In the Talmud it is written, "When will the Messiah come?" And "By what sign may I recognize him?" Elijah tells the rabbi to go to the gate of the city where he will find the Messiah sitting among the poor lepers (Sanhedrin 98a). "The Messiah — what is his name?… The sages say, the Leper Scholar, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted…’" (Sanhedrin 98b).
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi met Elijah standing by the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He asked…Elijah, "When will the Messiah come?" "Go and ask him," Elijah replied. "Where is he seated?" Rabbi Yehoshua asked. "At the entrance to the city of Rome," Elijah answered. "How will I recognize him?" Rabbi Yehoshua asked. Elijah replied, "He is sitting among the poor lepers, all of them bandaging their wounds…" (b.Sanhedrin 98a)
Of all the traditional titles and names traditional Judaism applied to Messiah, one of the strangest is the Talmudic title, "the Leper Messiah." The title is derived from Isaiah 53:4 where it says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted." In reading the prophecy of Isaiah 53, at least some Sages understood the suffering servant character described therein to be the Messiah. They interpreted the phrase "he took up our infirmities" to refer to leprosy.
And the rabbis say: "[The name of Messiah] is The Leper of the House of Study, as it is said, ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.’" (Sanhedrin 98b)
Perhaps this is one reason why the Master’s ministry often focused on the healing of lepers. In Matthew 10:8, He tells His disciples that healing the sick and cleansing lepers are signs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whenever Yeshua healed lepers, He instructed them to go and present the sacrifices prescribed in the Torah for their ritual purification.
On the one hand, biblical leprosy was a real disease, a fearsome affliction equivalent to a sort of walking death. On the other hand, biblical leprosy can be understood as an archetype for all human disease and mortality. It can be understood spiritually as the corruption of our human flesh. In all of the above cases, Yeshua offers the solution. He is the suffering servant of the Isaiah passage. Through His ministry, He fulfilled this passage exactly as the Talmud interprets it. He took up the uncleanness of the human condition in order to heal. Thus it is written in Isaiah, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)"
To the followers of the Suffering One, his afflictions, described in Isaiah 53, are the agonies of one dying to provide atonement. Let us praise the God of Israel, our Redeemer, who has provided his Messiah to take the just punishment for his people so that we might be forgiven our sins! Isaiah 53 must be understood as referring to the coming Davidic King, the Messiah. The plain reading of the text makes the position that Israel is the Suffering Servant, impossible, only Mashiach could be the one that the text is speaking about.
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