Jesus was constantly ministering to the people. He had a stunning level of compassion and stamina. It was a lot. Sometimes He could literally feel the power of God leaving to heal others. He was helping the people nonstop.
Jesus often had to get away and pray.
I must follow the lead of Jesus and center myself in God. I must know what God wants me to do. I can’t do that if I don’t talk with Him. I must pray!
But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed. | Luke 5:15-16 (CSB)
This “news” about Jesus’ having cleansed the leper contributes to the overall “word” of the good news, whose certainty Luke writes to demonstrate. This is real breaking news. This is the kind of news we all need. I need to hear Jesus. I need to be healed of my sicknesses. I need to receive the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even more is really “instead”. It indicates that in place of a report by the ex-leper such as Jesus prohibited, a report by the priest came out of his visual confirmation of Jesus’ having cleansed the man. The man himself didn’t have to say anything, and the priest unwittingly became an “assistant of the word” of the good news. In turn, a circulation of the priest’s report led to an increase in Jesus’ popularity.
Emphasizing the increase is “crowds” (plural), “many” of them, and their “coming together.” “To hear Jesus and be healed from their illnesses” puts his word and his humanitarianism together in a twofold accolade.
First hear. Then be healed.
Jesus’ habit of withdrawing shows him not to be promoting himself for the sake of the popularity that he nevertheless receives. And his habit of praying in deserted places shows him to be pious and in need of God’s word and power. Rather than embracing His widespread fame, Jesus escapes to the wilderness to commune with His Father. Luke’s inclusion of this detail highlights distinctive features of Jesus’ ministry: prayer, reliance on God the Father, and a determination to do His will.
Here is the literal translation:
But the word [= the report] about it went throughout [the land], instead, and many crowds were coming together to hear [Jesus] and be healed from their illnesses. 16 But he was withdrawing in deserted [places] and praying.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Lk 5:1–39). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 244). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 5:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.