Matthew 8:2

ESV And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
NIV A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'
NASB 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.'
CSB Right away a man with leprosy came up and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."
NLT Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. 'Lord,' the man said, 'if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.'
KJV And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

What does Matthew 8:2 mean?

Jesus' reputation as a worker of miracles and healer had spread far and wide (Matthew 8:1). Many people without any other hope came to Him for help, including the man with leprosy in this verse. The Greek words used in these passages are lepra and lepros, which are references to scales of the skin. By the time of the New Testament, these words translated into English as "leprosy / leper" were used of a collection of skin diseases. The worst of these, actual leprosy, is an extremely slow-growing infection which causes the skin to become lumpy and turn gray or white. Eventually, it can lead to open sores, disfigurement and deformities of the nerves and mucous membranes.

The Lord gave Moses very specific instructions about keeping those infected with leprosy from spreading the disease to others (Leviticus 13), including keeping all lepers isolated from the community:
"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" (Leviticus 13:45).
This is another example of Scripture demonstrating God's knowledge and understanding, even when it's not spelled out for us. This is in the same way a clinic poster describing proper handwashing demonstrates understanding of disease, though it doesn't explain every detail of how germs work. Modern science understands that leprosy—or Hansen's Disease—is not especially contagious. When it is contracted, it's most likely due to breathing infected particles coughed or sneezed out by someone with symptoms. A person covering their upper lip is, in effect, blocking the main form of transmission. The reason for isolating those with leprosy is not due to severe contagion, but to severe consequence: in the ancient world, there was no cure and anyone who contracted the disease would have it for life.

For Jewish people, leprosy carried a terrible social stigma. Beyond the health and isolation aspects, it was superstitiously thought to be a disease inflicted by God as a punishment for sin.

The man who approached Jesus wanted to be both medically and ceremonially clean. To be "clean" is the request he expresses—the man never refers to His disease by name. He wanted to be welcomed back into the regular community of Israel, in addition to being healed of his disease. He expressed both great boldness and great faith, along with genuine humility in making his appeal to Jesus. He was bold to risk coming so near, but he was also convinced that Jesus could heal him. Still, he did not demand to be healed. He simply acknowledged that Jesus could heal him if He wanted to. In that way, the leper provides a model of how to approach God with our requests for healing, as well.
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