Summary: You may think you're too sick, too vile, too sinful, too far gone for Jesus to help; that you'll clean up your act first, and then come to Jesus. It’s a good thing that the leper didn’t wait until he was clean to beg Jesus for a touch.
For the past six weeks we counted down the last 94 hours of the life of Jesus before the discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning. In this message I’m going to resume my verse- by-verse study of the Gospel According to Mark. This series is entitled, “The reMARKable Power of Jesus.” In this message we’re going to discuss “The Healing Touch of Jesus.”
I can recall when I was growing up there was a TV show called “The Untouchables.” At the time, I had no clue who or what was “untouchable” in the show. I just know that when my dad was watching it, the channel dial (no remote) was “untouchable” for any of us kids! I later learned the show was about Elliot Ness, an FBI agent in the 1920s, who brought down Al Capone and other mobsters who were considered to be “untouchable” by the law.
In this message, we are going to see Jesus dealt with “untouchables” long before Elliot Ness came on the scene. Jesus did something nobody else was willing to do at the time. He was willing to reach out and touch those people who were physically and ceremonially unclean.
Mark 1:35-45. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
When you walk through the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, you’ll see statues of famous people from all 50 states. There are two statues from Hawaii. One statue is King Kamehameha. The other is a statue honoring a priest known as Father Damien. When Europeans first came to the beautiful islands, one of the worst things they brought were diseases, including leprosy. Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, was particularly virulent among the Hawaiians. Those who were severely deformed by the disease were isolated to a remote peninsula on the island of Molokai. The colony was a cesspool of suffering and sickness. But a young Catholic priest, Father Damien, volunteered to go to the island and serve the lepers. He was warned to keep himself isolated from the lepers, but he couldn’t do that. He soon contracted the disease. During his first sermon after the diagnosis he said, “We lepers…” He lived and ministered among the lepers for 16 years until he died from the disease at age 49. Before he died he built a modern hospital and improved the lives of the lepers.
Father Damien lived among the lepers and took their illness. That reminds me of what Jesus did. He came to planet earth as a pure, sinless man. He lived among us and literally became sin for us. There’s an old hymn that says, “He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own; he bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone.” (“I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” Charles H. Gabriel, The Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
As I often say, there’s a parable in every miracle and a miracle in every parable. What is the parable we can learn from this healing miracle?
I. WE ALL SUFFER FROM A CONDITION THAT DEFILES US
In Bible times, leprosy was a terrible disease. Leprosy was a skin disease that gradually disfigured a person until they were considered defiled. Leprosy killed healthy skin tissue and destroyed nerve endings.
According to a prominent dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer Holman, who just happens to be my daughter, here’s what we know about leprosy today: “Leprosy is an infection caused by a mycobacterium. Since it is treatable, we see a lot less of it these days. The infection responds to several antibiotics for six to twelve months. Interestingly, they have found DNA that showed leprosy from tombs in Jerusalem that date back to the time of Jesus.”