Summary: Is the story about healing the Leper just about physical healing? Or is there more to the story? Most translations use the word "clean" ... not "healed." But could this "clean" mean "forgiveness" of sin? Mark Chapter 2 suggests it may be.
I confess to you how I struggled with the scripture this morning. I struggled because when I first read this scripture, I wondered “how can I preach about this “healing” when I know we have people in our congregation who are good, faithful servants, disciples of Jesus Christ, yet who are suffering from terrible physical ailments?” (Jim, Reta, for example)
We’ve all heard stories ….. How God healed after prayer… changed/straightened out someone’s life.
But if we are absolutely honest, deep down, some of us are thinking, "What about me? How come God doesn’t do stuff like that for me? Does He care? Is He willing to take away my health problem? Or why hasn’t He taken away my health problem? Is God willing to make MY life better? Is God willing to make His presence known in MY life?"
I’m willing to bet the leper in this story had thoughts like that all the time. Leprosy was a terrible disease. Not just because of the harm it did to you physically. But because of the harm that it did to you socially. Leviticus 13:45-46 says that "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!’ 46 As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp."
In those days, there was no cure for leprosy. Your life was destined to a lonely and painful end. Today leprosy is called “Hansen’s Disease” and today it is curable.
Many Jews regarded leprosy as a punishment from God for sins committed. Unfortunately, even today, there are preachers who proclaim that if your body is struck with some illness, it is because of some sin in your life. (The BJ Story… the woman told by her pastor the reason for her stroke was she must have committed some terrible sin) Folks, this is in no way the truth. Yes, we are all sinners, but to attribute an illness, accident or some other tragedy to a specific sin is false theology!
Why God allows bad things to happen to good people, we cannot always explain. But we must trust God has a reason. We know the story of Job, but we do you remember Paul’s experience? Listen to the words of Paul from 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 - 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sometimes God allows our pain for a reason.
MY POWER is made perfect in weakness. WOW! Consider this… the influence Jim’s faith may have on all of us, (a 53 year old man who has suffered sever physical challenges since age 13, but has stayed very strong in his faith ) I know the impact of Reta’s faith on my life….her courage, her never ending faith…though she suffered physically to the end...and I am confident of her reward, of Jim’s ultimate reward, and of mine because of their faith and the power of God witnessed to me through each of them.
So, here we have a man who, in spite of his anger, his sense of being forsaken, must have heard the good news about Jesus Christ. He heard about how Jesus healed a demon possessed man in the Capernaum synagogue. Perhaps he heard about how Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother in law or about all the people who came to his door late at night. And how the Lord sent each one away healed and forgiven.
Perhaps the leper said to himself, "Here’s my chance! Here’s my chance to ask God for help! To ask God for healing!"
But at the same time, he approached Christ with humility. Verse 40 says that "He fell on his knees. He had reached that point of absolute brokenness and hopelessness and despair tha perhaps he felt Jesus was his last and only hope.
Listen carefully to his words "Lord if you are willing, (Humility, honor, respect, acknowledgment of power and authority) you can make me clean."
"Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. And he said five of the most beautiful words in all of scripture. "I am willing. Be clean."
Expand on CLEAN VS HEALED
There is so much going on in this scripture if we just look… if we pray….if we listen….
We see the compassion of Christ. He really does feel what we are going through. He really does care.