This man was not only afflicted with a disfiguring disease. He was also isolated from family and society. The book of Leviticus set out the law for dealing with anyone identified as a leper. They were to be declared ‘unclean,’ excluded from the community, and identified as outcasts by their appearance. People would shun a leper, for fear of catching such a dreadful disease themselves. But Jesus’ reaction is the opposite. He is moved with compassion for the sick man, and reaches out to touch him – an action that makes Jesus himself unclean in the eyes of the Law. Of course Jesus wants to cure him – and thanks to Jesus’ compassion, he is cured.
The story has an ironic twist. Once free of his leprosy, the man can return to society and tell the good news of his cure. But as a result of his growing reputation, Jesus can no longer go anywhere openly, without being mobbed by those who want to see him. He ends up living outside the towns, in lonely places – almost like a leper. And in the end, Jesus will be driven out of Jerusalem, and crucified on a hill. He will become the ultimate outcast, for our sins.