Luke tells us that Jesus told the man whom he had cured of his leprosy to tell no man what happened. Rather, he was to go to the priest and offer the sacrifice that Moses prescribed in the Law. Some folks seem to believe that this man disobeyed Jesus, pointing to Mark 1:43-45 where Jesus is said to have “strictly charged” the man, saying: “See that you say nothing to any man…”, but the man published (G2784) abroad what Jesus had done for him! Did Jesus really intend for this healing to be kept secret? If so, why did he say further that the man was to show himself to the priest and offer the appropriate sacrifice as a testimony or a witness to them? It doesn’t make sense for Jesus to say on the one hand: “Tell no one!” but on the other: “Go to the priest and offer the sacrifice according to the Law, as a **witness** to them. How should we understand this?
On another occasion Jesus healed a man of his madness in Luke 8:26-39. This man was possessed by many demons and called them Legion. The difference between this man and the leper Jesus healed in Luke 5 is that the leper was a Jew, but the man who was mad was a gentile. The gentile wanted to follow Jesus (Luke 8:38), but Jesus sent him away in order to tell others what God had done for him. Since the man wasn’t a Jew, he didn’t have to show himself to the priest or offer a sacrifice at the Temple at Jerusalem. Nevertheless, this man obeyed Jesus and published (G2784) what Jesus had done for him, and because he had done so, the same people who asked Jesus to leave their country, because they feared him (Luke 8:37), received him on his return to their city (Luke 8:40). In fact, they awaited his return, looked for him to return to them. Why would it be wrong for the Jewish man to publish what Jesus had done for him (Mark 1:45), while, on the other hand, it was a good thing for the gentile to publish the things Jesus had done for him?
I believe the correct understanding of Luke 5:12-16 (and Mark 1:40-45) lay in the fact that Jesus command had to do with the man’s immediate duty to go to Jerusalem, show himself to the priest and offer the prescribed sacrifice found in the Law. While he did this, he should tell no one, whom he may meet on his journey, before he satisfied the demands of the Law. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this man didn’t do everything Jesus told him to do, just as he told him to do it. We need to understand that everything Luke and the other writers record didn’t occur immediately. Some things did, but other things the writers of the Gospel narratives intend for us to understand occurred as a result of the particular thing in focus at any given time. For example, Luke 4:14-15 says the fame of Jesus spread throughout Galilee. How long did that take? The event Luke mentions was that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. It seems obvious all Galilee wasn’t aware of Jesus’ spiritual power, until he began exercising it, and that took time. Moreover, Luke mentions that Jesus taught in all their synagogues, which also took time, but these events occurred after the events Luke records of Jesus in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30).
The point is that the Jewish man who was healed of his leprosy did publish what Jesus had done for him, but no doubt this occurred after he had returned from Jerusalem, and after he did all that Jesus commanded him to do. He didn’t speak to anyone on the way, which implies accepting the hospitality of folks on the way to Jerusalem, because he shouldn’t delay obeying the Law. After he did these things, he began to publish in Galilee that Jesus had cured his leprosy. That would have taken some time and multitudes getting together would also have taken some time, and only after this does Luke claim that Jesus’ fame was so great that he had to withdraw into the wilderness to be able to pray and be alone with the Father (Luke 5:15-16; cf. Mark 1:45).
Not only didn’t the Jewish man disobey Jesus, it is implied that he did exactly what Jesus would have wanted him (and us) to do (cf. Luke 8:39). In other words, before we begin to publish what Jesus has done for us, we need to first obey Jesus by confessing our sin to the Priest (Jesus) and offer the appropriate sacrifice, which is embrace him as Savior by accepting what he has done for us, i.e. admitting that our rebellion has brought about the need of his crucifixion. Simply accepting Jesus as our Savior without any admission of guilt on our part saves no one.