What does Luke 5:12 mean?Luke continues his theme of discipleship characteristics. Where Peter showed humility (Luke 5:1–11), the man with leprosy shows faith in Jesus' power and, in return, Jesus makes him clean.
Luke's account of Jesus healing the man with leprosy is fascinating for several reasons, both of which are relative to this verse. While Matthew says the man approached Jesus as He "came down from the mountain" (Matthew 8:1) and Mark doesn't mention a location other than Galilee (Mark 1:39), Luke says they are in a city.
Considering the strong regulations placed on people with leprosy in the Mosaic law, this sounds odd. Leviticus 13:45–46 says, "The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp." Although some ancient historians claimed Moses banned victims of leprosy from any cities, the Talmud only banned them from entering walled cities. There is little information about which, if any, cities in Galilee were enclosed by walls.
The second note unique to Luke is that the man was "full of leprosy." Scholars say that as a physician (Colossians 4:14), Luke would be more precise in his description of medical conditions. If this was the form of leprosy today known as "Hansen's disease," this would imply an advanced, near-lethal stage. Those suffering with leprosy can experience sores and ulcers over their face, hands, and body. This would have resulted in great social stigma, as well as much personal suffering.
The third point in this verse is recorded in all three Gospels. The man with leprosy has faith that Jesus can make him clean but isn't sure if Jesus wants to. That isn't to say that the man believes Jesus is the Messiah or can forgive his sins, just that Jesus has the authority to heal him. Jesus answers him in a very countercultural way: He touches this unclean man (Luke 5:13).
The next story, unrelated in chronology but related in theme, is the story of the paralytic who is lowered through the roof. In response to faith, Jesus gives him forgiveness.