Summary: This message details the healing of the leper, showing how Christ touches the untouchable, but also how uncurbed zeal may prove detrimental to the purposes of God.
The Cleansing of a Leper
Text: Mark 1:40-45
Introduction: By the time we come to verse 40 of this chapter we find the Lord turning aside from Capernaum to reach out with the gospel into the towns round about. Verse 39 tells us that, “He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.” This was at the heart of His ministry, to “to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19). And so shunning the role of celebrity in Capernaum, he reached out into the neighbouring towns and cities to call men to repentance and faith, and bid them enter His kingdom.
En route, we read that he encountered this leper. We know it had to be en route, because lepers were forbidden to enter city precincts, so the events of verse 40 onwards must have occurred in the countryside, somewhere between towns and synagogues. This is a telling encounter. It reveals the mercy of Christ for those who are suffering, and the folly of enthusiasm when we allow it to run away with our brains. Let’s look together at the cleansing of this man, beginning with:
I. The Tears of the Leper – vs 41.
A. In ancient times the disease of leprosy was considered by Jews as the “stroke of God”.
1. It was the kiss of death, and though the term covered all kinds of skin disease, leprosy proper was feared beyond all other forms of illness.
2. For sure it was a dreadful state.
a. The leper was a dead man walking, his body full of contamination and corruption.
b. As he wandered the highways he would ring a bell, and cry out “Unclean, unclean!”
c. He was forbidden contact with His family, refused entry to functions and forbidden to participate in the feasts of Israel.
d. Physically the disease began with a numbness in the fingers, the feet or the limbs, but little by little as the disease took grip his body would begin to rot, and ultimately the man would look like a decaying corpse with rotting stumps for limbs, and a haunted gaze that stared out from behind filthy linens.
e. A leper was without hope and without help. His life was all but over. He had nothing to live for and nowhere to go. He was cut off from family, friends and fellowship.
f. No wonder leprosy is a type of sin. Sin too starts small, but soon it so corrupts a man as to govern his entire being and to lead him to a place of total separation from all that is good, indeed from God Himself.
B. Now in truth he did something here that he was not permitted to do – he approached another person, and in so doing risked the spread of leprosy.
1. Yet, it seems that this man had heard of Jesus somehow, that He knew the Lord had the power to heal Him.
2. Mark tells us the leper came, “beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”
3. He knew that the Lord could help Him, and from His point of view he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
4. That is true of anyone coming to Christ.
a. Yet the devil always turns that on its head.
b. Many who contemplate conversion speak of having to give this up or that up.
c. Let us be clear about this: There is no loss in coming to Jesus.
d. Yes some things will change, yes repentance calls upon me to turn from sin – but sin is no more a gain than leprosy was a blessing.
5. This man came humbly before the Lord, he came asking, he came worshipping, and he came believing.
a. He came surrendered to whatever the Lord had for him, and through his tears he was heard to say, “If thou wilt…”
b. This was no “Name and claim it” theology.
c. He didn’t come demanding, he didn’t come commanding God.
d. He came with an obvious need, and He submitted that need humbly at the feet of Jesus.
II. The Touch of the Lord – vss 41-42.
A. “And Jesus, moved with compassion…”
1. Isn’t that a wonderful revelation of Christ?
2. Only Mark shares that with us in this particular account, but how often do we read that Jesus was “moved with compassion.”
a. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)