Whom Men Reject, Christ Receives

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In the passage that follows from Mark’s Gospel, we see an example of God’s grace and power reaching out in compassion to the most unclean of people. Thus, in chapter 1 and verse 40 Mark writes:

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

Here indeed we behold a pitiful and yet loathsome sight! A man with leprosy—covered with leprosy… (Luke 5:12). A man totally unclean in the eyes of the people and in the sight of the ceremonial law… A man whom society had rejected from their midst as an outcast and stranger… A man who was sorely afflicted with grievous bodily wounds… A man who must have agonised deeply in his heart and soul that no one wanted to know him that no one wanted to touch him, and that no one wanted to associate with him in any way.

How great can be the loneliness, sorrow, and grief, of those who are afflicted with misunderstood or despised conditions of body or mind! This man must have felt deeply the pain of alienation from society—perhaps even more so than his physical or bodily pains. He knew too, however, that the law forbade him from approaching anyone or from attempting to contact them. Yet, in desperation, this leprous man was determined to meet the holy Son of God. Undoubtedly, he had heard about Jesus and his healing miracles. Therefore, in his wretched and putrid state, he dragged himself to the Lord Jesus, eventually falling down before him on his knees and exclaiming: “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (v.40).

What a remarkable declaration of faith! Here is a man, totally cut off from normal society, who yet believes in Jesus’ power to heal him. This outcast from Israel believes implicitly that Jesus has the power to make him clean.

However, this poor leper acknowledges an even greater truth concerning the Son of God, for he declares, “If you are willing…” He acknowledges that Jesus’ healing is according to God’s grace, and that the Lord withholds or dispenses his grace and healing according to his own sovereign will. What great faith for such a man! Sadly, however, as later events reveal, this man’s faith was not matched with obedience. How often have people of great faith failed to match their faith with wholehearted obedience to God! (vv. 43-45)

What, however, is the Lord’s response to this man’s desperate plea?

In verse 41, Mark writes:

Moved with pity, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

Perhaps, at this point, we should observe the nature of this man’s leprosy. The condition from which he suffered was not the present day form of leprosy. Rather, it was a much more serious, debilitating and obnoxious condition. Not only was it an obnoxious disease, however, but it was also highly contagious and very often incurable.

Those suffering from this dreadful disease were required by the law to confine themselves to the company of other lepers, to avoid all contact with normal society, to keep their hair unkempt and to wear torn clothing (for immediate recognition as a leper). In addition, these unfortunates were required to proclaim their condition publicly by crying out, ‘Unclean!’ ‘Unclean!’ if they should see someone approaching them in the distance. (Lev. 13:45,46)

This, then, was the vile state of the man who now knelt before the Lord Jesus pleading for mercy. And it is a picture of the vile state of a sinner when he falls down before the Lord Jesus seeking his forgiveness.

But now we see the Lord’s response to this man, in all his uncleanness:

(41a) Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him … (ESV)

What could this man do to help himself? Absolutely nothing. He had to depend utterly on the Lord to heal him.

But what was the Lord’s response to his cry for mercy? Filled with compassion… Jesus cared. Jesus loved this man, even in his loathsome condition—just as he loves sinners in their loathsome condition.

But how did Jesus prove his love for his poor man? He reached out his hand and touched him. The Mosaic Law expressly forbade any contact with a leprous person. Contact meant immediate ceremonial defilement, not to mention the very real risk of contracting this dread disease. But here the Holy Son of God shows his concern for this man by touching him. Jesus, the Son of God, shows his power over sin, disease, and moral and ceremonial defilements by demonstrating that he is Lord of all these things. In deep compassion, Jesus touched the man. He made this man feel wanted and accepted. And—however much society despised and rejected this man—the Lord Jesus made him feel that he was one whom he would never turn away.

The leper’s words to Jesus were, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (v. 40). Reaching out his hand and touching him, the Lord Jesus replied, “I am willing… Be clean!” (v. 41b)

Grace drew this man to Jesus and enabled him to exercise faith in the Son of God. Now, the leper sees Jesus respond in love and compassion to his faith by cleansing him from his most loathsome defilement. Not a spot of leprosy remained. Every last vestige of this vile and painful disease had been purged, and this man was now completely healthy.

Thus, in verse 42, we read:

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

So it is with all those who—by God’s grace, and though faith in God’s Son—seek forgiveness and cleansing from the moral and spiritual loathsomeness of their sin. This man acknowledged his need of cleansing from his defilement, and he sought the mercy of the Lord. Every sinner who acknowledges his or her need of cleansing from the defilements of sin, and who seeks the mercy of the Lord, will find cleansing in his atoning blood, together with complete spiritual healing and forgiveness. As with this man, no matter how repugnant or detestable a person’s condition, if—by God’s grace—he comes to Jesus, Jesus will never turn that person away (John 6:37).


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