The words of Jesus carry power. They are not simply good words with the power to change lives if heard and applied; the words themselves are power. They are not just life-giving; they are life.
With nothing more than a word, Jesus had the power to heal. A centurion’s sick servant, a friend who was dead and buried, a demon-possessed man; all were brought to health and life at the sound of his voice. Even the winds and the waves obey his commands.
Yet as we often see with Jesus, he doesn’t stop there. Even when a good word, a powerful word, would do the trick, Jesus knows there is yet more. Some demons only come out by prayer; perhaps others only come out by presence. Touch. Skin on skin. Intimate proximity.
A leprous man in an ancient Jewish community would have been ostracized. Excluded. Uninvited. Alone. For the sake of public health as much as (or more than) reasons of religious purity, he would be kept on the outskirts of society, quarantined. Likely, it would have taken immense courage and desperation for such a man to enter back into the parts of the city where Jesus was speaking; the places where crowds were gathered; the spaces where religion was being taught. Rules and codes would have been broken for the leper to be nearby, but that didn’t matter. For the hopeless, the hope of healing will drive anyone to do reckless things.
And Jesus responds with even greater recklessness.