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A disobedient leper
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“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” (Mark 1:41 KJV)
Leprosy... It is a skin disease. It can also cause nerve damage and muscle problems among other things. As per the law that Moses gave Israel back in Numbers 5:1-4, Lepers were to be effectively excluded from town. They would form leper colonies where those who had the disease would form a community to deal with the necessities of life. This is one of many stories told of Jesus healing a leper. The most popular in Luke 17:11-19 of the ten that were healed and the one who returned to give thanks. In contrasting the story in Luke with this story in Mark 1, I am intrigued. This is more than a story of someone who is sick in a long line of people who are sick that asked for healing and received it. Consider a few details...
This leper does not appear to have been in a leper colony. This leper does not shout out “unclean” to warn those passing by that this community is considered unclean. He comes right up within speaking distance of Jesus and kneels down before Him. No acknowledgment of his uncleanliness in the sense that it may put Jesus or His disciples in harms way. Yet he does acknowledge his uncleanliness in the sense that he asks Jesus to make him clean if He is willing. Upon granting the request and receiving the instruction to both comply with the regulations Moses handed down in Leviticus 14:1-20 and to be a witness to the priests of what God was doing in their midst, he flat out disregards the instruction. Not only does he disregard that instruction, but further disregards the other instruction and gets the people in the upcoming villages riled up with evidence of the healing power of Jesus. While we think no harm could actually be done by spreading the word of what Jesus has done, this was contrary to the specific instruction that Jesus gave, and challenges presented themselves that may not have otherwise been there. Such a challenge “...that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:45b)
This raises some obvious questions. Why would Jesus heal someone in blatant disobedience to the law which he already had and to someone whose obedience did not seem to improve after the healing? This question may hit close enough to home to ask other questions. How often am I in obedience when Jesus touches me, picks me up, and dusts me off? Does my obedience improve as a result of that touch? It is a deep question because obviously healing is not strictly dependent on obedience. This is a question that takes consideration as when you run across other passages, it almost appears as though it does. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3 KJV) There is a sense of purity in the request as well as a desired improvement.
Notice the key word that seems to turn the heart of Jesus in the above passage. Compassion. Like pity or sympathy. Something that is deep within you that moves you. I think there is more to say about what compassion reveals, like fruit, about the one giving it than the fitness of the one receiving it. It also says a great deal about us knowing that what we have received from Jesus we did not deserve yet He gave it anyway. This may explain a little of how Christ loved us.
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:2 KJV)
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