No One Else: The Leper

No One Else: The Leper

Introduction 

  • Could Jeffery Dahmer really be forgiven? People left the group not really knowing. 
  • That question might have cropped up in the minds of people who saw a leper. 
    • Widely believed that it was a punishment for sin; inflicted and healed only by the grace of God (2 Kings 5:7). 
    • Miriam as an example (Num. 12:1-15). 
    • The disease was so devastating, many times irreversible, and people saw them as untouchables and, in some ways, unforgivable. 
  • But then one fights his way through the crowd and encounters a man named Jesus and begs to be cleansed (and in the eyes of the people, to be forgiven). 
  • What occurs within this account is one of the more desperate, tender stories of scripture, and one we hope to learn about this morning. 
  • Three areas: What this says about the Leper, what this says about Jesus, and what this says about us. 

About the Leper  

  • What led up to this point? How long ago was the diagnosis? 
    • When he found the first spot and went to the priest, did he sit in the tent in anxious expectation; what did he tell his family (who he now would have to abandon)? 
    • How many doctors has he gone to? How many odd, off the wall home remedies had he tried just hoping it may work, only to be let down again and again.
  • Leprosy had utterly devastated this man’s life, and whatever happens between the diagnosis and this moment, when he comes to Jesus he is absolutely desperate. 
    • Not concerned with pride (that was stripped long ago); he is begging. 
    • Not concerned with proper social decorum (he comes right up to Jesus, within touching distance). 
    • He is singularly focused on one thing: his salvation and the man who can provide it. 
  • Jesus had been healing many within the context (v. 39) so much so that Peter had said “Everyone is looking for you” (v. 37)—but this leper stood out to Mark. 
  • Maybe it was his absolute desperation: 
    • Changed his identity
      • Disease has a way, not only of changing circumstances, but changing people. 
        • Cancer—suddenly the person who fought cancer. 
        • Physically changes you as well. 
      • Even more extensive with leprosy. 
        • People lose fingers, entire limbs, face can become completely disfigured and distorted from the disease. 
        • Whenever they came within a certain distance: “Unclean, unclean!” 
        • If you were a leper, everyone knew it, and who you were was consumed by the disease. 
    • Cut off from community: 
      • One of the greatest misunderstandings about certain diseases is “Can I catch it?” People fear and isolate the one who is sick. 
      • One of the more painful aspects of leprosy was being cut off from your community and family (Num. 5:2-4). This was to keep the community safe, but had great social implications as well. 
        • Dont know the man’s story but imagine: wouldn’t get to see your children grow up, except from a distance; they couldn’t run into your arms, you couldn’t walk your daughter to meet her husband at her wedding; couldn’t feel the loving embrace of your wife. 
        • Friends who you used to eat dinner with, now look at you in derision and won’t even come close because of you may contaminate them. 
      • Terrible, debilitating isolation—no wonder this man cast aside social conventions to make his way to Jesus. 
    • When he makes it to Jesus you can hear the desperation in his voice: this is his last hope. 

About the Lord 

    • Again, leprosy was given and taken away by God alone; yet this man comes to Jesus. 
      • Notice the focus: “came to him…imploring him…kneeling and said to him…if you will, you can make me clean.” 
      • Everyone may be focused on this brash, leprous sinner cutting his way through the crowd, but he only has eyes for Jesus. 
    • Two focuses within the text: 
      • What the Leper Saw
        • The leper saw something in Jesus maybe the others crowds didn’t: God was with this man, and he knew that he was his only chance of cleansing. 
          • Yet, what believed in was ability; what he pleaded for was willingness. 
          • Salvation, as we see it depicted here, isn’t something God has to do, but something he wills to do (if you will you can). 
        • But for this cleaning we must see Jesus for who he really is: the only solution to the problem. 
      • Who the Lord Touched 
        • See from other accounts that Jesus only had to speak a word and people were healed (Matt. 8). 
          • Yet, Jesus doesn’t stand off from a distance and shout at the man; he doesn’t send him away to dip in the river (as Naaman was called to do). 
          • He comes and in pity touches him; the Lord of glory touches a leper. 
          • How long had it been since this man had felt another human touch?
        • In this Jesus was willing to risk ritual defilement in order to defy the disease this man was ensured in; red tape, fear, and social convention weren’t going to keep Jesus from ministering to this man. 
          • And in a moment—in the blink of an eye—this man was changed by a simple touch of grace. 
          • Everything he lost—his identity and community—were brought back in a single moment. 
        • This then is the picture of salvation: the sin that mars the image of God within us, the sin that breaks us and binds us, is done away by the sovereign pity and grace of our Lord. We are renewed and brought back into the community with God and His saved people through the touch of Christ. 

About Us 

  • The woman who called and asked, “Is this the church that helps people?
    • Do we, as the body of Jesus, reflect this Jesus? Do we show this Christ to our community? 
    • Do we show a Jesus who is willing to do anything and everything to cut through the red tape to touch the untouchables? 
    • As we minister to our communities out of faith or out of fear that we may be contaminated? 
  • Churches reaching out to the isolated and forgotten: one day VBS for special needs children; oil changes and car washes for single mothers; addiction recovery programs for people struggling with drugs; language classes for minorities using scripture. 
    • Where are we willing to go to heal hurting people with the love of Jesus? 
    • How can we bring them into the community with God and his people? 
    • If we aren’t embodying this Christ—making it our very mission to reach out to people who no one else is reaching out to—then are we really the church of Christ? 
  • What about when we encounter individuals who look different than we do? Who dress in clothes we don’t approve of, have tattoos, maybe lived a hard life—do we heal them when we encounter them? By the love, compassion, and grace we give them—do they see this Jesus? 
  • If we do this, and fully embody this, people will come because they see you care (Mark 1:45). 

Conclusion 

  • You may not be a leper this morning, but there is a far more serious sickness in your life; one that changes your identity and cuts you off from eternal life and community/relationship with God: sin. 
  • You can sit here in your pew this morning and rationalize why you shouldn’t come to Jesus (social, emotional reasons); or you can be the one who breaks away from the crowd, cuts through the tape, and comes to the Lord—because there is no one else who can save you.