HEALING THE LEPROSY OF SIN
1. The leper
The various skin diseases which fall under the Biblical heading of ‘leprosy’ have long stood as a metaphor for that worst of all human diseases: sin. However, this does not detract from the historicity of the incident which Mark now sets before us. Leprosy, in all its various forms, is a horrible disease which rendered its victims ceremonially ‘unclean’ - and which still separates its sufferers from society (Leviticus 13:45-46).
As Jesus continued His preaching tour of Galilee, casting out demons on the way (Mark 1:39): a certain leper came to Him, kneeling down before Him (Mark 1:40). Normally a leper might have expected to be chased away, or even have stones cast at him, but it appears nobody on this occasion prevented him.
There was hesitation in his voice as he made his plaintive petition:
“If it is your will…”;
but there was also faith:
“You can…” (Mark 1:40).
2. ‘What if..?’
Sometimes people are troubled about whether or not they are worthy to receive the forgiveness of Jesus. They may know that, without Him, their sin has left them in a dire condition. The Psalmist knew this, but discovered that, after all, it is in the very nature of a forgiving God to - well, forgive (Psalm 130:3-4)!
What if I am not one of the elected ones?
Look to ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
What if I am not worthy?
Repent, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), and you will receive the Lord’s forgiveness.
What if my sin is too great?
His forgiveness is even greater (1 John 1:9).
What if I sinned when I knew better?
Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
3. ‘His compassions they fail not’ (Lamentations 3:22)
The word used for Jesus’ emotion (Mark 1:41) speaks of a deep inward groaning: an anger, perhaps, at the evil which has arisen in the world since the fall of Adam. Also a creative compassion for the victim, which led Jesus to do the unthinkable: He reached out His holy hand and ‘touched’ the untouchable.
Is it the Lord’s will that I should be cleansed, healed, forgiven or whatever?
He answers: “I will; be thou clean” (Mark 1:41).
At Jesus’ word, there is instant recovery. Mark’s favourite word again: “immediately” the leprosy left him (Mark 1:42). As with the woman who touched the hem of His garment (Mark 5:25-29), healing power passed from Jesus to the sufferer. Only this time it was He who had initiated the touch.
Where did the leprosy go?
‘By His stripes we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).
When Jesus grants us full free forgiveness of our sins at no cost to ourselves, we must not forget what it cost Him (1 Peter 2:24). Our sin is not imputed to us, but to Him: and His righteousness is imputed to us (Romans 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. The charge (Mark 1:43)
Jesus came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). So he told the healed leper to present himself before the priest “as a testimony to them” (Mark 1:44). This was in keeping with ‘the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing’ (Leviticus 14:2). We do not know if the cleansed leper did this.
The stern way that Jesus spoke to the former leper (Mark 1:43) is perhaps accounted for by the fact that Jesus is the One who knows men’s hearts (John 2:24-25). He no doubt knew that the man was not inclined to obey the injunction not to tell anyone (except the priest) what had happened (Mark 1:44)!
Why was Jesus so insistent about this?
Well, we see the answer from the consequence of the man’s disobedience (Mark 1:45). Jesus’ time was not yet come, but it would come soon enough (John 2:4; John 7:6; John 12:23): meantime men need not have been doing things which might prematurely precipitate His cross.
The man who had been unclean was now cleansed: he who had been an outcast could now be received back into normal society.
As if He had taken the man’s leprosy to Himself, Jesus now felt constrained to live outside the city in the solitary places, like an outcast. Yet even there He could not escape the crowds (Mark 1:45).
It was outside a city that He would later die, for the sins of His people…