Sep 02, 2012
Mark 1:40-44

Download Audio:

Calvary316 Twitter Calvary316 Facebook Calvary316 Square Donations


If I were to ask you to make a list of the top 10 miracles of Jesus your list might include:

  1. Jesus healing the blind man.

  2. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

  3. Jesus multiplying the bread and fish.

  4. Jesus walking on water.

  5. Jesus commanding the seas to calm.

But I’d like to say (while not cracking the typical top 10) the miracle we’re going to look at this morning not only rivals all of them, but with the exception of the resurrection is probably one of the most important miracles of Jesus’ ministry.

Mark 1:40 “Now a leper came to Jesus, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Before we get into the scene itself, I think it would be helpful if we began by examining the plight of the Leper before looking at anything else.

Leprosy is referred to today as “Hanson’s Disease.” 

Though it’s still an incurable disease there are treatment options that keep it from being as life threatening as it once was. 

Even today there are some 15 million people infected with leprosy with around 100 cases per year in the United States.

Leprosy is caused by the bacteria known as “Microbacerium Leprae” which specifically targets and destroys a person’s nervous system. 

Because the bacteria itself prefers cooler temperatures, it initially effect a person’s skin before moving to the appendages like their hands, feet, nose, ears, etc. As the bacteria destroys nerve endings it produces numbness and later disfigurement.

Symptoms of leprosy first present as common fatigue and aching joints. This is then followed by a red rash that continues to fester before turning scaly and white. The rash will slowly spread to other area’s of the body producing a body full of festering sores. It’s been said you could smell a leper from 150 paces away. 

Though sores and skin lesions do accompany the disease, the real damage is done because a person has lost the ability to sense touch or pain. Losing the ability to feel often leads to accidental disfigurements of these appendages. * People with leprosy don’t have limbs rot and fall off like it is commonly believed.

As the disease continues to destroy a person’s nervous system, they will find their joints begin to tighten and loose there elasticity causing their hands and feet to form a claw-like shape. 

They will later experience severe spinal deformation making it difficult to walk or move. 

The person would then begin to experience hair loss, before having their finger and toe nails loosen and fall out. Later on they will have their gums loosen and teeth fall out. 

If this couldn’t get any worse.... since leprosy is a slow moving, debilitating kind of ailment people are forced to live with the disease up to 9 or 10 years before dying. During Jesus’ day lepers were known as the “Living Dead.”

Aside from the obvious physical effects.... you should also note some of the emotional, social, and religious effects leprosy brought with it. 

1. According to Leviticus 13 once a Leper was diagnosed as unclean he was no longer allowed to come worship God in the temple or make sacrifices to atone for sin. 

More often than not the conventional wisdom stated that the individual struck with leprosy must have done something to deserve it. 

Therefore the religious leaders referred to the disease as the “finger of god.”

2. Sadly modern medicine has discovered that leprosy is not very contagious at all, but in the first century the disease was shrouded in so much mystery you were forced to leave behind your family, friends, work, and community. 

Since this was such a devastating development, to cope with the loss, most families had a funeral for the leper which allowed them to simply moved on with their lives. In the end lepers were forced to live a life of loneliness and communal living in leper colonies.

Though Mark doesn’t indicate how long this man had been dealing with the disease, Dr. Luke’s describes him as being “full of leprosy.” This man’s disease was well advanced.... At this point, he had not only been alienated from God and all his loved ones, but his body was a horrible shell of its former self. 

Scene of Activity

Though Mark doesn’t give us the location for this particular event, it seems from Matthew’s account, Jesus has just finished teaching the Sermon on the Mount when this Leper comes making his way through the crowd trying to get to Jesus.

The Leper’s demonstration of faith is quite amazing:

Since leprosy was viewed as being very contagious, the Law stipulated that a Leper had to stay away about 100ft away from clean people - ring a bell when he’d approach - and cry out “unclean, unclean” so people could get out of his way. You can imagine the ridicule, humiliation, scorn, and obscenities this man faced when he abandoned the norm and made his way through this crowd. 

Mark describes this man as “coming to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him.” The picture painted is one of submission, desperation, and respect. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He was determined to make his way to Jesus.

As the man is making his way through the crowd falling ultimately at the feet of Jesus, we’d told the man was “saying.... IF You are willing, You CAN make me clean.

The verb tense indicates this wasn’t something the man said one time, but was rather repeating the entire time he was making his way to Jesus. Over and over again this man was making this honest, sincere, desperate plea for healing.

Which is pretty awesome considering.... You know most people approach Jesus asking Him to give them their wishes. “Jesus give me this. Jesus provide that.” However, this man came asking not what Jesus could give him, but what Jesus could make him. “Not give me, but make me” was the man’s request.

Did you notice the man never doubts Jesus’ ability to preform a miracle, but rather questions His willingness. 

If you are willing.... you can” showed incredible faith considering Jesus had never healed a person of leprosy at his point in His ministry. 

But it also revealed the devastating effects this disease had wrought on his soul.... don’t forget the religious culture saw his condition as the judgment of God. They viewed this man as condemned - a lost soul - the walking dead -because of his own sin and misdeeds. This man knew Jesus was a good man. I think we could even surmise he saw Jesus as being divine. In his mind he questions whether Jesus would want to heal him of a disease he viewed as divine punishment.

There is no doubt that the disease of leprosy was viewed as a typographical picture of sin. Leviticus was viewed by Jewish scholars as the very center of the Mosaic Law.... and the very center of Leviticus (chapters 13 & 14) contained the protocols for diagnosing leprosy, as well as declaring if a person had been healed. They saw this not as a coincidence, but rather intentional.

The effects of leprosy bore a striking resemblance to the effects of sin. 

  • They are both an immediate death sentence. 

  • They both separate you from God.

  • They both destroy community and relationships.

  • They both slowly destroy the body.

  • They both leave a person numb and ruins a person’s sensitivities.

  • The Law could only diagnose both.... it could never provide a remedy.

Mark 1:41-42 “Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.”

Then Jesus, moved with compassion....” literally Jesus was “emotionally moved - He was stirred - He was gripped in His deepest being” by this situation.

It’s evident to me Jesus saw in this man more than a leper, but a picture of the plight of all humanity. We have all been infected with the disease of sin which once it run its course will leave a person as disfigured and deformed as this Leper.

To me it’s fitting that following the first two miracles Mark records: one where Jesus spoke and the miracle took place and another where the catalyst was instead His touch - we find the third recorded miracle combining both. 

If you carefully examine the order of events something significant emerges.... 

  1. Jesus saw the leper.

  2. He was moved with compassion. 

  3. He then reached out and touched him.

  4. He then spoke to him “I am willing, be cleansed.

  5. THEN the leprosy left him. 

According to the flow Mark provides.... Jesus was touching the man before the man was healed. In a very literal sense, by touching the leper Jesus would have immediately been considered leprous until He was cleared by the temple priests.  

Jesus first identified with the leper by touching him - the He became leprous - then He healed the man. Isn’t it interesting Scripture tells us Jesus became sin - to pay for sin - so that He could cleanse of sin?

I was listening to one pastor this week who quipped when he read that the leprosy left him.... “well where did it go?” Could it be that the leprosy was absorbed by Jesus?

You know there are seven common “I am” statements made by Jesus in the Gospels: I am the Bread of Life.... I am the light of the world.... I am the gate.... I am the Good Shepherd.... I am the resurrection and the life.... I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.... I am the True Vine. But you know.... I’ve discovered an eighth. Imagine those words to the ears of the Leper.... “I am willing.” 

Do you realize when it comes to sin Jesus, He is willing to heal you and restore?

Which leads us to the immediate results.... two things....

Immediately the leprosy left him....” the man was no longer stricken with the disease. He was healed completely. A total healing.

He was cleansed....” I’m of the opinion not only was this man no longer a leper, but the full effects of the disease itself were reversed. 

Mark 1:43-44 “And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once.... and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Before we get into the uniqueness and significance of Jesus’ command to tell know one.... I want to begin by looking at the second half of His command togo your way and show yourself to the priest.” 

According to Leviticus 14 the man would do the following to be declared clean:

  • The high priest would take two doves, one earthen vessel filled with living water, hyssop, and a cedar stick with a scarlet thread attached to it.
  • The priest would then take the leper outside the city walls. He kill the first dove and drain the blood into the earthen vessel containing the living water.
  • He would then tie the hyssop to the cedar stick (with the scarlet thread) and sprinkle the second dove with the bloody water. 
  • The second dove would then be released and set free. As one commentator observed, “one dove dies and the other was washed in the blood and then set free.”
  • Then the man would have to remain in isolation for 7 days.
  • Following this he would then shave his entire body and would be reexamined. If he was still found to be without leprosy he would be placed back into isolation for one day.
  • If there was still no leprosy, the man would be presented before the people cleansed.

  • At this point a blood sacrifice would then be offered. The high priest would take the blood of the sacrificial lamb and sprinkle it up the man’s right ear, right thumb, and right foot. The priest would then do the same sprinkling with oil. 

It’s interesting to note there is no record in Scripture of an offering ever being made for a healed leper. 

Only two healings in the Old Testament were Miriam (before the Law was given) and Naaman the Syrian (who dipped in the Jordan seven times to be healed).

Jesus’ command to present himself to the High Priest had a direct purpose.... Caiaphas the High Priest would have never preformed this ritual.... The testimony was clear.... lepers are being cleansed! 

Could it be that Leviticus 14 was specifically written as a testimony for the Caiaphas.... the priest who’d sentence the Messiah to death?

And don’t overlook the significance of the ritual itself....
  • Doves represented the common man’s offering.
  • An earthen vessel filled with living water represented the humanity and divine nature of Jesus Christ.... man of the earth - filled with living water.
  • Hyssop was used in cleansing someone who had been defiled by a dead body. In Psalms 51 David asked God to “purge me with hyssop” - he saw himself as a spiritual leper needing cleansing. 
  • And then there was the cedar stick.... Jesus was crucified on a cedar cross.
  • And what do we find on the cedar.... a scarlet thread! “By His blood we are healed.”
  • The second dove is freed because he was covered by the blood of the dove offered as a sacrifice.... power symbolism of salvation.

  • And then the blood was sprinkled on the man’s right ear, thumb, and foot.

Healing should change what we hear.

Healing should change what we do.

Healing should change where we go.

  • And then the oil was sprinkled.... the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

Next week we’ll examine why Jesus commanded this man to tell know one....