FROM THE city of Capernaum Jesus went forth and visited all the villages on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and on the mountains near by. He took with him his disciples or followers, that they might see his works and listen to his words. Great crowds of people came to hear him during this journey; and everywhere he cured all kinds of sickness and cast out of men evil spirits that were ruling them.
At one place a man came to Jesus who was covered with a dreadful disease called leprosy and was called "a leper." No one ever touched a leper or even came near him, for they feared that a touch might cause the disease. A leper was driven out of the home, to live with other lepers in a camp outside the city. When he saw anyone coming near, he must stand at a distance, must cover his mouth with his garment, not to let his breath reach anybody, and must call out, "Unclean! Unclean!" so that no one might take his disease. Many lepers were in the land when Jesus was preaching; and lepers may still be seen in that country.
This leper who saw Jesus came as near to him as he dared. He knelt down before Jesus, touching his head to the ground, and called out to him:
"Oh, sir, if you choose to do it, you can take away my leprosy, and make my flesh pure and clean."
Jesus was not afraid to touch the leper. He went to him and placed his hand upon him. Then he said:
"I do choose; be clean!"
And at once all this man's leprosy passed way. His skin lost its waxen, deadly whiteness, his eyes were bright, his deformed hands became perfect and his voice was no longer hollow and cracked. He was no more a leper, but was a man in perfect health.
Jesus said to him, "Do not tell anyone of your cure; but go to the priest in the temple, let him see that you are clean, and make the offering of thanksgiving to God. Let the priest give you a writing to show that you are well, and then go to your own home."
Jesus knew that if this man should tell very many of his cure, there would come such a crowd of people having diseases of all kinds, seeking to be made well, that he could have no time nor chance to preach the gospel, and his great purpose was, not to cure diseases, but to teach men the way to God. It is better to be saved from sin than to be cured of sickness.
But this man was so happy at being made well that he could not be still. Everywhere he went he told people of his wonderful cure, and roused such a desire among the people to see Jesus that Jesus could not go to the cities, for so great were the crowds that he could no longer preach. Everybody was eager to be cured of some illness or to see Jesus cure others. Jesus was driven to seek the open country, where few people lived, and even there the crowds sought him, coming from many places.