Evangelical Christianity is not always represented well. Unfortunately, when an American thinks of a Christian, a negative picture pops into their mind. Maybe they think of people screaming with signs that spew hatred at funerals or abortion clinics. Maybe they think of a greasy looking preacher with a nice smile that only has his own interest in mind. Maybe they think of a conservative Republican whose convictions and platforms make them incensed. If anything, there are have been plenty of people who have claimed the name of Christ, but have failed to exercise the compassion of Christ. Too many churches have become content with concentrating on people who look just like them and witnessing to people who think like them. Churches have left the hard inner city for an easier suberb.
And then there are churches that are operating today under the title of ’emerging’. It is very easy for us to look down our nose at them, but often times they exercise more compassion on the lost than the average church. Certainly they have their problems, but they have such a heart for those that the church has lost track of.
Look around your churches. Look up and down the rows. What do the people look like? Do they look a lot like you? This is something that I have been really convicted about. What would my church look like if I reached out to the people that the rest of our country is ignoring? What would it be like if we had a homeless guy in the back of our church? Would the smell bother people? Would his or her appearance make us uncomfortable?
This past week I preached a message on the compassion that Christ exhibited with his life. I would like to take this time to include the observations from that message. Since there is a lot, I will split it up into multiple posts. The first section is on Mark 1:40-45 and the story of Jesus cleansing the Leper.
40. And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41. Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44. 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 them.” 45. 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.
Before we get into the text, I’d like to say a little bit about leprosy. Most of us are familiar with the malady itself, but I’d like to share some things that I read that just reminded he of the horrifying effect of leprosy. Leprosy is a skin disease that was difficult to diagnose and heal. It would attack the extremities first, rotting away the skin until things like fingers, toes, your nose or ears, fall off. They were commanded to separate themselves from society because they were unclean according to the Mosaic Law, and anyone who came into contact with them would also be unclean.
The scribes counted as many as 72 different conditions that were defined as leprosy. Those who had leprosy were required to make their appearance as repugnant as possible so people knew that they had leprosy and knew to stay away from them. They were subject to superstition and fear and they were seen as being punished by God. People would look at them and think, surely this man has greatly sinned! It was described as a living death whose healing was equivalent to being raised from the dead. Lastly, it would ultimately rob you of your name, your occupation, your habits, your family and fellowship, and your worshiping community.
The first thing we see in this passage is that the leper exercises some faith. As I said previously, anyone who had the infliction of leprosy was to separate themselves from society. They were under no circumstances to come and approach people. But here we see the leper disregard the law for the pursuit of Christ. He recognized that Christ was greater than the law. The leper comes before Christ in an act of submission, begging him for a solution for his sickness.
Notice something very significant about this man’s request. He never questions Christ’s ability to heal him. He is exercising faith in the very fact that he knows Christ is able to do it. The question is he does not know if Christ is willing. And he was not seeking a temporary relief from his condition, but knew Christ was able to make him completely clean.
In verse 41 we see Christ’s reaction. This word ‘pity’ means a strong compassion, almost with a tinge of anger. Jesus wasn’t showing anger at the man, but at sin itself. He looked upon this man and saw the effect that sin has in man. This leprosy may not have been a direct result of sin, but it was certainly an effect of the fall. Jesus ached to see man suffering because of sin.
Jesus’ reaction of healing is also very interesting. Jesus certainly could have chosen to heal this man by commanding the disease to depart verbally. He could have had him dunk himself in a river. Jesus could have healed him from a distance. He could have done any number of things to heal this man, but I believe he specifically chose to touch the man with his hand. Put yourself in this man’s shoes (or sandals). Who knows how long it had been since he had experienced the human touch. This is something that we take so for granted. This man could not kiss his wife. He could not hold his children. He could not hug a friend. This man had not been touched in years, and Christ chose that very action to cleanse the man from the disease that had robbed him of his life.
to be continued…