Mark 1:40-45 “Have You Been Touched By Jesus?”
Mark 1:40-45 “Have You Been Touched By Jesus?”
Sunday 5 September 1999 AM
I. Recognize Your True Sinful Condition
II. Humbly Seek the Great Physician
III. Jesus Has Compassion On The Sinner
Introduction: When a person gets ill something in his/her body is either infected by a virus or a bacteria; some diseases are caused by other problems such as a genetic disease or a disease that results from a poor diet or some other environmental factor, and some we still do not know exactly what causes the disease. But when we are ill, the body just doesn’t function properly, we feel bad, and if untreated it can lead to death, and many diseases are incurable, terminal. If you start getting ill you sometimes ignore it, either knowing that it is just a cold or allergy and you can get over it on your own. Some people ignore some pretty major problems though, and then something really bad happens and you find your self in the hospital. If caught and treated early you could have been healed. But many folks get ill and immediately seek the help of their physician, they get a prescription of medicine and they get well quickly.
This old world is seriously ill, it’s broken down and dying. Our culture, western civilization, American Society, is dying, changing drastically for the worse in a lot of ways. Many people are asking the questions “What is wrong with America?” in the wake of all the political scandals and the apathy of the silent majority. The school shootings are another symptom of our sick world that causes people to ask “Why do kids act this way?” Many wonder what the best way to fix our culture is.
This morning we will examine the story of Jesus healing the leper and we will find the answer to a couple of these big questions: “What is wrong with us?” and “What is the answer to our mess?” In this healing, this miracle we see pictured the radical nature of salvation and the awfulness of our sin as the great compassion of Jesus moves him to reach out and touch a man who is one of the walking dead, a leper, unclean by a horrible disease. This morning I am asking you, Have You Been Touched By Jesus? Has Jesus touched your soul, changed you, and saved you from the leprosy of your sin?
I. Recognize Your True Sinful Condition.
This story begins with the leper coming to Jesus and , on his knees, begging Jesus to make him clean. The leper knew he was ill and that he could never cure himself. Leprosy was a horrible disease that utterly ruined the lives of those diagnosed with it. While it is likely that the term leprosy described several different skin diseases with varying degrees of severity the main form of the disease was a truly frightening and crippling disease.
Leprosy could start as a bacterial infection of the nerves of the extremities which deadens and numbs the fingers, toes, nose, lips, eyebrows and ears. This would cause the victim further injury as he would not notice or care for a small cut or burn and infection would damage the injured part. In some cases of leprosy grotesque tumors grow on the extremities, if you have seen the movie Brave Heart, the father of Robert the Bruce was isolated in a room and as the movie progressed his face grew more and more disfigured with the tumors and sores, even as his role grew more and more evil.
As the disease progressed it was common for several fingers, toes and even the nose or an ear to fall off due to the infections. Thus the lepers became crippled and disfigured both. It was a long death.
In Leviticus 13:45-46 is part of the law dealing with lepers, “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.” To us today, with our modern understanding of medicine, we cringe when we read this and think how awful to banish them instead of taking care of them. But they did not have much real medicine back then so there was not much they could do but banish them.
But their banishment is tied in with God’s dealings with Israel spiritually. God was to dwell with his people and therefore they were to put out of their camp what was unclean and lepers were the living dead, they were corrupt in their flesh and were an illustration of sin. Throughout the Scriptures leprosy is used as an illustration of what sin is like.
Sin deadens and numbs our souls to God’s holiness, even his very existence. Just as leprosy works from the inside out, so too does sin as it infects us on the inside and shows up in our exterior behavior. Just as leprosy cripples and disfigures so does sin make us spiritually crippled and disfigured. Paul writes that “you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world…”Eph.2:1-2. Just as the smell of corruption and rotting flesh surrounded the leper, so the smell of our sin is a stench in God’s nostrils. We are unclean in God’s eyes by the infection of sin, we are the walking dead spiritually.
This same story is recorded in Luke 5:12 but Luke includes one detail that Mark does not. Dr Luke says “a man came along who was covered with leprosy” indicating that this poor soul had an advanced, grievous condition of this dreaded disease. This man’s condition was of long standing, it was critical, it was desperate, and he knew it. He was filled with leprosy.
So too each and every person is filled with sin, covered with sin. This is a fundamental difference we have with the modern world that insists upon the fundamental goodness of man. This is a basic difference we have with the post-modern world that is becoming the dominant world view today, that says there is no good or evil, who are you to judge? The Bible insists that all are sinners, there is none who do good, none who seek God, we are all together in this corrupt condition of sin.
Until people understand they have a great need for cleansing, for forgiveness by God, for mercy and grace, until they realize the hopelessness of their sinful condition, they will not seek a cure from the Great Physician. People know that things are messed up, the world is broken, their lives are missing something important. But they pursue other solutions that are not solutions. The modernist seeks to correct the world’s problems with new social programs, education, redistribution of wealth, big government, or idealistic utopias. The post-modernist seeks to eliminate the problem of sin by redefining it, hiding it in living for the moment, grabbing all the gusto you can because you only go around once.
The sad thing is that even in the church there are those who think that religion and morals and good appearances are all that is required to effect the cure of leprosy in the heart. One common complaint I get from lost people or folks who have dropped out of church is that the church is full of hypocrites and mean, closed minded people. Certainly that is just another excuse to hide behind but nonetheless, it does reflect the sad problem of their being unregenerate, lost religious folks in the church. Many people deny the depravity of their own souls while eagerly urging the preacher to evangelize the lost out there.
II. Humbly Seek The Great Physician
Notice how the leper approaches Jesus: he begged Jesus on his knees. He was desperate for what only Jesus had to offer. He was humble and contrite, yet bold enough to approach Jesus. He knew what his condition was and he asked for cleansing indicating he knew it was uncleanness besides bad health, he called it what it was. We as sinners must approach God only through Christ, we must approach humbly knowing we are unable to help ourselves and that we are undeserving. We must cast ourselves entirely upon the mercy and grace of God in Christ, forsaking all other means, trusting in Christ alone.
I do not know how far the leper traveled to find Jesus or how he even found out about Jesus’ power to heal. The important thing is that once he found out he set out to find Jesus. With his advanced case he probably had great difficulty walking, perhaps he used a crutch. But he sought Jesus.
Maybe he told others of his search, perhaps other lepers. But he showed up alone, we can only come to Jesus alone, no one else can do that for you. Your parents and grandparents cannot do this for you. You come to Jesus absolutely bereft of any credentials that would impress Jesus. Hence we must come humbly.
Many folks may come initially humbly but very quickly forget what it is like to be a leper, they forget what is like to be lost in sin. If you were raised in the church and got saved early in your life, be thankful that you missed out on a lot of sin and consequences for sin. But just because you never lived in the leper colony doesn’t mean you were not qualified to live there.
Too often those of us who got saved early do not make the effort to reach out to the other lepers who are still with out Christ. We get proud of what Christ has done for us, thinking we are better than the lepers. We lose the humility that we had when we first came to Christ. We often expect lepers to smell good and look good when they show up here; we expect them to know our language. The lepers of our day do not think like we do, if we are going to be missionaries to the lepers we must change our ways, learn their language and thought patterns so that we can humbly bring them to Jesus.
When Christians lose their humility, lose the awareness of leprosy, we become fairly well useless for the Great Physician to use in bringing in other lepers. Though the cure has been effected in our souls, yet there remain some impurities. Spiritually, we battle sin every day until we go home to be with the Lord. Because we are still sinners, though justified in God’s eyes, humility with each other and with unsaved sinners is an ongoing requirement. Every day we approach the Lord humbly, and every time we meet another leper, we humbly minister to them.
III. Jesus Has Compassion on the Leper
In this story we see God in the flesh reaching out and touching an unclean leper. We see demonstrated the infinite compassion of God in this simple act of Christ. This is really a remarkable picture of the incarnation in that the Lord of Glory left his throne in heaven to be born of a woman, to enter this sin-filled world. he clothed himself in our flesh, he took on our burdens. Jesus entered the leper colony when he came to earth.
God is holy, righteous, wrathful against sin, yet he is infinitely compassionate towards sinners. His love knows no bounds, his mercy is astounding, his forgiveness everlasting. God sent his only son into the leper colony of sinners like us in order to save us for his own glory.
When the leper approached Jesus he basically broke the law by getting to close, but when Jesus reached out and touched the leper he broke the law too! I don’t think Jesus lightly placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, I think Jesus grabbed a hold of the man firmly. Who knows how many long years it had been since he had felt the kind loving touch of another human. I am sure he had heard all the insults and curses and probably felt a few stones hurled his way, but a kind touch? Not until the King of kings touched him.
How compassionate is Jesus? There is not a sinner anywhere who is too far gone for Jesus. Oh we are pretty comfortable if Jesus saves normal sinners like us, respectable sinners. But Jesus can reach into the heart of the worst drug addict, the prostitute, the cruel person who beats and kills for pleasure. Jesus saved Saul of Tarsus who was a religious fanatic who was casting Christians into prison. He touched the heart of the thief on the cross, and the Centurion who supervised his execution. Some of the worst criminals of our day have received Christ, have been born again. Just the other day I heard that the infamous murderer “Son of Sam” had been born again. Many people complained when James Dobson helped lead Ted Bundy to the Saviour. But God’s grace is available to the worst cases of leprosy, like this man who was covered with leprosy. If you want to read some stories of the compassion of Jesus, read some of Chuck Colson’s books, he always includes stories of what God is doing in the prisons of the world. Chuck Colson understands leprosy of the soul! He has been inside the worst prisons in the world and touched the vilest offenders, hugging his fellow lepers.
Jesus was always touching people in Marks Gospel: 1.31 he touches Peter’s mother in law; 5.41 he touches Jairus’ daughter; 6.5 lots of sick people; 7.33 the man who was deaf and dumb; 8.23 the blind man; 9.27 the demon possessed boy; 9.36 and 10.16 the little children. The personal touch was part of Jesus’ ministry of compassion and healing.
Of course the healing was immediate and total, the leper was cleansed completely. The missing fingers, toes, lips, nose, ears were restored. The sores and tumors were gone. The numbness was gone and he could feel again. Hmmm, he was healed so that he could feel pain again…
When Jesus heals the leprosy of our soul, when we are born again, we do not lose our pain; we gain a new capacity for pain. We are now sensitive to the pain of sin; we feel guilt when we sin, whereas before we could do a lot of sin without feeling any remorse or guilt. Now we hurt for our other leprous friends who have not the cure yet. Yes, to be healed by our compassionate Jesus, to have our leprosy healed is to gain a capacity for pain and suffering.
How was the cure effected? Jesus shows his Lordship over His creation, his power over disease, in this confrontation. There is the aspect of Him recreating the lost digits of the man’s fingers and toes. This is not some tent revival healing service where someone with a cane throws it down and claims to walk better. This was a transforming miracle that shocked all those who saw it.
Notice also that instead of Jesus becoming defiled by touching the unclean leper the leper himself became clean instantly. Jesus was not defiled by enwrapping himself in human flesh and dwelling with sinners. Because of his infinite holiness when he touches sinners they get cleansed instead of him getting defiled. the power of God’s holiness overcomes our sinfulness.
What is the basis for the cleansing of the sinner? Jesus cleanses us from the leprosy of our souls by his having kept the law perfectly and then becoming a sacrifice on the cross for us. His righteousness is then applied to our account when we respond to his grace with faith, trust and repentance. Because the Holy Spirit indwells us, regenerates our sin deadened heart, we are cleansed from the inside out.
Conclusion: Have you recognized your sinful, leprous condition? Have you approached Jesus, the Great Physician, for a cleansing? Have you humbled yourself before the Lord? Are you still humble? Has Jesus touched you and made you whole?