearly saying that “the year of the Lord’s favor” is coming for the Gentiles also – indeed, coming for the poor and oppressed of all nations.

Jesus in his home town

In Nazareth today

Luke 4: 14-21

Then Jesus, armed with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee; and reports about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and all sang his praises.

So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went to synagogue on the Sabbath day as he regularly did. He stood up to read the lesson, and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:

He opened the scroll and found the passage which says,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me;
he has sent me to announce good news to the poor;
to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind;
to let the oppressed go free;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak: “Today,” he said, “in your very hearing this text has come true.”

Sat: If Jesus was about to preach, why did he sit down? *

Thoughts: on proclaiming the vision

We know, from listening to Jesus’ sermon (above), that he was reading from Isaiah 61 — but we also know that he left out part of a verse (compare the above with Isaiah 61:1-2). What words did Jesus leave out?  What would that omission mean to the listeners in the synagogue? What could Jesus’ vision mean for our world today?

* Sat:

We are used to preachers standing in their pulpits. But it was the custom for a rabbi to sit down after the lesson was read, and then begin teaching from his chair. This time of teaching was also a time for questions, comments, and dialogue with people in the congregation. (They didn’t wait to get to the door to tell the rabbi what they thought!)


Jesus in the wilderness

In the Judaean wilderness

Luke 4:1-13

Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan, and for forty days was led by the Spirit up and down the wilderness and tempted by the devil.

All that time he had nothing to eat, and at the end of it he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “Scripture says, “One cannot live on bread alone.”

Next the devil led him up and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. “All this dominion I will give to you,” he said, “and the glory that goes with it; for it has been put in my hands and I can give it to anyone I choose.” Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God and worship him alone.’”

The devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the parapet of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down, for Scripture says, ‘He will give his angels orders to take care of you,’ and again, ‘They will support you in their arms, for fear you should strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It has been said, ‘You are not to test the Lord your God.’” So, having come to the end of all his temptations, the devil departed, biding his time.

Parapet: Where was the parapet of the temple?

Thoughts: on testing a new vision

Did you ever have an experience that made you stop in your tracks – to think about what happened to you, to try to understand what it meant? When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he heard a voice telling him, “You are my beloved Son.” The voice Jesus heard was so important to him that he retreated into the wilderness to pray.

After Jesus’ days in the wilderness, he was hungry, thirsty, and delirious. And then he heard another voice, this one tempting him, saying: If you are the Son of God…. But Jesus held firm to the voice he had heard at his baptism: God loved him, God was pleased with him, and God had a mission for him.

You are my beloved child. Could you live your life according to this vision?

* Parapet:

A parapet is a low, protective wall along the edge of a bridge or a roof. When Herod expanded the Temple, someone standing at the parapet would be able to see the whole city of Jerusalem. From that parapet, a priest would blow a trumpet announcing the beginning and end of the Sabbath, and the sound of the trumpet would be heard throughout the city. Is the parapet where the tempter sees Jesus standing, poised to demonstrate his spiritual power?

Jesus’ family tree

Luke 3: 23-38

Now when Jesus began his work he was about thirty years old, the son,
as people thought, of Joseph….

son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, son of Mattathiah, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai, son of Maath, son of Mattathiah, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, son of Johanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri, son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son or Er, son of Joshua, son of Eliezeer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Symeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliabim, son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Salmon, son of Nahshon, son of Amminadab, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah, son of Cainan, son of Arpachshad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, son of Enosh, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

Son of: Why was this list important to Luke? *

Thoughts on seeing the whole pictureDonna Ross

Tracing our own DNA back into the distant past has become possible in the 21st century, and millions of people are now doing just that. People who were adopted as children are discovering their birth parents; people who thought they knew their family history are discovering facts (and secrets) they never knew. We may read Jesus’ genealogy and think, “Who really cares?” But the Jews cared very much, and it turns out that we do, too.

How odd, though, that knowing our own DNA (99.9% of which we share with every human on earth) can lead us to concentrate on the .1% (our own particular ancestors) without remembering that we are all connected.

*Son of:

Matthew’s gospel begins by tracing ancestry back to Abraham (see Matthew 1:2f), but Luke traces it all the way back to Adam, the ancestor of all human beings. Luke’s story of Jesus links him to every person on earth, not just to his Jewish ancestors.

John baptizes Jesus

Baptism of Jesus – Jay Bonnell, 20th c.

Luke 3:21-22

During a general baptism of the people, when Jesus too had been baptized and was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove; and there came a voice from heaven, “Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favor rests.”

Dove: How is the Holy Spirit like a dove?

Thoughts on seeing the whole pictureDonna Ross

How does the Holy Spirit work?

From the gospel writers to artists through the centuries, the Holy Spirit has always been portrayed as a dove. The dove, however, is always and only a metaphor. No words, no images can ever fully convey how the Spirit works.

In the Temple, when Jesus was twelve years old, the question may have first alighted: What did God have in mind for him? That’s how the Spirit begins to work in us (stirring within us, planting questions in our minds).

In Nazareth, as Jesus grew up, the ideas may have shifted in his mind: Where was God leading him? That’s how the Spirit continues its work in us (in conversation with our traditions and communities, our new experiences and new ideas).

In the Jordan, as Jesus rose out of the waters, the immensity of God’s call must have filled his mind, and pointed him towards his future ministry. That’s how the Spirit continues its work in us (hinting at the shape of things to come).

Sometimes, in moments we will never forget, we also are fully aware of the Spirit descending, even resting on us — like a dove returning to her nest, making her home in our hearts.

That’s how the Spirit works.


A dove settles lightly wherever it chooses to rest. The Holy Spirit also settles lightly upon us, calling our attention but never forcing us. At his Last Supper (see John 14:16f and John 16:12f), Jesus will use these words to describe how the Holy Spirit works: abides in us; makes a home in us; reveals Jesus to us; reminds us; teaches us; guides us; reveals the truth to us; gives us peace.