Summary: Jesus was willing to show compassion to those in need.
April 20, 2008
Me: Center for Student Ministries- Melanie and lady in nursing home; students moved to pass out their breakfast for someone else.
You: When was the last time that your heart compassion for someone moved you to action?
God: Today we are going to look at a moment when Jesus was moved to compassion.
Compassion is attitude translated into action.
“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.” Mark 1:40-45
This event breaks so many societal and religious regulations of the day. In this time and setting, leprosy was a social and physical disgrace for people. They were banished outside the cities and many times the leper colonies were located in the city dump outside the walls.
Leprosy in this context is any kind of skin infection or disease. It was not what we know today as leprosy. There were very strict rules for how someone with leprosy was to act and live. These rules not only intensified their physical suffering, but it isolated them from society as a whole.
“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.” Leviticus 13:45-46
The leper lived in societal isolation and religious isolation.
Can you get a sense of the pain that this person must have felt? Can you imagine at your most difficult and painful times you must live alone in isolation?
Who are the lepers in our society today? Who is it that is isolated and lonely? Who is it that is so desperate for compassion that they are willing to do anything to find it?
I have witnessed so many times where people have been pushed out of the “religious” community. When life has been most painful and they needed the church the most, the church turned them away. I believe that breaks the heart of God.
This man is desperate. He has been pushed to the edge of life and has nowhere else to turn. This man comes to Jesus and makes an amazing statement of faith.
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The man knew Jesus could heal him, he only wondered if Jesus would. He also understood that Jesus could not only get rid of the skin infection, he could get rid of the isolation the man feels on the inside.
It is sometimes easer to believe in the power of God than the mercy of God.
Jesus does something that is so remarkable that we should never miss it. Jesus reaches out and touches the man.
To touch this man had all kinds of religious and societal and hygienic problems. Jesus would become ceremonially unclean by touching this man. Jesus would violate the religious law by touching this man. Jesus would risk catching the disease by touching this man. But Jesus TOUCHED THE MAN!!!
How far are we willing to go to show compassion to others? In our society today, what are we willing to risk to show the love and compassion of God?
“By his word alone he might have healed the leper; but he applied, at the same time, the touch of his hand, to express the feeling of compassion. Nor ought this excite our wonder, since he chose to take upon him our flesh, that he might cleanse us from our sins.” John Calvin
Jesus took on human flesh in order to connect the divine and the human.
In doing so, Jesus showed us the example of ultimate love and ultimate compassion.
Jesus placed love and compassion over ritual and regulation.
Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone. However, like so many other times in scripture, the man can’t help himself. Ultimately, Jesus can never go into the cities without being hounded by people. But Jesus wants us to know that he is more than just some miracle man who can heal our physical disease. He is the Messiah who can heal our inner hearts.