Summary: A look at Jesus’ encounter with a man with leprosy.
Mark 1:40-45 ”I’m Not Half the Man I Used to Be”
It was in my senior year of high school that I developed a serious skin rash that covered three fourths of my body. It caused me terrible irritation and I scratched and scratched, my arms, my legs, my stomach, and chest, all day, and much of the night. It was so bad I can remember waking up in the middle of the night and scratching my legs.
After a while of this my parents decided to take me to a doctor on the Air Force base where we lived. The first time we went and saw him, he suggested that I had poison ivy and sent me home with a cream to rub on the skin and a prescription for some pills that would help me.
I’d never had poison ivy and I didn’t remember getting into any but I did what the doctor told me to do and I endured another miserable two weeks. Miserable because I didn’t have poison ivy and so what he had prescribed didn’t work.
We returned to the doctor once more and this time he diagnosed me as having ringworm. Once again, he gave me a bottle of cream and a prescription for pills that would help get rid of the ringworm.
I went home again and endured another miserable two weeks. That’s right, I didn’t have ringworm either.
We returned to the doctor once more and since he was out of options he referred us to a dermatologist. We made the appointment and I endured a little bit longer and finally got in to see the dermatologist.
He took one look and said, “It looks like eczema to me” and sent me home, once again, with cream, some oatmeal bath stuff and a prescription for some pills.
Here we go again, I thought as I left the office.
But this time I had found someone who knew what he was talking about, someone who had diagnosed my situation correctly.
Now my story would have been completely different if I had lived when Jesus did. They didn’t have creams, or pills, or dermatologists. What they had was the Torah, the law. And according to the law that God had given Moses, I would have been labeled a leper and in the Old Testament book of Leviticus are very specific ways in which lepers are to be dealt with. Listen to these words found in Leviticus 13, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine him, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to keep him in isolation another seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine him again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a rash. The man must wash his clothes, and he will be clean. But if the rash does spread in his skin after he has shown himself to the priest to be pronounced clean, he must appear before the priest again. The priest is to examine him, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infectious disease.” (Lev. 13.1-8)
There were also very specific rules given for the ways lepers were to act in Lev. 13:45-46 which reads, "The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ’Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” (Lev. 13:45-46). And it was also required that any person with leprosy remain 50 paces from those who were considered “clean”.
So let’s consider this man who approached Jesus in our text this morning. Mark tells us he was a leper. According to the law we heard from Leviticus, he would have been required to tear his clothes, cover part of his face, keep his hair messy and cry out “unclean” any time he came into close contact with people.