Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 4, 2018
Once again God has given us the privilege of coming before His word together. We are in Mark 1 - starting at verse 40. We are looking at credibility - what gives Jesus cred? What gives Jesus authority that we should believe Him and follow Him.
Patriots or Eagles? At the end of today which one will have demonstrated greater authority over the other? Gained greater credibility at being called the world champion.
Maybe at the end of today nobody will really care. Especially as the NFL permits demonstrations that disrespect our flag and national anthem and nation. The whole NFL losing credulity in many people’s minds.
Credibility is what inspires belief - confidence - trust. What compels us to make a commitment of our lives - all or in part - to that thing or idea or person.
We are in a section of Mark’s Gospel where Mark is focused on establishing Jesus’ credibility. What give Jesus authority to speak truth into our lives that we should trust Him with our lives - being all in with our lives - committed and totally trusting Jesus.
If you are able - please stand with me - as we come together before God’s word and read His word together out loud.
And a leper came to
Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, “If you
will you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, He
stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him,
“I will; be clean.”
And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was
But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to Him from every quarter.
The passage we’re looking at this morning can be divided into three sections. The first comes in verses 40 to 42 - which demonstrates Jesus’ Compassion. Jesus’ compassion towards this leper.
Let’s walk through this together.
Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases of the ancient world. The Hebrew word “tsaraath” covers a range of skin infections. The Greek word used is “lepros” - which is where we get… “leper” from. The Greek word means “scaly” or “scabby”. It covers a range of skin diseases.
Probably what’s here in the text describes what we now call Hansen’s Disease. We can’t be 100% sure. But it’s close enough to give us a good idea of what’s being described here.
Hansen’s bacillus does horrendous and dreadful things to the body. I thought about showing some pictures and thought better of it.
Chuck Swindoll shares a quote from Dr. Paul Brand’s book “Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants.” Dr. Brand - who dedicated much of his life to studying leprosy and caring for lepers - Dr. Brand describes his initial aversion to medicine after watching his father - a medical missionary in the southern hills of India.
“Over time, childhood memories of medicine had distilled into a few scenes of suffering, and I now found these scenes abhorrent. There was the revolting scene of my parents working on a women tormented by guinea worms, including one whose dragon tail poked out of the corner of her eye. And the memory of my father’s most challenging patient: a man who survived a mauling by a bear, his scalp torn from ear to ear. There was one more scene, too, perhaps the most haunting of all.
My father would not even let us watch him work on the three strange men who approached the clinic one afternoon. He confined us to the house, but I sneaked out and peered through the bushes. These men had stiff hands covered with sores. Fingers were missing. Bandages covered their feet, and when Dad removed those bandages I saw that their stumpy feet had no toes.
I watched my father, mystified. Could he actually be afraid? He did not banter with the patients. And he did something I had never before seen: he put on a pair of gloves before dressing their wounds. The mean had brought a basked of fruit as a gift, but after they left Mother burned the basket along with my father’s gloves, an unheard-of act of waste. We were ordered not to play in that spot. Those men were ‘lepers’, we were told.” (1)
Here in Mark’s account - notice that the leper’s request is to be made “clean.” Not, “Heal me” Not, “Cure me.” Healing is implied. But there’s a greater issue here we need to understand.
According to the Law of Moses someone suspecting leprosy was to show themselves to a priest who would make a diagnosis and pronouncement: “clean” - meaning “no leprosy” or unclean - meaning “leprosy.”
To the Jew - being pronounced “unclean” - to be diagnosed as a leper - was horrendous - something to be feared. Not only because of the disease. But because that pronouncement concerned one’s relationship within the community and with God.
In Leviticus - the Law of Moses - there are instructions concerning leprosy. Laws given to protect the community from the spread of the disease.
Along with suffering from the ravages of the disease - someone afflicted with leprosy - as they moved about - they would need to announce themselves - shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” as a warning. So others could protect themselves.
As a sign of perpetual morning they were to leave their heads uncovered and tear their clothes. A leper existed in a kind of isolated living death.
We saw last Sunday that Jesus has led his disciples away from the crowds of Capernaum out to other towns around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is preaching the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand - repent and believe.
Some time - some where - in that ministry - this deformed - suffering - isolated - ostracized - untouchable - man who is living a living death - comes and kneels before Jesus begging - not only set free from the disease - but to be set free from the stigma of the disease - to be made right again - clean - before the community and God.
The leper doesn’t shout “Unclean! Unclean!” as the Law of Moses required. But - in what can be considered a declaration of his faith - he kneels before Jesus and he makes a statement of fact: “If you will you can make me clean.” Not, “If you can.” But, “If you are willing.”
Jesus, “moved by pity” - “pity” translates the Greek word “splagchnon” - great sounding word. Literally meaning “guts” - Jesus moved at the deepest part of Who Jesus is - His “splagchnon” - with deep feeling intense compassion - Jesus stretched out His hand - intentionally reaches out - and actually touches this man.
Luke records that the unclean man was “full of leprosy.” Meaning that this man is perhaps unrecognizably disfigured. His flesh rotting. His rags soaked with blood and puss. Repulsive to those observing this take place. (Luke 5:12)
Jesus - Who could have healed this man without touching him - Jesus rather than drawing back repulsed - instead Jesus moved with compassion - intentionally does the unthinkable. The incredible. Jesus intentionally reaches out and actually touches this unclean man.
“I will. Be clean.” No elaborate demonstration for the crowd. Just a simple act of compassion and a powerful demonstration of the power of God and His kingdom coming at hand.
Immediately the leprosy leaves him and he is made clean. Physical healing and the restoration of this man before the community and God. God given freedom and life.
As I was preparing for this morning I was reminded of Joseph De Veuster - this man. Joseph De Veuster arrived in Honolulu Hawaii on March 19, 1864. On May 31st He was ordained in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu and became known as Father Damien.
In 1873 - at his request - at the age of 33 - Father Damien was sent to the leper colony on Molokai. At the time there were 600 lepers in the colony. Living without hope they were corrupt, debased, immoral, and filthy.
For a long time Father Damien was the only one to help them. He dressed their ulcers - cleaned and bandaged their rotting flesh - helped them build their homes - even dug their graves and made their coffins. During this time he endured the persecution of his peers who couldn’t understand his selfless and devoted nature.
Father Damien built a church on Molokai and conducted services of hope for the residents. He began each service with the words, “My fellow brethren.”
In 1885, he began his service with the words, “My fellow lepers.” Father Damien died on April 15, 1889 of leprosy - after 15 years of service in the name of Jesus to the lepers on Molokai.
It is appropriate for us to see - in Jesus reaching out to this man full of leprosy - to see ourselves and what Jesus has done for each one of us - with compassion reaching to us.
Jesus sets aside His prerogatives as God - His right to draw back from the ugliness and deformity of each of us caught up in the disease of our sin. Rather Jesus does the unthinkable. He reaches out to us. He takes on human flesh. He enters into our humanity as one of us - to serve - to die - in our place - taking on Himself our sin - having the full wrath and rejection of God that should have been ours poured out on Him.
So that as we trust in Him - His all sufficient work on the cross on our behalf - God - through Jesus - makes us to be clean before Him - sets us free and gives to us life with Him forever. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Philippians 2:6-8)
That’s the good news of God’s kingdom being at hand. What comes to us through Jesus’ compassion for us. Jesus Who is the good news.
Verses 43 and 44 are Jesus’ Instructions.
And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Three instructions. First: Keep quiet about the healing. Second: Go show yourself to the local priest in accordance with Mosaic Law. Third: Offer the appropriate sacrifices in accordance with Mosaic Law. Why? For a proof to them.
Instruction number one: Keep quiet about the healing. Right...
We know how this goes. Jesus does a “casting out” or a “healing” and Jesus telling whoever Jesus set free or healed: “Don’t tell anyone about what was probably the greatest thing that happened to you and was totally obvious to everyone who’s ever seen or known you and obvious to everyone here who just saw what happened. Just keep silent about that.”
What’s even stranger is that Jesus left Capernaum to go out and proclaim the very message - with healings and casting outs and teaching - the very message that He’s telling “made clean man” to keep silent about. So what’s up with that?
Let’s be clear. Jesus didn’t come to help people get along in life by healing people and casting out demons and teaching them in order to start some religious self-help movement.
The good news is Jesus. Jesus Who came to call people to follow Him. Jesus Who came to destroy evil and the work of Satan and his minions. Jesus Who came to set us free from our slavery to sin through His atoning work on the cross.
The Greek verb translated “sternly charged” originally meant “to snort like a horse.” It’s a sound of disgust. [snort] Some of you with horses could probably do that way better.
“Sent him away” translates a Greek verb that elsewhere gets used to describe casting out demons. Meaning driving away something that’s evil.
Meaning there’s a reality check here in Jesus’ expectations of what “made clean man” will do. Jesus gets it.
Jesus had compassion towards this man - healed and cleansed this man - Jesus had compassion towards this man because Jesus had compassion towards this man. Even knowing that “made clean man” is going to talk.
Maybe Jesus saw in this man - that despite his faith - this man had the kind of character that was unstable - immature - character that would probably lead him to go out and boast about what had happened to him. Emphasis being the spectacular. Being healed and set free. How all that effected him.
Which is something to celebrate. Which is a wonderful testimony. What he did is understandable. But it misses the point. It’s the wrong message.
Jesus’ instruction is a warning about the danger of spreading the wrong message. It’s not the miracles. It’s the... message that’s important. Not the sensationalism and the spectacular. But the Savior and salvation. Who Jesus the Christ is and why we need to follow Him.
Jesus wanted people to see that His miracles were signs of the kingdom of God. Our submitting to the reign of God - not being a spectator of the spectacular - but our submitting our lives to God is what really matters.
Mark doesn’t tell us if “made clean man” followed through on instructions number two and three. Go tell the priest. Go make the sacrifices. Mark’s point isn’t about whether or not he did that.
Mark’s point is that the showing and sacrificing are to be a proof to them.
“Proof” translates the Greek word is “marturia” which is where we get the word… “martyr” - Meaning this man’s life - what Jesus has done for him - is to be a living testimony - a proof of Who Jesus - the good news - is.
“Proof” meaning a testimony of Jesus.
To make the required offering he would have had to make a pilgrimage from Galilee to the Temple in Jerusalem. Where his offering would serve as a testimony to the priests and others in Jerusalem about Jesus.
Let’s make sure we’re clear on what is focusing us on.
Jesus - teaching in the Sermon on the Mount - not too far from Capernaum. Jesus talking to a crowd of perhaps thousands of people - most from around Galilee. A crowd of people - most of whom were just trying to hang on.
People who’d been taught that life with God meant sacrifices - regulations - traditions - impossible standards of holiness - condemnation and ostracism for failure - hundreds of laws imposed on them by their religious leaders.
The Scribes and Pharisees had taught that the Law of Moses - the five books of Moses - Genesis through Deuteronomy - the 10 Commandments and all the instructions that were given to God’s people - all that was about how to earn a relationship with God - to measure up to God’s demands. They’d been taught: Do these things and God might bless you.
But that isn’t the purpose of the Law of Moses.
In Genesis we read that Abraham believed God and God declared Abraham to be what? righteous. (Genesis 15:6) God and Abraham had a relationship together that God established and blessed. It wasn’t until Moses - some 600 plus years later that God writes out the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai.
The God of the Bible is a covenant God not a contract God. God’s message to us is not, “Do this for Me. Then I’ll love you.” That’s a do this and you’ll get paid - blessed - contract. But instead God says, “I’ve done this for you as your Creator and as your Redeemer. Therefore this is the kind of relationship that I invite you to be a part of.”
The law is a tutor - an instructor - that coaches us in how to live rightly in our relationship with God. The prophets declared God’s word to the people so that that relationship could be entered into - maintained - or renewed - lived out in everyday life. (Galatians 3:24)
God gave His people the Mosaic Law as an act of His grace. The Law is a code of conduct that points out our weakness and our failure to live as God is - God Who is holy - morally pure - sinless. The Law painfully points out that we fall short of the sinless perfection of God’s character.
Meaning - the Law as it reflects the character of God - proves our sin - and compels us to faith in God. Faith in God Who must act on our behalf or we’re toast forever.
Which God did. What we in our sin could not do. God acting on our behalf through Christ’s work on the cross - the sinless Lamb of God offered in our place - fulfilling the requirements of the Law. The Law points to Christ and our need for Him and sets up how Christ fulfills that need.
What we’ve been seeing God at work doing purposefully and relentlessly since Genesis.
Mark’s point isn’t whether or not “made clean man” presented or sacrificed - but what that testimony represents. It’s not the healing but the healer that’s important. It’s not the spectacle but the Savior that we need to trust. Jesus - Who heals and makes one clean. The kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus, the good news, is here.
Jesus’ instructions are about what communicates the message - the good news of Who He is - in all His compassion and passion for us.
The third part of this passage comes in verse 45 - the Disobedience of the man.
But he - the “made clean man” - went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news,
“Talk freely” in Greek has the idea what of a town crier used to do.
Back in the good old days before Facebook and Snapchat and texting and emails and faxes and land lines and telegraphs and even newspapers. Which may date some of us. Back in our youth when we used smoke signals - town criers would go through town crying out - proclaiming at the top of their lungs - announcements and the news of the day.
That’s what this man did. He went out and loudly and widely did what Jesus sternly instructed him not to do.
Result: so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to Him from every quarter.
So many people are turning out for the spectacle and the spectacular that Jesus can’t even get into town. People are crowding Him at the off ramp. The only way to get into a town is to sneak in.
So Jesus is heading out to desolate places - meaning deserted with no one around. And people are still coming. Following Him from every quarter. Like the four corners of the compass. Meaning from anywhere there’s an anyplace. From every direction they’re coming to see Jesus. The man who heals and casts out demons.
Which was exactly what Jesus was trying to avoid.
Imagine. This man who Jesus compassionately helped and restored - to whom Jesus had given no less that his life back - new life instead ongoing living death - this man that Jesus had been so compassionate towards - in disobedience becomes an obstacle to Jesus and the good news of the kingdom.
This made whole again - made clean - man becomes an obstacle to the good news because of the way he witnessed of the good news.
There is a sobering warning here for us.
We can and should celebrate what God does in our lives. It’s a good and wonderful thing to marinate in the love and blessings of God - His mercy and grace applied to our lives. How we need what He offers us.
But we must always be careful to never take credit for what God does. Like somehow all those blessings and His grace and mercy and patience and loving kindness and especially our salvation - like somehow all that is about us.
We may have the best of intentions and the purist of motivations. But unless we’re doing God’s work God’s way - submissive and obedient to Him - we will mess things up 100% - every time - consistently - without fail.
Let’s be clear on the message - our testimony. Our salvation is by God’s grace and for God’s glory alone.
Our testimony needs to always be focused on God. What He’s done in our lives - redeeming us and forgiving us and freeing us. The transformation He’s working in our lives. The eternal hope we have because of Christ’s work on our behalf. To God be the glory - alone and always.
Processing all that…
We’re all like that leper. Maybe not having the actual disease. But our need to be made clean is just as crucial. Apart from Jesus Christ we’re all unclean. We’re all lepers.
There’s nothing within us that’s worthy of God’s approval. Nothing within us that God should be compassionate towards us. Each of us is totally corrupt in every part of who we are and we display our depravity in everything we do. We keep messing up. And when we think we aren’t - we are.
We try so hard to make ourselves acceptable - to measure up - to do what’s right. But all of what we do - that all is like the blood soaked - puss filled - rags of the leper. We might as well walk in here on a Sunday morning and scream, “Unclean!”
We all need Jesus. The healing that we need - the being made clean that we need - that can only come from God. God Who chooses to be compassionate towards us. God Who chooses to love us and be gracious and merciful to us. Love and grace and mercy that goes way beyond anything we can even begin to understand.
Why? Why should God be so compassionate toward us? Why should He reach out to touch us? To heal our sin. To restore us to Him. Why? We don’t know. But He does.
Each of us needs to come in the same way the leper came. He came without demands. He didn’t uses his leprosy as a tool to gain compassion. He didn’t come demanding explanations for why he should suffer as a leper. He wasn’t negotiating with God.
He simply came in faith. “If you’re willing You can…”
He didn’t doubt that Jesus could make him clean. He merely knelt before Jesus - acknowledged Who Jesus is - and opened himself to what Jesus willed for His life.
Which is the place before Jesus that each of us needs to come to. “I am a sinner - unclean. There is nothing I can do to make myself clean. I am at your mercy. My life is Yours. Please forgive me - cleanse me. I trust you for what you offer through Christ’s work on the cross.”
We’re all like that leper. We all need Jesus.
And we all need to live for Jesus. Meaning living life His way - not ours. Living under His authority - in obedience to Him - and not us.
If we are in Christ - cleansed and set free - then our lives need to be lived in obedience to what God says about us and what God has for us to do with our lives. Living that way is living in the fullness of life that God has created us for - cleansed us to experience - and called us to.
Which isn’t always how we experience life.
We way too often suffer with self-inflicted anxiety and depression and anger and addictions and countless ways that we try to compensate for our weaknesses and failures. We drag around guilt and self doubt that weights us down. We constantly look backwards - marinating in where we’ve messed up.
We hold ourselves to impossible standards - trying to control our lives and what happens around us - while these little voices keep talking to us. Voices from people that have dumped crud into our lives. Voices that remind us of where we’ve messed up. That condemn us to a life of repeated failure and hopelessness.
We live with the self-inflicted stigma of shame. We live with feelings of alienation - loneliness. If others knew what I’m really like. And worse, maybe they do.
I know I’m not alone in this. Let’s be honest with each other.
When we allow ourselves to go there in our thinking and attitude and actions it’s like were declaring “unclean” what God has declared “clean.” Like the work of Christ on the cross was insufficient to make us really clean.
Listen to Paul. Let what Paul tells the Romans church soak into our hearts.
Romans 8:1: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body lie the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared and end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4 NLT)
Being set free from the power of sin - fulfilling the requirements of the law - satisfying the law - being made clean - having God’s life-giving Spirit within - isn’t about what we do. Salvation - cleansing - isn’t about us. It’s about what Jesus has done for us to the glory of God.
That’s hugely freeing and totally life reorientating. Because of what Jesus has done no condemnation means no… condemnation.
That’s truth that we need to marinate in. To soak up the reality of that.
In Christ we’re freed to live under Jesus’ authority not under the authority of what binds and condemns us. We’re freed to enjoy what it means to obey Him. To live the fulness of life that God has created us for - cleansed us to experience - called us to - without looking back - to God alone be the glory.
1. Quoted by Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016) - page 50.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.