Mark Sermon # 5 February 4, 2018
Mark 1:40-45 “Who is this Jesus, Who Touches and Cleanses a Hideous Leper?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “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.” 45 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.
There are two people in this story. One is a man with leprosy, fully aware of his desperate condition – and humbly believing that Jesus can heal him. The other is the compassionate Christ, who is willing and able, not only to cure this man, but to touch him as well.
- The Hideous Condition of the Leper (v. 40a) “A man with leprosy”
No matter how bad off you are, and no matter what you are suffering with, there is nothing as awful and horrible as having leprosy. It was a disease that made you an outcast and a reject; you were a loathsome, stinking mass of rotting flesh.
Doctor Luke describes this man as being “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12). That is, the disease had run its full course. The man’s appearance was loathsome, as much of his body had been disfigured by the fact that the nerves in his body didn’t work anymore. His early warning pain system – the system that alerts us to a hot fires and scalding boiling water – wasn’t operating because of this disease, so he was prone to crippling and disfiguring accidents.
This poor man had not been able to feel anything – or anyone – for years. His body was full of leprosy; he was mutilated from head to toe. He was rotting away; his flesh was stinking; he was repulsive to the eyes, to the nose, and to the touch.
On top of that he lived in isolation from society. According to the Levitical law, whenever anyone came near him, he had to cry out that he was “unclean!” He was cut off from his family and friends, and he could only attend services in the synagogue if a screen was provided to isolate him from the rest of the congregation.
He must have struggled with feelings of despair, worthlessness, and self-loathing. Imagine how you would have felt in his place.
My friend, every one of us is – by nature – a spiritual leper. I am a spiritual leper. And you are a spiritual leper. Our defiant sin and treasonous rebellion against our Holy Creator and Sovereign King have inflicted us with total depravity. Outside of God’s mercy and healing in Jesus Christ, we remain loathsome lepers. We are stinking sinners.
But there’s one thing about us that is very different than this leper. Do you know what it is? We don’t think we’re that bad! We think we’re healthy and whole! We vigorously protest our sin nature and we live in denial of the damaging effects of our self-centeredness!
Imagine being a person full of leprosy, and yet thinking that you are a whole and healthy person! Imagine shopping in Sam’s or waiting in line at the Wal-Mart checkout, and everyone is running away from you in fear and disgust, and you’re wondering what their problem is?
That’s how we are in our thinking towards God. We think we are morally okay. We think we are reasonably righteous. We are blind to the truth that we are unclean, wicked, depraved, and dead!
My friends, take a good look at this leper… because the insidious nature of leprosy makes it a powerful symbol of our own moral depravity. Leprosy is an outward visible sign of our innermost spiritual corruption.
- The Hopeful Cry of the Leper (v. 40b)
“….came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
There are two things to notice here. First, the leper knew how awful his condition was, and second, he had confidence that Jesus could heal him: “If you will, you can make me clean.”
He had heard of or seen Jesus’ mighty works in other people, and so he came to Him, beseeching Jesus to remove from him the ravages and the stigma of this dreadful disease. He appealed to Jesus to do for him what was considered impossible – to cure him of his leprosy.
His hopeful and humble approach to Jesus Christ is so different than how most people respond to their problems. People deal with their sins and their problem in one of three ways.
One way is the way of denial. Some want to deny that they have a sin problem; they think that they are okay. They reject the idea that they are a sinner, and reject the idea that they need a Savior. This is like hearing that you have stage 4 cancer and denying that you have a problem!
Another mindset is the way of defeat. These folks know they are sinners in need of a savior, but they think they are too bad, too evil, too far gone, for God to love them and to rescue them.
They live in the muck and mire of defeat, because they can’t believe that a savior could ever love them, touch them, and lift them up! So they send out warnings “I’m unclean, unclean! Stay away from me!”
The third way is that of seeking Christ’s deliverance, as the leper did. It is knowing that you are a great sinner, but that Christ is a great Savior! Are you ready to say to Jesus what the leper said? “If you are willing, you can make me clean?” Make that your hopeful cry – right now!
- The Human Contact from the Lord (v. 41a)
“Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”
The words, “moved with compassion” describe a visceral reaction on Jesus’ part. He felt this pity, this tenderheartedness – in His heart, in His gut. Someone said “Jesus feels His way into the leper’s needs.” And this compassion in Jesus causes Him to reach out and touch this unclean, hideous leper! Now from the perspective of the leper, this touch was an unheard of act of compassion! It must have moved him deeply, and strengthened him in his conviction that he had not asked for help in vain. And from Jesus’ perspective, it indicates that He was not afraid to break with ritualistic regulations when the situation demanded it. For the ceremonial law must give way to the law of love, when the two of them collide.
So Jesus stretched out his arm and actually touched the man! Jesus, the Holy One, touched an unclean leper! Jesus provided him with human contact. This man had not felt the touch of another healthy person for years! He couldn’t remember the last time anyone hugged him or kissed him! Any if anyone would have been crazy enough to try and touch him, he would have pulled away and cried out, “I’m unclean! Don’t touch me!” But Jesus touched him. Has He touched you? Will you let Him?
You know, Jesus delighted in touching needy and hurting people. At least eight times in Mark’s gospel we are told that Jesus touched someone. He took Simon’s mother in law by the hand. He took Jarius’ daughter by the hand when he raised her up. He touched the deaf and mute person, as well as the blind man. He touched them not because He had to in order to heal or cure them. No. He did so because He delighted in doing so, and because He knew that they delighted in Him, in providing this warm and tender human contact. What a loving Savior!
May I make a brief application here? We will never impact others as Christ did unless we touch them; unless we involve ourselves into their world. There is no “arms-length” effective evangelism. We need to get “dirty” if we are going to be Christ’s ambassadors. You may be familiar with the maxim that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There’s other way to help hurting people than to show them you care. That’s what Christ did for us, when you and I were “stinking sinners.” (Phil. 2:5ff). That’s what Christ calls us to do for “stinking sinners.” God is calling you to lay your hand on some rotting flesh – to get dirty – so that Jesus can make that person whole again, by His Spirit – through your touch.
Where is God calling you to touch someone’s life and get dirty, so they can be made whole?
- The Healing Cure of the Leper (vv. 41b-42)
“I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus’ touch and command produced a healing that was radical, instantaneous, and complete. “His feet – toeless, ulcerated stubs – were suddenly whole, bursting his shrunken sandals. The knobs on his hands grew fingers before his vey eyes. Back came his hair, eyebrows, eyelashes. Under his hair were ears and before him a nose! His skin was supple and soft.” Can you hear that man crying out, not “Unclean, unclean!” but rather “I’m clean! I’m clean!”
In all of the Old Testament there are only two records of God healing lepers. Do you remember who they were? The first was the healing of Miriam, Moses’ sister, (Numbers 12:10) and the second was the Syrian general, Namaan (2 Kings 5). A woman and a man. A Jew and a Gentile. The first one was in the days of Moses and the Law; the second was in the days of Elijah and the Prophets… and now… one greater than Moses or Elijah is here; One greater than the Law and the Prophets is healing lepers! William Lane: “The cleansing of the leper indicates the new character of God’s action in bringing Jesus among men. Salvation transcends… ritual regulations, which were powerless to arrest the hold that death had upon the living, and issues in radical healing.”
That is what Jesus Christ can do for you… or for anyone else… in the blink of an eye, at the moment a person first believes. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”
When God the Holy Spirit touches you, at that moment in time, you are regenerated; you are born again of God. Your sins are taken away… as dramatically as the leper’s disease was removed from him!
Alan Cole writes that “Wherever the compassionate Christ and the humble believing sinner meet, there then comes instantaneous and complete cleansing.”
Christ stooped to touch this stinking sinner, and raised him up to make him whole again!
How do you see yourself? As a “stinking sinner?”
Do you see your great need for a Savior, to heal you, cleanse you and forgive your sins?
Do you desire the healing touch of the Incarnate Son of God upon your broken life?
By faith, can you say to Jesus, “I know you are willing; make me clean!”? Come to Jesus now!