During the time when Jesus lived on the earth, leprosy was wide-spread. It was a dreaded disease. The word “leper” can refer to a person suffering from any of several different skin diseases. When someone had leprosy, they were covered with sores all over their bodies. Unlike chicken pox, these sores did not go away. When someone had leprosy, their situation was hopeless because there was no cure. To make matters worse, other people considered them to be unclean and were not allowed to touch them. Many people believed that people who had leprosy got the disease because of some terrible sin they had committed.
The law required all such infected individuals to stay away from healthy men and women, but in the passage we heard from Mark’s Gospel, the man approached Jesus. The man clearly believed that Jesus had the power to heal him; he simply did not know if the Lord desired to do so.
Some ancient manuscripts have the term “being angered” rather than the term “moved with compassion.” If the former reading is correct, then Jesus was probably angry that the work of the devil had enslaved and injured the affected man. That Jesus touched this leper-and theoretically making Himself ritually unclean and exposing Himself to the disease-stood in stark contrast to the rabbis’ treatment of lepers. Jesus was on a collision course with legalistic religion throughout His ministry. The Good News challenges the drudgery of the Old Testament Law. Jesus’ authority challenged the scribes and the Pharisees. His concern for human needs was opposed by the traditions of the church.
Jesus met all sorts of physical needs during His ministry, but leprosy was a symbol of hopelessness. Jesus matches the most difficult of human needs with the deepest of human feelings. He knew the full range of human emotions because He was human. He responded to His feelings by touching the leper. Jesus let the leper and us know that He will take our place-not only in the risk of physical contamination, but in social contamination as well. By doing this, Jesus shows us what true compassion really means.
Jesus’ compassion had a cost. He had to give up His ministry in the city because the leper told people how he was healed. People had to come to Jesus in the desert, just like Jesus comes to us in the deserts of our lives.
The man disobeyed Jesus’ instructions not to tell anyone about his healing. He was affected emotionally and rejoiced. He followed his own feelings instead of following Jesus’ commands. Why did Jesus strictly warn the man not to broadcast what He had done? First, Jesus wanted more time to define His messiahship on His terms before people could misinterpret it on their own terms. Second, if the Romans learned that He was the Messiah, it would prematurely end His ministry, and He had much more to do before His time on earth was done.
Just like Jesus took the man’s leprosy, He can take our sin. Sin makes us feel alone. We don’t feel like going to church and hanging out with fellow Christians who can encourage us. As we mature in our Christian faith we realize that is when we need Christ and Christian fellowship the most.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in a situation where we are uncomfortable, like when we had the chicken pox. But there may come a time in our lives when we find ourselves in a situation that is truly hopeless. When that happens, where can we turn? How do we find hope in a hopeless situation? We can turn to Jesus. When the situation is hopeless, Jesus is our only hope.
As God gives us opportunities, we can extend grace and show compassion with a gentle touch that conveys dignity and value. The simple, healing power of human touch goes a long way to remind hurting people of our care and concern. More important is the fact that they are reminded of Christ’s care, concern and love for them.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1345)
- “Hope for the Hopeless.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4KIds.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 52-56)
- Pastor David McGee, “A Leper No More.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lisa Samru, “Power of Touch.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- “A Healing Touch.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com