Summary: Life often presents extreme conditions from which we pray to overcome. Some conditions are described as hopeless. How do you pray in such times? This sermon challenges us to learn from a deplorable condition known as leprosy. Hear the prayer of a leper.
This text illustrates what I choose to call A Leper’s Prayer. Before you think that it is irrelevant, you must understand the level of intensity in prayer that comes from the heart. I can’t think of a situation more drastic, more hideous or more undesirable than that of the life of a leper.
This miracle is one of the first healing miracles in the ministry of Jesus. There are only two examples of lepers being healed in the New Testament. One is here with Mark where this single man is healed from leprosy; the other is in Luke chapter 17 where there were 10 men healed. The Bible says as they went all 10 were healed, but only one came back to praise God. And perhaps that one is the same one Mark is talking about; the same on Matthew is talking about.
This is a prayer coming from a man whose life situation is totally unbelievable. The Bible calls him a leper. Today we call it Hansen’s disease. At that time it was incurable, infectious and contagious; but today it can be treated. It affected the whole body. What is it that affects your whole life? What is it that seems unbearable in your existence? What is going on now with many people that seems unbearable, whether, saved or unsaved? Theologically, leprosy represents sin. Sin is an attack on life; an attack on your existence. The enemy does not want you to survive life. He wants you to end life like he ends life in eternal damnation.
Leprosy began as fatigue, just not feeling well. Then there was pain in the joints; progressing to scaly spots on the skin, then to nodules on the skin filled with pus. The appearance of the face changed to a lion like appearance and the vocal chords were affected with a raspy sound. They were actually decomposing while still alive. Sin will decompose you while you are alive. There may be some issues in your life that if you are not careful, will decompose you while you are walking around. Leprosy attacked the nervous system so that eventually the victim could feel no pain. There was numbness in the extremities, so if he stepped on a rock or a piece of glass he didn’t feel it. Some people go through life almost numb to what is happening to them. The devil is trying to kill them and they think everything is alright.
The condition had a life expectancy of about nine years. But one of the worst aspects of this disease and what drew my attention to the leper’s prayer was the social isolation. (read Leviticus 13) By the time Jesus came along they had extended the isolation factor. For example, in the Old Testament it was not lawful for a leper to be around anyone, but during the time period of Jesus’ ministry if a leper even stuck his head in the door the whole house was declared unclean. It was against the law to even say hello or to greet a leper. It was a lonely life. It was unlawful for a leper to be within 50 feet of anyone and if it was a windy day they had to stay 200 feet away. Two hundred feet from your wife, your children, your husband; two hundred feet from the people you love so dearly. How many folk are distant now because of conditions that have distanced them from family and friends? He couldn’t touch his family in the nine years of life he had left. He could not embrace his loved ones. He could not give a kiss or greeting. The tears that he shed; he had to wipe away himself. There was no one to wipe his tears; no one to tend his sores as the pus ran down and the flies gathered and the stench became unbearable. He had to wear a cloth over his upper lip to hide the distortion.
Because he was contagious when anyone approached he had to cry out unclean, unclean. In other words stay away from me. His family would try their best to help him. They would bring him food but they couldn’t bring the dishes back home. They had to be destroyed. But as time progressed, even his family stopped visiting. In fact they would often have a funeral service on his behalf while he was alive. The person was considered dead while he was alive. The leper’s cries meant don’t touch me.
Often people get things in their hearts against certain conditions of life that they don’t really understand and do some cruel things. People would pick up stones when the leper cried unclean and to be sure he would come near they would throw stones at him. Jesus had been healing the sick, casting out devils and now here is a condition he had never dealt with before. Sometimes we go through life thinking we are dealing with stuff that no one else has gone through. Sometimes we think we are the only ones suffering this malady, whether it is physical, whether it’s mental, whether it’s emotional, whether it’s spiritual, whether it’s family, whether it’s financial; we think we’re the only one. And the enemy wants to isolate you.