Moved by compassion, Jesus came, and identified with humanity in our unclean state. He didn’t stand at a distance and shout orders. He got down into our world and identified with us. Touching us. Our text this week says instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the leper was healed. What a wonderful picture of the instantaneous transformation of the gospel in our lives.
As a church, we’ve been working our way through the gospel of Mark. We’re 4-weeks in, and have almost made it to the end of Chapter 1. You all know I’m fairly new at giving a weekly message. Sometimes I feel like you are kind of getting ripped off … I didn’t even give our Sermon series a name?
So I Googled a few this week for help …
Some tried using plays on the word “Mark” like On Your MARK or reMARKable
I thought I’d give it a shot …
- check MARK
- skid MARK
Some used movie themes like The Kingdom Awakens (Star Wars) // The Adventures of Jesus of Nazareth (Indiana Jones).
Tyler and I thought we’d give that a shot using current movies …
- XXX: The Return of the King
- Rogue One: A Jesus Story
- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
- La La Land
On second thought, I think we’ll just stick with calling our series The Gospel of Mark.
Tonight we’re going to pick up where we left off last week. Mark 1:35 (NLT) …
35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.
If you remember from last week, Jesus has just cast out a demon. It’s the first miracle were made aware of. And because of this, we’re told that the news about Jesus spread throughout the entire region.
So as you can imagine, Jesus’ popularity is shooting through the roof. People are learning that Jesus has the power to control nature. The response is overwhelming. Everyone wants an appointment with this Jesus.
Jesus is entering a time of extreme busyness, a time of tremendous opportunity, incredible popularity, over the top productivity … and Jesus responds in a much different way than most of us would.
You and I, we come into a time of busyness and/or opportunity … the first things that goes are quiet, solitude and prayer. Starting a new career. Project. Ministry. Planting a church. We get wrapped up in our busyness, and even the work and opportunity, and the first things to be squeezed out are quiet, solitude and prayer.
Jesus … the busier he gets, the more he prays.
Jesus puts supreme priority on prayer. And he doesn’t just nonchalantly happen to find a room or offer up a quick prayer at bedtime … our text tonight says he went out to an isolated place (same word that’s used for wilderness or desert). He’s removed all the noise. He’s removed all the distractions. And He comes to the Father in prayer.
We’re flawed, weak, people. He’s the son of God. Yet Jesus thought He needed more prayer the busier He got. How much more then do we need it, living perhaps in the busiest and most distracted time in history
But we feel like we can’t stop or slow down, or the world might fall apart. We’ve got to push through. No time for reflection. No time to pray. I’ve got things to do and people to see …
And yet, here is Jesus, standing in the middle of the opportunity that would CHANGE the world, change the course of history, and yet He thought prayer was too important to be squeezed out. Nothing was a higher priority, not even changing the world.
If we’re a church that’s going to model the culture of Jesus, then we must make prayer a priority. Both corporately for us as a church, and individually for the lives of us and our families.
This Thursday, from 4:30pm – 7:00pm this room will be open and available to you as an “isolated place” so that you can be purposeful in coming to God in prayer. We’ll have quiet music and soft lighting to hopefully allow your mind to clear for a moment from distraction. You can come in and speak to God, and even more importantly LISTEN to God. On the stage, we’ll have some cards or things for the Church you can be praying about and taking to God. Open @ 4:30pm. Guided @ 6:30pm
Now we don’t know the Words of Jesus prayer here, but if we look at the entire Gospel of Mark, and all the Gospels for that matter, I can almost guarantee the first word out of His mouth is Father.
When we get to chapter 14, and we see Jesus praying in the Garden … He cries out FATHER. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He begins “Our Father, Who is in Heaven …”
The essence of prayer isn’t …give us this day our daily STUFF. It’s not to ask forgiveness…Although, all those things are a part of prayer. What comes first …
The essence of prayer is the FACT that in Christ, the King of the Universe has become your FATHER. Infinite, absolute, supreme power … now the most tender, Fatherly love for us.
I heard a quote recently … “when you become a parent, you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child”.
I’m sure most of you parents can attest to that quote. I know it’s true in our family. Our happiness is bound up in the happiness of our kids. If they’re happy, we’re happy. If they’re not, we’re not.
Our youngest, 5-year-old Emery … she always has to fight her two oldest sisters for attention. They’re involved in sports, and choir, youth group, whatnot, and she’s just sort of pulled along. So as a parent, I want her to be happy, and I want her to feel special and important.
So this week, I took her up to Disney world for 3 days. Just her and I. Some daddy/daughter bonding time.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Disney World. I don’t hate it as much as I hate cats … but if I had the choice, there are a lot of others ways I’d chose to spend my day.
I don’t like the crowds, the people, the germs … I begin thinking all these weird thoughts to myself …
- Do they even clean these 3-D glasses?
- Seriously lady, you’re filming the entire ride on it’s a small world … with your iPad.
- If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent say “Johnny, straighten up or we’re going home” I’d be a rich man.
- If I had $1000 for every time someone followed through on that I’d be broke.
- That Fast Pass thing just annoys the heck out of me. Didn’t we learn in kindergarten, it’s not polite to cut?
- They say all kinds of mean things … if you have high blood pressure, neck or back pain, motion sickness you should not ride this ride (I have all those)
I just walk around all day thinking, seriously, I’m paying for this?
But I love my daughter (who spent half of one day up there with her shoes on the wrong feet) … but if it makes her happy, it makes me happy. If she has joy, I have joy.
And if that’s the case with this selfish, broken dad (shoes on wrong feet) … how much infinitely more must, God who has become our Father, be passionately and lovingly be committed to us?
That’s what Jesus is going for through prayer. This orientation of Son to Father. It’s the engine of His life.
That’s what gives him the power to do his ministry.
And that’s what creates the object of His ministry … to bring us into that Father/Child relationship.
40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, You can heal me and make me clean,” he said.
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!”
It’s becoming very apparent, based on my current progress through the Gospel of Mark that we’re going to have to skip over a lot of this book. To cover every miracle and teaching of Jesus would take us the greater part of a year, and our goal is to complete our study of Mark by Easter.
So I think tonight, not only would it be wise to teach this miracle, but also give a little coaching to encourage you in your study …
Each time we come upon a miracle by Jesus, there’s a few important questions I stop and ask …
- (Zoom in) Who is the person(s) being healed and what is their condition?
- How does Jesus respond, and what can we learn of His character from the response?
- (Zoom out) How do others respond to the conflict of the situation?
- Religious Leaders
- So What? (how are we going to respond)
This isn’t the only way to study the miracles, plenty of other methods, but I’ve personally found this method helpful and easy to remember …
Who is this person being healed, and what is his condition?
The text says he was a man with leprosy.
If we look at WebMD (which is always a dangerous thing. You go because of a runny nose, and the next thing you know you’ve diagnosed yourself with Hepatitis C and calling your doctor for a liver transplant).
If we read what they have to say about Leprosy we see the physical components of this condition …
Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores, lumps or bumps that do not go away and results in nerve damage in the arms and legs. Leprosy can result in widespread numbness and muscle weakness.
And I’m looking at my wife Karen right now, who has a little rash on her finger she’s been worried about. Just stick with your original diagnosis, a chemical burn from using too many Clorox wipes.
In Biblical times, leprosy wasn’t just a skin disease, it was a total condition. Lepers became totally defined by their disease.
- Once a man was branded as a leper, they’d have to live outside of the city, either by themselves or with other lepers.
- They were thought to be extremely contagious. You wouldn’t dare touch a leper.
- Levitical laws decreed that a person with leprosy not only had live outside the town, but they had to keep a six-foot distance from everyone else
- If they came near another person they had to shout “unclean, unclean”
- The wore the clothes of a mourner going to a burial service
Which is appropriate, because a leper’s existence was nothing more than a living death.
Leprosy causes extreme nerve damage to a point; one of the issues of leprosy is the lack of being able to feel physical pain. Which, may not sound all that bad, but that’s actually a big part of the problem.
People suffering from leprosy are no longer alert to danger. A leper may walk all day on a sharp metal screw, or scratch an infected part of the eyeball … both causing more severe damage and infection.
I read that often what killed lepers wasn’t the disease itself, but the fact that rats would chew off their fingers and other body parts at night, but the leper wouldn’t feel the pain, and would only see the damage in the morning.
And if the physical component of this disease wasn’t bad enough, the mental pain was unbearable.
The pain of rejection by society, or even their own families. The lack of physical touch. An inability to come to synagogue to worship God and feel the fellowship of community.
Mother Teresa, who in Calcutta with her sisters ran both a hospice and clinic for leprosy patients, once said,
“We have drugs for people with diseases like leprosy. But these drugs do not treat the main problem, the disease of being unwanted.”
That’s the grimness of this man’s CONDITION …
And now imagine, the disgust by the crowd when this social outcast walks through their midst desperate to reach Jesus …
40 (this man) knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,”
This leper has now put himself within touching distance of Jesus. He’s not supposed to do that.
This man has heard about Jesus, His reputation, and he believes that Jesus can restore him, allow him to get back into society. Listen to this man’s faith …
You CAN heal me Jesus … You CAN make me clean
He doesn’t simply beg for healing, there’s affirmation in the way this is phrased to the authority of Jesus.
How is Jesus going to respond? What do we learn about the CHARACTER of Jesus through his response?
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him.
The crowd must have gasped. Had not the Law of Moses forbidden such an act. The man may have even flinched. How many years had he been deprived of the sensation of warm human flesh against his own?
“I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
And in this one touch from Jesus, this man’s unclean condition was brought to an end. He was restored.
Some translations say Jesus was FILLED with compassion. Meaning, he overflows with it. He’s so full of compassion that it overflows from him.
The only way you can overflow with compassion, is you have to be filled with compassion. The only way you’ll overflow with love or joy, is to be full of love and joy, so much so that it spills out onto others.
If we’re filled with anger, it will spill over onto others. If we’re filled with ourselves, that spills over.
Jesus is so FILLED with compassion that it overflows onto this leper.
And he does what the religious leaders taught you must not do. The leaders said if you touch a leper, you too then become unclean. But Jesus defies the ceremonial law and he touches this leper.
You see, anytime with Jesus, when law and love collide … love wins. Compassion wins.
Jesus could have simply healed this man with his words. He spoke, and the world was created. But instead, Jesus actually reaches out, and He touches this man.
How long had it been since this man had been touched? Could he even remember being touched?
Filled with compassion, Jesus identifies with this man. He gets down into his circumstances and touches him.
42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.
43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the Law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
Essentially what Jesus is telling him to do, is to do the right thing. Kind of ironic, since Jesus just broke the law.
But He’s telling him to go, as a testimony that He’s been cleansed. And it would also be by this means, that this man would be able to re-enter the community. He couldn’t just go out as a former leper and re-join society, he had to go through a certain process.
If you’re an immigrant who’s come to America from Mexico, Jesus somehow provided a way for that, and helped bring you from your awful circumstances, there would still be a formal process to go through before you could formally/legally enter society. You can’t just say, I met Jesus, now give me a driver’s license.
Jesus recognized that for restoration to be complete, for restoration back into the community, this man needed to follow the Law of Moses that was in place.
But now notice, this man’s disobedience. He’s told, not to tell anyone.
45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Now I don’t want to beat this man up too much for his disobedience. He’d just been healed from this disgusting diseases of scabs and rats eating his fingers at night. His life of the walking dead was over. He’s able to re-enter society. Maybe he’s been reunited with his wife and kids. How could you not tell everyone???
My family just found out we’re going to be on American’s Funniest Home videos as a finalist … we couldn’t wait to tell everyone the good news.
So we can’t blame the man for wanting to share his joy. He’s overflowing with it; it’s going to spill out.
But as a result of his disobedience there were consequences. We learn that Jesus had to stay out in the secluded places. He could no longer enter the towns.
But, you say, he disobeyed by telling the Good News. Aren’t we always supposed to tell the Good News. Aren’t we always supposed to talk about everything, talk, talk, talk …
Maybe there is a warning in this. That, at times, our talking can be detriment to the work of the Gospel. That some of us talk so much, or in the wrong situations, that we may actually be driving people away.
I was watching CNN the other night, they had on Franklin Graham and a few other pastors who were going to be at the Trump inauguration, and just asking them questions and what not. And listen, I think Franklin Graham is a great man, much better human being than I am, but he just couldn’t help himself from twice saying “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, the spotless Lamb whose blood took away the sins of the world …”
All of which is true … but I wondered in that moment, did he do more harm than good. For most of that audience, those were empty churchy words.
I was at a Duck Dynasty event and Switchfoot was going to close out the night (rednecks and surfers, great idea), but just a fun, light night, but between DD and SF a pastor was invited up to the stage, and proceeds to do an alter call, when nothing else in the night led that direction.
Perhaps I’m wrong, and I’m open to this … but I think there are times in which we can do more harm than good when we open our mouths to share the Good News.
This man was supposed to be silent, and he wasn’t, and the impact is there. It changed the strategy of Jesus, he could no longer go into the towns.
Yet Mark says… the people still came from everywhere to see Jesus.
I’m relieved, even when I screw up, and say all the wrong things, at the wrong time and place, this Jesus movement will continue to move forward.
OK, so we’ve zoomed in. We’ve seen the condition of this man. We’ve seen the character and compassion of Jesus.
And now I would normally zoom out to see the response.
How do the crowds respond? People from “everywhere” kept coming to see Jesus.
How did the man who was healed respond? He went out and told everyone, even though disobedient in doing so.
We’ll see later how the religious people responding by ultimately crucifying Jesus.
But as I studied this story this week, I wondered how the followers responded. Peter, Andrew, James, John.
What would their response have been to this healing? How would I have responded in their shoes?
It seems in nearly every miracle, and every parable, teaching of Jesus, there is almost always CONFLICT. A disturbance to the status quo; to even their existing beliefs.
Simon Peter, who we’ve said is the person giving this first-hand information to Mark, is at this event. Otherwise, how would we know about it right? (always wonder that in movies where everyone dies … how do we know that’s how it happened).
Assuming Peter is here, and saw this miracle. How would he be responding?
He knew the rules about the lepers. He knew if you touched a leper, you too would be considered unclean. And yet he witnesses Jesus reach out and touch this man.
Lepers where seen as almost non-human. Treated like filthy animals.
And yet Jesus touches this leper. And soon we’ll see him eating with these untouchables. Jesus almost seems to prefer the company of outcasts. Hanging out and going to parties with known disreputable sinners.
Imagine you’re Peter. The conflict that had to be going on inside of him.
But this is wrong. That’s what I’ve always been told. We are Jews. We are clean and we do not touch or go into the house of someone who is unclean.
These are the kinds of conflicts that cause you to begin wondering if you’re even still good with God.
No doubt others around Peter and the disciples where warning them …
Guys, you need to get away from this Jesus. How can this man who prefers the unclean be of God? How can you hang out with sinners and stay clean? This is a very slippery slope Peter. You’re betraying your tradition Peter.
I imagine for Peter it was a time of major internal disruption and conflict. One of MANY that were to come. The tension of what seemed like solid ground becoming unstable.
Or maybe I just relate, because I’ve been down this road, more than once. When everything I’ve ever believed has come into question and doubt.
Yet, I also know from experience that these moments of tension, of disruption, if we just go with it, slow down, allow the dust to settle, it can cause us to grow and mature.
Disruption to our lives is often where the most beautiful things are planted. Yes, planted … meaning it will take some time though for the beautiful things to grow.
This Gospel of Mark is a book of disruption after disruption.
Tonight Jesus is touching a leper. Next He’ll be dining with sinners. Then He’s teaching all kinds of craziness about loving our enemies, and doing good to those who hurt us.
The cross is the greatest disruption of them all.
And so as I reflect on Peter’s response tonight, I think it’s one of trying to figure it out. Of being OK with not knowing all the answers. Of being willing to allow the dust to settle and watch what Jesus does.
Of ignoring the voices we hear when we try to follow the compassionate example of Jesus to this leper. (whether the voices are from others, or the voices in our head)
Of not always doing things the way we’ve always done them because that’s the way they’ve always been done.
Of not only allowing Jesus to cause conflict and disruption in our life, but welcoming it.
Final Question // So What?
Jesus’ compassion superseded religious traditions. Does ours?
It wasn’t long at all ago, when the tradition of the church said, if you just had more faith you wouldn’t suffer from anxiety or depression.
It wasn’t long ago, as we talked about last week, when white churches said the Gospel has no interest in social issues. I even read this week, it wasn’t just the white churches saying that, but even many of the black churches wouldn’t stand up for equality.
If you’ve been around the Church anytime, you can think of traditions, some as simple as the type of music, or the clothes that you wear, what day of the week you gather, or even doctrinal issues that have torn churches apart and no doubt had people saying things like …
You mean you let people like THAT be a part of our congregation? That’s a slippery slope.
I had a friend message me this week and he said “I know when I stopped caring, but when did you stop caring what religious people thought about you.”
To which I responded, half way there, half way liberated.
So as I imagine this scene, and Peter, Andrew, John and James watching, I think their response was mixed, half-way there:
liberation; wow, you mean it’s OK to touch this leper, I’ve always deep down felt compassion for them, but was too scared and too tied to my tradition to do anything about it.
But I also imagine their response was one of hesitation, but wait Jesus, we always heard, we always did, we always …
….maybe they even felt the divine weight of the moment.
If I go down this path, and start touching lepers and dining with sinners, do I become unclean?
If we could hear the debate in their head we would hear doubt, confusion, and a disturbance to what they’ve always believed.
At the same time this scene would eventually lead them to a moment of spiritual enlightenment.
That’s why at Refuge, we’re a church of Grace. Not everyone is in the same place of figuring all this Jesus stuff out.
Even tonight, a few may have some light bulbs coming on as we read and discuss this Leper healing. The rest are wondering what’s for dinner.
I thought a lot this week about who the lepers are today in our society. I’m not going to give my list. I encourage you to create your own. Who are the outcasts? The untouchables? The undesirables? The unclean?
Did you include yourself on that list?
An unclean man, came and knelt before Jesus.
Jesus, I know You can heal me. I know You can make me clean.
Moved by compassion, Jesus came an identified with us, in our unclean state. He didn’t stand at a distance and shout orders, he got down into our unclean world and identified with us. Touching us.
Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and we were healed.
What a wonderful picture of the instantaneous transformation of the gospel in our lives …
- Our condition = we’re unclean
- Jesus’ character = compassion
- Our conflict = depends on the person (unbeliever/belief, believer/traditions)
As Paul says (2 Cor. 5:21), For our sake God made Christ who knew no sin (who is perfectly clean), to be sin (he touched us and became unclean), so that we might be made righteous. (that we might be made clean).