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The Desire for Cleansing
The healing of a leper Mark 1:40-45
I traveled to Uganda a few years ago with Jonas Tracy in order to minister alongside our missionary, Shannon Hurley. It’s a 30-plus hour trip by air, and when we arrived in Uganda we discovered our luggage had traveled to a different African nation. So for a few days, we were without a change of clothes. The day we finally picked up our bags at the airport, we had no chance to unpack, but took our bags to a bus, which we were told would travel three plus hours to central Uganda to get to the pastors’ conference I was speaking at.
As we got on the bus in our “ripe” clothes, we discovered that not only was every seat taken, but every bit of floor space was taken, and every ounce of the storage space was stuffed with supplies. The bus had no air conditioning, and traveled on dirt roads for not three hours, but about seven hours. We stood almost the entire trip, with dust flowing through the windows directly on my body in order to cake into my hair, and stick on my exposed and unexposed skin.
When we arrived, it took a while before we found our room–a jail cell-sized cement box, about 8 x 10 feet, with two wire-mesh beds, dangerous insects, two peewee mattresses and two washing bowls. I was disgustingly dirty, smelly, dead tired and told I needed to be presentable enough to be introduced to five hundred pastors, and possibly preach, in less than two hours. I didn’t know where to go to get cleaned up. There was no running water, I didn’t even know where to go to get water for my wash bowl in order to somehow get the dirt off of me, let alone if it was even possible to get the dirt out of my hair. I had dust and dirt inside and out–in my throat, nose, ears, hair—everywhere. I needed cleansing. I needed to be washed, badly. I was disgustingly filthy.
I would rate that day as one of the most filthy times in my life. I’ve been dirty before–while camping, playing in a mud bowl football game, doing cement with my dad, and more. But this was the first time that I didn’t know what to do in order to get clean. I had nowhere to turn, there was no immediate cleansing process.
Have you ever felt that way? You had nowhere to go to get clean–nothing worked or nothing took care of the dirt? Maybe it wasn’t dirt, but disease. You were sick and contagious and there was nothing you could do to get well on your own. All of us have felt diseased and dirty at some point in our lives. All of us have wanted to become clean at some point.
And every born again Christian here, at some time in your past, was disgusted by the disease of sin and the scum of disobedience. Your eyes were opened to just how sinful you really are, and for a time you tried to wash yourself by living good, or deal with your guilt by going to church, or get it taken care of by praying or being baptized or living nice. But for those who are genuinely saved, all those efforts to get clean from sin on your own were worthless. It was like smearing the dirt around, or trying to wash while sitting in a pool of mud. You came to realize it wasn’t your actions of sin that made you dirty, it was your very nature, your entire being that was sinful. You were sinfully dirty in thought, motive, feelings and actions, and you could not change your nature.
Like Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” A leopard can’t change his spots, and you can’t change your fallen, sinful nature. Your very wants, wishes, and words are corrupt.
Every genuine Christian remembers a time when they begged God to deliver them from their sins. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Was there a time when you were genuinely disgusted, broken and sick over your sinfulness? Then at that low moment, did you turn to Christ alone in repentance, give Him your entire life in faith, asking Him to be your substitute? Did you beg Him to wash you and make you clean? Or did you try to clean up your own act by working hard religiously, living externally nice, and speaking Christianese?
If that is you, you’re just like a pet pig. Make a pig into a pet, wash it in buttermilk, put a bow on it, teach it tricks and it will be a nice pet–but open the front door after a rainy day, and you will not stop it from running outside to wallow in the mud again. You can clean up the outside, but the pig has a nature that still loves mud–that’s you and me. We may appear religious, nice, polite, even Christian-like on the outside, but we have a disease that needs killing on the inside.
Some of you battle with pimples, warts, moles, birthmarks, freckles, and dare I mention it, age spots–on the outside. But none of those externals are as horrid or mortifying as the internal sin in your heart–the evil thoughts you entertain, the selfish motives that drive you and the internal desires which consume you. Jealousy, presumption, greed, lust, anger, suspicion, judgment, hate, gossip, pride, self-centered fantasies and more. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The real need in our lives is not to be cleaned on the outside, but washed on the inside. In order to prove that He can wash us on the inside, our Lord Jesus often cleansed those who were dirty on the outside, and one of those healings wraps up Mark chapter 1 in verses 40 to 45. Turn there and follow along with your outline.
Our Lord is in the midst of a preaching tour throughout the northern Galilee region. He is preaching the Gospel, which is the good news that God Himself is the one who alone can save you from your sins, make you clean before God, and ready for heaven. The Gospel is the action of Jesus Christ to die for our sins on a cross, rise from the dead, and ascend into Heaven. He would pay the wages for our sin, He would take our punishment, He would bear God’s anger for our sin–and that is good news.
In the midst of His preaching this Gospel, to prove He could save, to prove He was the Son of God, to prove He could forgive sins, to prove He can transform us internally, He would cast out demons and do amazing healings. One of those healings is described for us now at the end of chapter 1 with the healing of the leper. As you read these verses with me aloud, notice the repeated mention of cleansing. Mark 1:40 to 45, “And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can [able] make me clean.’ 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He 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, as a testimony to them.’ 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer [able] publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”
This man wants to be cleansed. He wants deliverance from the most dreaded disease of His day–leprosy. Was it that bad? Yes.
#1 Be horrified by leprosy (and be appalled by sin)
Mark begins verse 40 with, “And a leper came to Jesus.” This is shocking–the Greek middle voice in the verb means literally, “he himself came.” A leper himself approaches Christ on his own. He chooses to come near–this is unheard of. Lepers never approached people–lepers didn’t come near to non-lepers. Why is this? Leprosy was the most feared disease of the ancient world.
One book called Unclean! Unclean! describes some of the horrors of leprosy. “Leprosy generally begins with pain in certain areas of the body. Numbness follows. Soon the skin in . . . spots loses its original color. The skin becomes . . . thick, glossy, and scaly. . . . As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty sores . . . due to poor blood supply. The skin around the eyes and ears begins to bunch, with deep furrows between the swellings. Then fingers and toes are worn off. Eyebrows and eyelashes are rubbed off. By this time one can see . . . this pitiable person is a leper. If you touch their skin, it will feel like leather. And you can even smell leprosy, for the leper emits the very unpleasant odor of rotting flesh. Because . . . the disease . . . frequently attacks the larynx, the leper’s voice becomes grating. His throat becomes hoarse, so now you see, touch, smell and even hear the effects of leprosy.”
Dr. Paul Brand, an expert on the treatment of leprosy, which is called Hansen’s Disease or HD, tells us, “Hansen’s disease (HD) is cruel, but not the way other diseases are. It primarily acts as an anesthetic, numbing the pain cells in the hands, feet, nose, ears, and eyes.” You might think, “that’s not too bad.” Most diseases are feared because of the pain they cause—so what makes a painless disease so horrible?
Hansen’s disease’s numbing quality is precisely the reason the body destroys itself and the tissue decays. For thousands of years, people thought HD caused the ulcers on hands, feet and face, which eventually led to rotting flesh and loss of limbs. Through Dr. Brand’s research, it has been established that in 99 percent of the cases, HD only numbs the extremities. The destruction that follows is solely because the warning system of pain is gone.
How does this decay happen? In leper colonies in Africa and Asia, a person with HD has been known to reach directly into a charcoal fire to retrieve a dropped potato. Nothing in his body told him not to. Patients at Brand’s hospital in India would work all day gripping a shovel with a protruding nail, or extinguish a burning wick with their bare hands, or walk on splintered glass. Watching them, Brand began formulating his theory that HD was chiefly anesthetic, and only indirectly, a destroyer.
On one occasion, he tried to open the door of a little storeroom, but a rusty padlock would not yield. A patient–an undersized, malnourished ten-year-old, approached him smiling. “Let me try, sahib, doctor,” he offered and reached for the key. With a quick jerk of his hand he turned the key in the lock. Brand was dumbfounded. How could this weak youngster out-exert him? His eyes caught a telltale clue. There was a drop of blood on the floor. Upon examining the boy’s fingers, Brand discovered the act of turning the key had gashed a finger open to the bone–skin, fat, and joint were all exposed. Yet the boy was completely unaware of it. To him, the sensation of cutting his finger to the bone was no different than throwing a stone or holding a spoon. Normal routines of life will grind away at the HD patient’s hands and feet, but because of the disease, no warning system of pain alerts him.
If an ankle turned, tearing a tendon and muscle, he would merely adjust and walk crooked. If a rat chewed off a finger in the night, he would not discover it missing until the following morning. Patients would go blind from using a hot washcloth on their face in the morning, because they had no idea the heat was searing their eyes. Leprosy is a horrible disease.
In order to protect His chosen people, God gave specific regulations to Moses regarding leprosy in Leviticus 13 and 14. A person suspected of having the disease was taken to a priest for examination. If he showed signs of having more than a superficial skin problem, he was isolated for seven days. If the symptoms became worse, the person was isolated for seven more days. If the rash didn’t spread further, the person was pronounced clean. If, however, the rash had become worse, he was pronounced unclean. Once it became obvious the person had leprosy, his clothes were to be torn/burned, his head uncovered, his mouth covered (to prevent spread of the disease), and he was to cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went, to warn others to stay clear of him.
Leviticus 13:45 to 46 says, “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
Lepers were legally ostracized and forbidden to live in any community with their fellow Jews, according to Numbers 5:2, “Command the sons of Israel that they send away from the camp every leper.” The Talmud forbade a Jew from coming closer than six feet to a leper, and if the wind was blowing, the limit was one hundred feet. Recent medical studies confirm that serious leprosy can be passed on to others when it is inhaled through the air–a good reason for a leper to cover his mouth, as Leviticus required. And people have also contracted the disease from touching an object handled by a leper–again showing the value of God’s standard, which required the burning of contaminated clothes.
Almost all commentators and preachers view leprosy as a graphic illustration of sin. Like leprosy, sin infects the whole person–it’s ugly, loathsome, corrupting, contaminating, alienating, and incurable by man. Lepers were, and are, reminders of just how sinful we are, and how badly we need to be cleansed inside and out. That is why the Bible compares your sin to uncleanness in Isaiah 64:6a, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”
And beyond the physical deterioration of leprosy, can you imagine how leprosy would affect every other aspect of your life? If you were a leper, and anyone wandered into your vicinity, you had to cover your mouth and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn that person away. You could never talk to your wife or husband up close, never hold their hand, never give them a kiss, never touch your children, never live with your family, never hang out with friends, never go to a religious festival or worship at a synagogue. The legalistic rabbinic laws added, you couldn’t even greet a leper. You could not work, since no one would want the goods or services of a leper. You could not travel where you wanted, or go as you pleased. You could only stay with other lepers in a colony of isolation and death.
Back to Mark 1–that is why verse 40 is so startling. “And a leper came to Jesus!” “Came” is middle voice–he himself, on his own, approached Christ. He must have heard Christ preach, while remaining in the distance. It’s probable he listened to Christ teach, standing far outside the synagogues. From a long way off, he must have seen Christ heal others. Possibly someone who loved him, told him what Christ taught and how Christ healed, and it stirred up hope in him–enough hope to risk violating law, custom, social etiquette and overwhelming fear. The crowd must have cringed as he approached—but not Christ. The Great Physician always looks at the heart—so look at what is going on inside this diseased man.
#2 Imitate the leper’s heart
Read all of verse 40, “And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” Can you feel his desire, sense his heart, and know his pain here? You should, because there are five different ways you should act like this leper. Let me expose his pattern for you.
First The leper came in confidence
He didn’t fear reprisal, since as he approached Christ, he could have been stoned or reprimanded. He somehow knew Jesus was neither afraid of him nor ashamed to associate with him. He didn’t shout to Jesus from a distance as he was supposed to, but approached Him directly without hesitation–he showed a lot of courage.
Second The leper came in need
The Greek word “beseeching” is calling out for help when you are drowning–it is the cry of desperation, making an urgent request. The leper isn’t begging for a coin, or asking for a small favor, or wondering who won yesterday’s chariot race–this leper is begging Christ to save his life.
Third The leper came in reverence
As he cries out, he also is falling on his knees. In the parallel account of this event in Matthew 8:2, it tells us when he reached Jesus “he bowed down to Him,” prostrated oneself. And prostrate is often translated “worship”. He’s worshipping here.
And in Matthew 8:2, he called Jesus, “Lord”. From the reverential nature of his request, it seems the leper is addressing Jesus as Lord, not in the sense of saying, “Sir,” but “Sire”. Lord here is an acknowledgement of His deity. Falling on your knees, and prostrating yourself as if worshipping, calling Jesus Lord, is expressing adoring reverence.
Fourth The leper came in humility
Verse 40 tells us the leper is not silent, but says more than once, “If you are willing.” Does that blow you away? He asks to be healed, only if it’s the Lord’s will. He didn’t claim to be worthy or deserving, but left himself in the Lord’s hands to do as He decided. The implication seems to be that the leper was willing to remain leprous, if that were the Lord’s will. Obviously he wanted to be healed, but didn’t presume it or demand it. He simply acknowledged Jesus’s ability to heal him.
Wow, does that feel different to you than a lot of teaching going on today, where believers name it and claim it–demand and misuse the Scripture by saying God must do this because we ask it? God must do this because we three agree? God must do what I want.
This leper claimed no rights, and his first concern was not his own welfare at all, but the Lord’s will and glory. This leper comes pleading in humble adoration, recognizing the authority of Christ, and . . .
Fifth The leper came in faith
The leper adds, “If You are willing, You can make me clean,” literally, You have the power, You have the ability, You have the resources to make me clean. The leper had the faith the Lord could do it if He wanted to. The priest could only declare a man clean, but Jesus had the power to make a man clean. That is faith at its highest, the absolute conviction that God is able, coupled with a humble submission to His sovereignty in the exercise of His power. The leper knew Christ was not obligated to help him, but he also know that He was perfectly capable of healing him. Just like many of your prayers, He knew Christ could heal him, but did not know whether Christ would heal him.
He had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Aded-nego. King Nebuchadnezzar is threatening to throw them in a furnace used to melt gold, and they say to the king in Daniel 3:17 to 18, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Christian, that’s the heart to imitate, whatever you’re facing today–a heart that comes to Christ expressing your need, crying out to Him with the burdens of your heart. But coming with confidence because you know Christ is compassionate, and coming with reverence, knowing He knows what He is doing, being all wise, and coming with humility, knowing Christ is in total control, and coming in faith believing Christ can do what you request, if He chooses to.
So look at what Christ does, and . . .
#3 Be softened by Christ’s compassion, verses 41 to 42
I am certain some were moved with criticism–of all the nerve! A man like that coming to Christ–he should be ashamed of himself. He should be stoned for violating the law–he is a menace. Thankfully, that is not how our Lord reacted, verses 41 and 42, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” Incredible!
How do you respond when you come face-to-face with a dirty, smelly, homeless person asking for help? Back in Arizona, we regularly had some poor folks ring the doorbell to ask us if they could trim our palm trees. They’d ring the bell, then step back about twenty feet, because they looked scary, with their missing teeth, dirty clothes and smelly aroma.
Jesus was not frightened, or offended, or distant–look at verse 41. Mark is the only gospel describing Jesus’s emotional reaction–“moved with compassion.” His reaction was literally felt in His stomach—entrails, His guts. Jesus does more than sympathize or pity, He feels his pain. Moved with compassion is not a mere intellectual decision to do the right thing, but a gut-wrenching desire to help the leper. When your child is seriously ill or injured, many parents desperately wish to take their place, and remove the ailment. That is just a small taste of the Lord’s compassion here.
Christ stands in front of this pitiful mass of carnage–a smelly, disgusting, contagious, diseased man. Yet what’s Jesus do? (verse 41) “He stretched out His hand and touched him.” Can you hear the gasp from the watching crowd? He touched him! Jewish law (in Leviticus 5:3) forbade touching a leper. A touch would expose Jesus to the accusation of being ceremonially defiled. A touch would expose Christ to the disease of leprosy. A touch could cause all those following Christ and listening to Christ to avoid Christ–but Christ touched him.
Rather than become exposed, our Lord expunged the leprosy. Jesus touched the untouchable, and Jesus cured the incurable. This is authentic shock and awe–shocking to the crowd, and awesome in its meaning. The touch shows Christ’s 1) compassion, and 2) capability. Can you feel the compassion of Christ? Imagine the leper–isolated from his family forever, ostracized from the community forever. He could not embrace his wife, hug his kids, shake hands with a friend, pat a stranger on the back–no touching ever. Nothing! But now Jesus touched him. Jesus could have merely spoken a word, and he would have been healed–right?
So, why did he touch Him? Because Jesus wanted to–He delighted to. Christ was moved physically, lovingly, deeply to respond. As though Jesus said, “I understand; I love you!” Christ was fully aware of the social ostracism the leper had experienced–now out of compassion, He touched the untouchable. Unlike the rabbis, Jesus did not hesitate to touch a leper for fear of defilement, reminding you and I that divine holiness is not defiled by touching human uncleanness. Friends, the righteousness that keeps you isolated from others because of their sin, is self-righteousness. The righteousness that drives you to reach out to others who are under sin or in sin, is Christ’s righteousness.
As He touches this leper, Jesus shows 1) compassion, and 2) total capability. What does Jesus do? Verse 41 to 42, “I am willing, be cleansed, and immediately the leprosy left him.” The Greek, “I am willing,” is Jesus telling the leper a standing fact–Christ is continually desirous to cure Him. Jesus commanded “be cleansed”—literally, be purified, and it was so. “Immediately” means instantly the leprosy left–it’s gone. No convalescence, no treatment, no therapy, no ointments—cured. Christ speaks a word, and whatever He wills is accomplished.
Just for a moment, imagine that the leper was you. Your feet were toeless, ulcerated stubs—now they are suddenly whole, bursting through his shrunken sandals. The knobs on your hands grew fingers before your very eyes. Back came your hair, your eyebrows and your eyelashes. Under your hair are ears, and now before you, a nose. Tumors drop off, and your skin becomes instantly supple and soft. Can you hear a thundering cheer from the multitude? Can you hear yourself crying, not “Unclean! Unclean!”, but, “I’m clean! I’m clean!” Can you feel that moment?
Here is an emaciated piece of human flesh, giant tumor-like warts all over his body, yet with one command all of them are gone, and he is completely cured. No surgeon, no sutures, no scalpels, no scrubs, no scans, no stretchers–only one simple, direct command of Christ, and the scourge of all ancient diseases simply disappears in a flash. How startling was it to see a deformed, shriveled, scaly, sore-covered, derelict instantly stand upright, with perfect arms and legs, perfect hands and feet, with his face smooth and unscarred, his hair restored, his voice normal, and his eyes bright? It is no exaggeration to say, he was as smooth as a baby.
Like Namaan in 2 Kings 5:14, “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” His skin is now as perfect as a little child–as smooth as a baby. Friends, could any human doctor do this? No. Can any modern day healer do this? No way, but . . .
#4 Understand Christ’s wise warnings, verses 43 to 44
The tone suddenly changes–Christ moves from compassion to confrontation, from care to correction. The language in verses 43 to 44 turns stern, and borders on harsh. Verse 43, “And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away.” Christ knows the man’s heart, just as He knows your heart today. Christ can see on the man’s face what He is about to do. The leper wants to tell everyone what Christ has done. From a grateful heart, the leper wants everyone to know just who Jesus is, and what Jesus can do.
But the leper wants to do it His way, not God’s way. So verse 43, “Christ sternly warns him.” The Greek word for “sternly warn” tells us Christ is literally indignant and displeased. The root word is the snorting of an impatient horse, or the idea of making a noise in anger. And Christ immediately sends him away, which literally means “Immediately throws him out”–thrust him out, get out.
What happened? Christ feels compassion, heals a leper then becomes indignant, displeased and throws the leper out–why? Verse 44, “And He said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone.’” Jesus says, “Say nothing.” Don’t say a word for now, at first, until you obey this command–why? Christ does not want to be known for being a healer of leprosy, but a Savior for your sinfulness. Not a miracle worker, but a salvation provider. Not an external tidier, but internal transformer. Not a fix for your crusty skin, but to remove your sinful curse. Not a rid of problem now, but save you from eternal hell forever.
Can you imagine the Gospel tract this cleansed leper could have marketed? He could have done a “before and after” shot. Can you see it? He could have marketed a great commercial. This is far better than Jerod losing weight by eating Subway.
But there was something the healed leper needed to do at once. The first requirement of faith is obedience, so as soon as the leper was cleansed, the Lord gave him three commands in verse 44, “But go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded.” The leper needed to be declared ceremonially clean and reinstated into his society. Leviticus 14 tells us that required an 8-day process of examination, bathing, sacrifices and offerings before a priest.
Although Jesus devastated the hypocritical, superficial, and unbiblical standards of the scribes and Pharisees, He did not want the people to think He was violating the requirements of God’s law in Leviticus 13 and 14, which He had come to fulfill, not destroy. Why was this important? If the leper obeyed, and in the process the leper described to the priests how Jesus had healed him, it would be a powerful testimony to the spiritual leaders of Israel that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Savior and the Son of God.
Look at the end of verse 44, “as a testimony to them.” This testimony would either be convincing to the priests so they would acknowledge the claims of Christ, or if they rejected Christ, it would be self-indicting, since they had personally examined the miraculously healed leper. Why the command to be silent then? Most likely Jesus told the man to not speak to anyone else prior to presenting himself to the priest. Because the religious leaders were already beginning to oppose Jesus, if word had reached Jerusalem ahead of the man that his healing was done by Jesus, the priests would, no doubt, have been reluctant to verify the cleansing. So it was also for the leper’s benefit to be quiet about it until he was declared clean.
Furthermore, it would buy time for Jesus, since a miracle of this magnitude would surely swell the already large crowds that followed Him–crowds so huge they had already forced Christ off the shore of the Sea of Galilee and into Peter’s boat. But selfishly overjoyed at his remarkable, miraculous healing, the leper ignored Jesus’s command and instead did what he wanted.
#5 Embrace the consequences of disobedience
Verse 45, “But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around.” The leper was disobedient, forfeiting the opportunity to glorify Christ with a powerful testimony to the religious leaders, and losing his own chance to be officially declared clean, the leper goes public. He proclaims freely, meaning he literally preached to many. To spread the news around meant he literally published the healing message like a newsboy—“Extra! Extra! Hear all about it. Jesus even heals a leper!” Like covering the entire face of the bread with peanut butter, the leper completely spreads this news everywhere. As a result, the news about Christ was spreading even further, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
What were the consequences? So vast were the crowds, verse 45, “that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.” The disobedience of the cleansed leper put limitations on Jesus’s ministry, and forced Him into the countryside, away from the populated towns. Huge crowds still found Christ in the wilderness, coming to Him from every region. But you can be certain, many of the most disabled in the towns were not able to hear His words or experience His healing touch.
1 Know the difference between religion and regeneration
The Pharisees, who were no doubt in the crowd that day, were always beautifully attired, but they were inwardly corrupt, proud and unbelieving. By contrast, the leper appeared loathsome and repulsive on the outside, but inwardly was reverent and believing. Religion requires external works–getting baptized, giving a twenty now and then, dressing Christianly, going to church occasionally. Regeneration requires an act of God to wash you and change you from the inside out, giving you a new heart that wants to obey, wants to worship and is willing to do anything for Christ. Are you religious or regenerated?
2 Genuine Christians hate their sin
You don’t play with sin, make excuses for sin, rationalize your sin, blame others for your sin, justify your sin because others sin—you hate sin. A Christian says, “Oh wretched man that I am.” A Christian mourns their sin. Right now, what sin is the Holy Spirit bringing to mind that you need to confess, repent of, and possibly get help with. Out of dependent obedience, confess and repent right now.
3 Pursue the hurting and don’t avoid the sinful
Don’t avoid the poor, homeless, widow or orphan. Ask the Lord to grow you in compassion, and to find opportunities to show the Gospel as you share the Gospel. And unless someone is being defiant, never avoid the sinful–go after them like Galatians 6, bear them up, hold them up, help those who are struggling in their battle with sin. Don’t talk, go to them.
4 The only cleansing now and forever, is found in Christ
Bow your heads with me. Back to Uganda, eventually I was guided through the process of what to do to get clean. And today, you need to know how to be spiritually clean before God. Jesus said in Mark 2, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” The Lord’s greatest purpose was to cleanse sin, not sickness. Even His physical cleansings became illustrations of the spiritual cleansing He offered. Just as leprosy destroys physical health and makes a person an outcast with other people, so sin destroys spiritual health and makes a person an outcast with God.
But just as Christ can cure leprosy, He can also cure sin. And just as His cleansing from leprosy restored men to each other, His cleansing from sin restores you to God. There is no good news of the Gospel without the bad news of sin. The true Gospel must confront people with the terribleness and danger of their sin. Coming to Christ is facing and confessing one’s sin, and bringing it to the Lord for cleansing. True conversion takes place when, like the leper, desperate people come to Christ humbly confessing their need and reverently seeking His restoration.
The truly repentant person, like this leper, comes with no pride, no self-will, no rights, and no claim to worthiness. He sees himself as a repulsive sinner who has absolutely no claim to salvation, apart from the abundant grace of God. He comes believing that God can and will save him, only as he places his trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross and resurrection to new life.
Your sin is infinitely worse than the disease of leprosy. Sin makes you an outcast, but with one touch, Christ can forever wipe away all your sin. You might think, “I don’t know if Jesus can change me!” I assure you today, this day, He most certainly will. He is willing–will you not cry out to Him? Will you not say, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Do it now. Call on Christ. Romans 10:13, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Let’s pray.