At the beginning of the Mark study, I shared with you that this is preparing us for what we are going to talk about in the winter time. How the life that Jesus has for us, is on display through his own life.
The points that we have covered so far, and that are important for us to remembered today, is first, Jesus is God. We’ll dive into why this is important later, but for now, it is important because at least three times so far in the first chapter of Mark, we have seen that Jesus is put forth as being God. From John’s message about Jesus, to Jesus’ baptism, and to the demon’s statement. Mark is trying to emphasize that Jesus is God.
The second point that is important for today is, Jesus’ life is an example for us. Again, this will become important later on. But time and time again, we see Jesus doing things for our benefit. His baptism, his temptations, and his empowering by the Holy Spirit. All are examples for us.
Finally, we need to remember that Jesus did not want the demon to tell who he was. When we talked about this point two weeks ago, we talked about how the realization of who Jesus is has to come from a revealing by God. Jesus being the Savior of the world, the one who died because we rebelled against God because of our desire to do things our way, and now offers each of us a new life with God; this understanding can only come from our experience with him, and not from anyone just telling us. Sure we can be told that Jesus is the Savior, but until it moves from a head understanding to a heart change, it’s just all talk.
But how these connect to our passage today, we’ll discover in a little bit. So let’s get into our passage, which is in Mark 1 starting in verse 40, and see how these three points manifest. Like last week, Mark 1:40-45 is a short passage, it is also the last passage in chapter 1. And I have to say, this passage is probably my second favorite passage in the Bible. So, let’s get into Mark 1 starting in verse 40.
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
One of the reasons I love this passage, is because it shows who God really is. The most common scripture verse that is memorized and repeated in the Church is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but has eternal life.”
It’s a great passage, that tells us about the love of God, the plan of God, and the goal of God. But it can be one of those passages that is so big, it’s hard to make real. It’s kind of like how we took the teens to San Francisco several years ago. When people hear of San Francisco it seems like a beautiful city. With it’s night life, attractions, the Golden Gate bridge, and sitting on the shores of California. But when you visit San Francisco, you realize that there’s more to it. You see the garbage in the streets, the homeless population, and the isolation that is there. Hearing about San Francisco, and experiencing it, are two different things. Merely hearing about the grandness, is one thing. Experiencing the reality is another.
And I feel like that’s the difference between John 3:16, and Mark 1:40-45. The John passage gives us the grandness view, whereas our passage today gives us the reality. But what does that mean? Let’s take a look at the passage again.
Verses 40-42 say, “40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’
41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.”
Here’s a guy that has an incurable disease. A disease that has made him an outcast, someone that is so rejected by his community, that the idea of touching such a person, was seen as unclean and possibly hazardous to one’s health. And you can feel this man’s plea for help. It says he begged on his knees. Do you hear the desperation? Then the man makes a statement that shows his understanding of who Jesus is. Remember the first point that we said was important today? Jesus is God? This man recognized that. He recognized that Jesus was God descended into human flesh, and he recognized that power that Jesus had.
The man’s statement presupposed Jesus’ ability and identity. He says, “If you are will, you can make me clean.” By saying, if you are willing, the man says, I know who you are. I know what you’re capable of. And I know what the end result would be if you desired me to be healed.
And Jesus’ response brings the John 3:16 passage into gritty reality. “I am willing.” These three words fly in the face of every religion in the world. The God of the Bible is a willing God. A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, tells an allegory, about three religions. Let me paraphrase that story.
A traveler on a road falls into a trap made by thieves and breaks his leg. He could easily climb out of the hole if it wasn’t for his broken leg, and as he cries out in pain the religious teacher Buddha arrives at the top of the hole. “Revered Buddha, please help me out of this hole.” Buddha replies, “My son, there is no hole, only the illusion of the hole. Once you come to this understanding you will conquer that which holds you here.” Buddha disappears from the man’s sight and continues on his way. The man continues to cry out for help. A short time later, Muhammed the prophet of Islam arrives at the hole. Again the traveler cries out, “Honorable Muhammed, please help me out of this hole.” To which Muhammed replies, “You wouldn’t be in that hole if Allah thought you worthy. You are experiencing your deserved punishment.” And he too moved quickly on. Finally when the traveler thought he was done, Jesus of Nazareth appears. And before the traveler was able to call out, Jesus jumped into the hole, lifted the traveler out, mended his broken leg, lifted him onto his shoulder and said, “From hear on out, I will walk with you the rest of the way.”
“I am willing.” If this doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will. This is who God is, he is the God who is willing. Willing to come down from his perfect throne in heaven to be with us. Willing to heal our diseases and sufferings. Willing to die, so that we might have an opportunity to come back to him. The God of the Bible is the God who is willing to do what is needed for his creation. No other religion in the world can say that. And he does everything for our benefit. Which is the point Mark is trying to get across to us. Jesus is here for our benefit, for our example. So that we can know who God really is, and what he is willing to do.
And I love the two responses to this healing. The first is Jesus’. “43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’”
Which is pretty standard for Jesus right? I mean, this goes back to the idea that Jesus wants us to have a self-revelation of who he is, because that’s how it becomes real in our lives. But the guy will have none of that. Because it reads, “45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
And really, what did Jesus really expect this guy to do? This amazing disease has been lifted from this man. This man who had been shunned by his community, who probably hadn’t had human contact for years, was now free. Free to return to society, free to touch other people, free to look at himself and not feel disgust and shame. What other response could there be but to tell people.
When the willingness of God, meets the need of our lives, letting people know seems to happen automatically. This is why the Church is so important. We must share with each other the hurts and victories of our lives. We must share, so that we might see God’s willingness within our community. If we hold our need to ourselves, how can we see God do anything? And when that need has been met, how can we hold back telling others?
This week I want us to be like the man with leprosy, and say to God if you are willing. Let us go to God and seek his healing. It might be from a physical disease, it might be from an inward hurt, an emotional struggle, a worry or something that just scares us. Let us not shy away from God, but rather fall on our knees and call out for his willingness to heal our lives.
Let’s put aside everything else, and seek God’s willingness. Let’s have the grandness of God’s love, become his gritty willingness in our lives.
Father in heaven, you sent your Son to die for us. Not that we deserved or that you are in need of us, but rather, because you are willing that none of us should parish. Help us to seek your willingness, and be satisfied with your will. Let us see your amazing works in our lives, so that we may proclaim them to the world. For you glory and not our own. Amen.