Summary: how Jesus dealings with a leper shows how merciful and glorious he is
2-16-03 Mark 1:40-45
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
A theory is only a theory until the theory is tested. It is at that point that the theory becomes fact or fiction. Conditioned response was a theory until Pavlov proved it true by getting a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. Gravity was a fact, proven through experiments as done by Newton’s apple if I remember correctly. Scientists are full of theories, but that’s all they remain until they can be proven.
In theory, Christians will be forgiving, kind and compassionate to others. But when the theory is put to experiment - and I am supposed to be patient to the neighbor who keeps parking in front of my driveway, or kind to the hotel that overcharged 55.05 on my room, that’s when the facts come out, and I really prove who I am. Do the confrontations in our lives prove to others who we claim to be or who we are?
In theory, God’s Word predicted that God would become man - live a perfect life and die for the sins of the world. Throughout the ages many people have claimed to be the Messiah. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Sun Myung Moon are just a few of the latest jesters to the throne. But there was only one person who proved His claim to be the Messiah - Jesus the Christ. We will see this revelation of Jesus as the Christ as we see how he deals with a leper.
A Confrontation with a Leper Lightens Up Our Lord
I. As the leper is cured
We begin today’s Gospel with a confrontation - A man with leprosy came to him. The terrifying nature of the disease is evident from Aaron’s plea to Moses for Miriam when Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses and the LORD struck Miriam "leprous." Aaron pleaded: "Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away" (Nu 12:11f). I know of a pastor who observed the birthing of a stillborn lamb that had been dead in its mother several days. He said, “It came out in pieces, and the stench was overpowering.” Therefore I would imagine that the stench and sight of a leper would be quite appalling. Alfred Edersheim wrote that the Jews of Jesus’ day were more likely to throw rocks at lepers than to get anywhere near them, much less touch one. It was this sort of a man who came to Jesus.
What did the ugly and stinking leper do? In spite of his appearance, he begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Do you see the faith in the leper’s statement? It wasn’t a question as to whether Jesus COULD heal him, he knew that Jesus COULD. It was only down to a question as to whether Jesus WOULD heal him.
I would be safe to assume that we are in similar situations every day - where we find ourselves in stinky and ugly situations where we don’t know what will happen or what God wants to happen. Maybe it has to do with a sickness - does God want me to get better? Maybe it has to do with a girl friend, does God want me to stick with her? Maybe it has to do with a job, does God want me to have it? Maybe it has to do with a sin, what is going to be the result? The answers aren’t always as black and white as we would like them to be. How do you respond to such situations? Do you call a friend and talk to him about it, asking him what to do? Do you stay up at night and worry about what will happen and whether you will make the right decision or do the right thing? Or do you just plow forward with your finger to the wind and hope that you’re going in the right direction?
There’s a better way - as seen through the leper. Even though he didn’t know God’s will, he still begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Showing a great humility, most likely embarrassed by his smell and sight, he still felt that it was worth the time to at least ask Jesus to heal him - to beg for his merciful cure.