Jesus Study 15 – Our sin makes us objects of God’s Mercy

Cosimo Rosselli, The Healing of the Leper (detail), Cappella Sistina, Vatican, 1481-82

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. – Mark 1:40-45

The first thing I need to admit is that I am the leper in this story – sinful, dirty, cast out from the city of God, filled with disease. You see, we are sinners. It is not just that we HAVE sinned, but we ARE sinful. We want to sin, we seek it out, we are drawn to misdeeds, we were born sinful. This leper is forever banished from his home and from personal contact, forced to shout “Unclean! Keep away! Leper!” at the top of his voice whenever he traveled. Lepers often had bells attached to their clothing to signify their disease.

solitude-5Can you imagine how lonely this life was, how judged they would feel? Every ring of the bell reminds them of their status. No physical contact, no one looking you in the eye, no one helping you, talking with you … a life of utter banishment and solitude.

And then one day the leper sees a Man approaching on the road. He is surrounded by a multitude of people who need help and healing. And the crazy thing is that He is able to help and heal them! Demon-possessed, disabled, blind, the hopeless, the outcasts … just like himself! So against all odds and social acceptability, he cries out to Jesus and approaches Him on his knees, begging Jesus to heal him. You can almost see the crowd draw back hear the curses murmured as this “contaminated” leper approaches.

How this leper approaches Jesus should teach you and me. First, he approached with Humility. He didn’t walk up to Jesus and ask for healing; he came to Jesus on his knees. Also, the leper was assured of Jesus’ power. He didn’t say, “If you are able,” he said, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” This leper did not fully believe that Jesus’ mercy and grace could condescend to his level, but he was hopeful. Finally, the leper approached Jesus in submission to Jesus’ will. “If you are willing,” aka “Whatever you are willing to do, Lord.”

Jesus IS willing, and heals this man. Immediately he is clean, just as you and I are clean if we put our faith and trust in Jesus as our only hope of salvation. However, Jesus gives him commands – those who receive Jesus’ favors must also receive Jesus’ commands. Isn’t it odd how this leper doesn’t obey Jesus’ commands but goes out and shouts of Jesus’ glory? Jesus commanded the leper to not tell anyone (how could you not shout to everyone of your healing?) but to go to the synagogue and offer sacrifices for his cleansing. Jesus does this several times throughout the gospels, and I don’t understand why. I guess I don’t need to understand Jesus’ commands, but only obey them. In this, the leper failed.

However, we must see this – It is the leper’s misery that makes him an object of Jesus’ mercy. He is not shunned by Jesus because of his sickness, but is accepted because of it. So, too, are you and I. Our sin does not make my relationship with God impossible – Jesus came to break down the power of sin and death so that I can know and love God despite my sin. It is our misery that makes us objects of God’s mercy.

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