These are my notes from a sermon series I did though the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for grammatical or spelling errors. I present it to you as-is.
Throughout the Bible it is clear that Jesus’ miracles served more than one purpose. They were definitely indications of His power. They also pointed to the fact that He was God. They also fulfilled prophecy about the coming Messiah. They also served as signs or illustrations beyond the physical.
- For example, throughout the gospel of John, John describes Jesus’ miracles as “signs.” John tells us in John 6:2, “A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick” (NLT). As signs, they had spiritual sign
- One day Jesus took a little boy’s sack lunch. It had bread and fish in it. He does a miracle and feeds thousands with it. Then a few verses later Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” That miracle was a sign to who He was.
- On another occasion Jesus stood in the front of a tomb that contained the body of his friend Lazarus. He had been dead for days. Jesus brought him back to life and called him out of the grave. That miracle illustrated that Jesus was “the resurrection and the life.”
- When Jesus was asked by John the Baptist’s disciples, “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus told them in Matthew 11:4, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (vs.4-5, NLT). The leper we are about to look at today was one of those lepers.
Today, we encounter Jesus doing another miracle that teaches us something beyond the physical miracle. It will serve as an illustration of who we are without Christ and what Jesus can do for sinners who come to Him just as they are. It will remind us of where we use to be, while highlighting the greatness of Jesus.
Let’s take a look at this. Mark 1:40-45, A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. (NLT)
There are two people we need to take a look at. We need to take a look at the leper and we need to take a look at the Lord. We are going to divide this lesson into two parts. Today we are going to focus on the leper and next week, we will focus on Jesus.
What we learn from the leper
As you will see, the leper served as a walking illustration of the human condition. From his encounter with Jesus we learn a lot about ourselves and about Jesus. Let’s spend a few moments exploring this physical object lesson and what it teaches us about our spiritual condition. As we learn about the leper, we learn about ourselves. What do we learn?
We come to Jesus just as we are
Just like this leper, we all come to Jesus just as we are. Mark tells us that “a man with leprosy” came to Jesus. We do not know anything about this man except that he was a leper. However, when Luke tells about this event he says that the man had “an advanced case of leprosy” (Luke 5:12, NLT). Some translations say that he was covered in leprosy or full of leprosy. His condition would have been obvious to anyone. He was in the advanced stage of leprosy.
To get the full impact of what is about to happen between this man and Jesus you need to understand some things about leprosy. We are about to go to the school of leprosy, but I want you to stay with me on this because when we are done you will understand why leprosy is a perfect object lesson for the sinful condition of every single person. Let’s get started.
Leprosy was destructive. It was harmful. It caused injuries. It would literally destroy the body. On the basis of what we know about leprosy, let me describe what happened to this man.
- It started with him beginning to feel a little tired. For no reason he would have a feeling of fatigue.
- Then his joints would begin to get sore.
- One day he would notice little white spots all over his skin. Later those white spots would begin to harden into knots or bumps. They would turn from white to pink to brown, and then become scaly. Soon these bumps would spread all over his body.
- The appearance of his face would change until he began to resemble a deformed lion.
- Then these bumps would open up all over his body, producing a foul odor.
- These bumps would also cover his vocal chords so that when he breathed there would be a wheezing sound. When he talked his voice would be raspy. The leper’s breath would also begin to stink.
- He would lose most of his hair. His eyebrows would fall out. What hair he had would turn white.
- The bones and interior organs would begin to deteriorate, which would make him vulnerable to other diseases. Inch by inch this man’s body would begin to rot. As he walked he would leave disgusting spots where the pus oozed out of his feet.
- His fingers and toes would begin to rot and fall off. When someone is full of leprosy you might see them with no nose, a large whole in their cheek where their skin had rotted away or no leg or arm because it rotted off.
- Leprosy attacks the nervous system in such a way that a person loses all sensation of pain. A man in the advanced stages of leprosy might accidentally put his hand in the fire and feel no pain while burning himself severely. He would step on a thorn in the path and feel nothing as the thorn ran through his foot.
A leper was literally the walking dead. If not cured, the leper would live for about 9 years before he simply rotted to death. He was considered a walking corpse. Because of this, some families would have a funeral when the person was diagnosed with leprosy before the leper would go off to the leper colony.
Leprosy resulted in isolation. Not only would a person suffer unbelievable horror physically, but there was also major social rejection.
- According to Leviticus 13, when it was determined that a person had leprosy, he would be banished from the village or town. He was no longer allowed to be near other people. He had to leave family, friends, and tear his garments so people would recognize he was a leper from a distance.
- Over his upper lip he had to wear a cloth so he wouldn’t spread contamination. Every time he saw people coming, the leper was required to cry, “Unclean.” It would warn them he was a leper and to not approach him and to keep away.
- Some people would pick up stones to throw at the leper in order to get him out of the way or further away. He was required to “stand at a distance” (Luke 17:12) or about fifty paces away from people. If there was a strong wind it was about 150 paces.
- It was illegal to even greet a leper on the street.
Declared unfit, the leper was isolated as an untouchable and left alone to die, unless he was able to find a leper colony.
Leprosy was incurable. The law in Leviticus 13 could diagnose and deal with lepers but could not remove leprosy from lepers. This is a picture of the law: righteous and perfect in defining sin but unable to remove sin from the sinner. In the OT leprosy was generally regarded as a divine punishment, the cure of which could only come by the hand of God (Num. 12:10; 2 Kings 5:1-2).
The disease robbed them of their health, and the sentence imposed on them as a consequence robbed them of their name, occupation, habits, family, fellowship, and worshipping community.
As a sign of perpetual mourning, they were to leave their heads uncovered and tear their clothing (Lev. 13:45-46).
Leprosy is an illustration of sin. There are many parallels between leprosy and sin, but let me give just a few.
- Like leprosy, sin begins small. With leprosy it starts off with fatigue, tiredness, and little white dots. Isn’t that how sin is? It starts off seemingly small in your life. According to James it begins with a little thing called desire.
- Like leprosy, sin causes numbness. As leprosy advances you become physically numb to pain. You will burn but you can’t feel the fire. You break your arm but you don’t feel it. You can’t feel the damage done to your body. Sin is exactly the same way. As your sin advances you don’t sense the damage you are doing to yourself, to your mind, your emotions, or your relationships. You become insensitive to truth, God, and others. We become numb to the things of God.
- Like leprosy, sin causes separation. If you are diagnosed with leprosy then you are removed from family and friends. Sin does the same thing. How often has sin separated a husband and wife? Parent and child? Friends? Without a doubt sin causes us all to be separated from God before we are saved and cleansed of sin (Isaiah 59:2).
- Like leprosy, sin cannot be removed by law or goodness. You can’t be good enough to remove sin. You can’t smear the cold cream of religion on sin and hope it goes away. Just by trying to keep the ten commandments and be good and go to church does not get rid of sin. If you are lost and in your sin, the only hope of a cure for is miracle… that miracle comes in the shape of Jesus.
- Like leprosy, sin causes death. If the leper is not healed and cleansed he will die a leper. The Bible says the wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23).
- Like leprosy, sin leaves a person feeling worthless and hopeless. He is away from those he loves. He no longer can do what he enjoys. His career is over. His plans for the future are over. If sin goes far enough, your life can take on a useless appearance and worthless feel.
The bottom line is the leper represents all of us. Physically, he reminds us of how we are spiritually before God. This leper came to Jesus just as he is. Leprosy, sores, smell, disappointments, fear, desperation and all. You and I must do the same, we come to Jesus just as we are… sin and all. The leper did not try to hide his leprosy from Jesus, he took his leprosy to Jesus. Don’t try to hide your sin from Jesus, take your sin to Jesus.
QUESTION: The leper is a very good illustration of the total depravity of man. The phrase “total depravity” of man may be new to you so I’ve asked Chris to address this for us.
We come to Jesus with desperation
We come to Jesus just as we are. Number two, we come to Jesus with desperation. Don’t read this to quickly. Mark says that a man with leprosy came…. This is not a casual or normal approaching of Jesus. In desperation he through caution to the wind and did that which the law did not allow. He approached Jesus. In all probability, there was a crowd around Jesus. You can almost see the crowd parting in shock and disbelief at the approach of this outcast.
Desperate times require desperate measures, so the leper came.
It took great courage and desperation for this man to approach the Savior that day. He risked stoning, humiliation and death to get to the Lord.
When a person understands how sinful they are and they are tired of the sin in their lives and they are desperate for change and hope and forgiveness and healing they will approach Jesus in an attitude of desperation. It’s that prayer of desperation that says, “Jesus, I need you. I need forgiveness. I need help.”
We come to Jesus with humility
But notice carefully how the leper also approached Jesus. He came to Jesus in humility. Mark tells us that A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus. Luke tells us that this man put “his face to the ground” (Luke 5:12, NLT). This is an act of humility. He is bowing before Jesus. If this man ever had any arrogance or pride, it was all gone.
But let me say that at some point in the future the Bible makes very clear in Philippians 2:10, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vs. 10-11, NLT). Let me encourage you to bow before Him now, rather than later.
We come to Jesus with respect
We learn from the leper that we can come to Jesus just as we are, we come to Jesus with humility, but we should also come to Jesus with respect. Luke tells us that this man addressed Jesus as “Lord” (Luke 5:12) and then said, “If you are willing….” That short phrase “if you are willing” highlights two things.
- First, “if you are willing” says “You are in charge.” It recognizes the sovereignty of Jesus. Somehow the leper knew that Jesus didn’t have to heal him. It would be the Lord’s decision on what He did or didn’t do. The leper was acknowledging who was really in charge. There was no demand from this man, only a desperate and humble request.
- Second, “if you are willing” says “I believe you can do it.” It recognizes the faith of the leper. The leper’s statement, “If you are willing” acknowledges that Jesus can do what the leper is asking. The leper had faith and confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal him. The leper had already heard about Jesus and his healing In the leper’s mind there was no doubt what Jesus could do? The question in the leper’s mind was, “Would Jesus heal him?”
When we come to Jesus for anything we approach Him with respect, not demands. In Romans 9:15 we are told, “God said to Moses, ‘I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.’ So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it” (vs. 15-16, NLT). Because of this we should always approach Jesus with humility and respect.
We come to Jesus with confidence
We learn from the leper that we have to come to Jesus just as we are, we come to Jesus with humility, we come to Jesus with respect, but we also come to Jesus with confidence. I’ve already mentioned this, but I want to emphasize this for a moment. The leper’s statement, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Two things I want you to see here.
- The leper believed Jesus could do it. He came to Jesus with faith, confidence, and sureness of what Jesus could do. In the mind of the leper, there was only one question, “Would Jesus do it?” Do you believe that Jesus can cleanse you of your sin? Do you believe that Jesus is bigger and more powerful than anything you bring to Him? The leper believed it and so can you!
- The leper did not blame God for his condition. There was no bitterness toward God. There may be have been at one time, but that anger and bitterness was all gone. There was no sense of entitlement coming from this leper.
When we look at the leper we see ourselves in him. They way he approached Jesus is the way we are to approach Jesus.
- Like the leper, he came just as he was – we come to Jesus just as we are.
- Like the leper, he approached Jesus with humility – we come to Jesus with a humble heart.
- Like the leper, he approached Jesus with respect – we come to Jesus knowing He is sovereign and Lord.
- Like the leper, he approached Jesus with confidence – we come to Jesus with confidence knowing that He can do whatever He wants with us and has the power to cleanse us, forgive us, and heal us.
- Like the leper, he approached Jesus with faith – we come to Jesus confidence knowing He loves us and is moved with compassion toward us because of our sin.
As you are listening to this you may find yourself feeling like the leper.