“40 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.”
I’ve always loved this story in Mark. It’s only three short verses, and you could quickly skim over it without even thinking. But when you remember that stories like this are more than just stories, that they are true, and they happened to real people just like you and me, then you start to discover how full three little verses can be.
Here are some thoughts, questions, and notes I had while reading through this during morning worship.
“A man with leprosy…”
Who was this man? He was a leper; he was unclean, he was an outcast. That’s all we know about him. We don’t know his name, how old he was or if he had a family. All we know about him was his label. Nothing else about him mattered.
“…came and knelt before Jesus.”
Because of his disease, according to the law at the time, he should not have even been in that crowd. He was unclean and would have defiled everyone that came into contact with him. Why did he do it? He could have been killed! Was this man that desperate? Or was this more an act of boldness and faith then desperation?
“If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,”
This man knew Jesus could heal him. He knew Jesus could restore him to the life he once had. Nothing in this man doubted Jesus’ power. He doubted Jesus’ willingness. Was this man so used to people avoiding him, so used to people looking at him with disgust, that that’s all he expected from Jesus? When he said, “If you are willing” was he saying, “Am I worth it?”
“Moved with compassion (anger)…”
I like that in some translations of this story the word anger is substituted for compassion. “Jesus was moved with anger.” He wasn’t angry at the leper. He was angry for him. The people around this man might have only seen a leper, Jesus saw more. Jesus always sees more. Jesus saw how much pain this man was in. He understood what this man had lost because of his disease. Jesus felt the sorrow of a man that had lost everything. He felt the pain this man felt when he was cast out. He felt the shame this man felt when he had to beg to survive. Jesus understood how worthless society saw this man. Jesus understood how worthless this man saw himself. Jesus was angry for this man. Jesus was hurting for this man.
“Jesus reached out and touched him…”
I wonder how long it had been since another person had touched this man? Who was the last person he touched before realizing he had leprosy? Was it his wife’s hand? Was it a kiss from his daughter or a hug from his son? I imagine that was one of the greatest things this man longed for. Just to be touched again. Why do I think that? Because of how Jesus responded to him. Jesus could have healed him with a word, a gesture or a command. Instead, Jesus reached out and touched him. Why did Jesus touch him? Jesus knew the law. He knew what would happen if he touched something unclean. He would be defiling himself! But that didn’t matter to Jesus. Jesus’ priority was, and still is making the unclean Holy.
“Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.”
The man was healed. But not just healed, he was free. Can you imagine what he felt? All that he knew, all the pain, sorrow, longing for what once was…gone. All replaced with hope. He was no longer unclean. No longer someone to be avoided. He had a new life. He had been restored. The pain no longer mattered. The disease no longer made the rules.
Now imagine the crowd. Silent. Shocked. All staring at this man. This man with brand new skin like a baby. Maybe this was the first time these people saw him as a man. Before he was the leper that they avoided at all cost, and now he was the man that Jesus healed. That’s not something you forget. Do you think this man spent the rest of his life known as the man that Jesus healed? Did one touch from Christ, change his whole identity? It usually does.
Put in the context of my life, I’m not sure how I would respond at that moment. Standing before Jesus, staring at my new hands. What would I have done? Would I run home to my wife and kids? Would I hold them, hug them, never want to let them go? Would I just stand there? In awe of what just happened to me? Would I laugh? Would I leap? Would I cry? What would I do? How would I respond?
How would you respond?
And while you think about that, think about this: There’s is no need, no disease, no sickness, no failure, no mistake, no sin, no choice from your past, that would keep you from receiving the same answer that this leper received from Christ:
“I AM WILLING.”