Jesus came off the mountain followed by crowds of people. After this preaching session, Matthew relates various healings, starting with this leper.
First century Jews were extremely squeamish about lepers. They pushed the clean/unclean rules to and beyond the limit. Jesus actually touched the leper to heal him, which normally would have caused Jesus to be ritually unclean.
When Jesus touched him, the leper wasn’t a leper anymore. He was clean, not unclean.
I can think of this in two possible ways:
- At the moment Jesus touched him, the leper was clean, so Jesus did not touch a leper.
- Or, as would be typical of Jesus, he set aside the letter of the law to do a greater good.
Either way, the leper must have been shocked to be touched. But he had already expressed a bold and desperate faith in Jesus. He had bowed to him and Jesus apparently accepted such honor. He accepted that Jesus’ will was in play, just as we must always accept that God’s will is in play.
Jesus told the ex-leper to go to the local priest and follow the law as a testimony. I’m not sure how the leper offering was handled outside of Jerusalem, but I’m sure there were provisions. Jesus would begin to be known by the authorities.
Bottom line: Jesus touched the untouchable to heal him.