Who are the second class citizens in our world that we dismiss or shun? When Jesus healed a lonely leper he took his place in loneliness (Mark 1:40-45). Are we willing to be ostracized in order to heal? It is far easier to label someone than accept them and love them. We label people liberals or fundamentalists, black or white, evil or self-righteous, low-lifers or filthy-rich so that we can emotionally dismiss anything about them. Yet, it is usually not completely true. The same is true of the word leper as it was used in Jesus’ day. It did not always refer to Hansen’s disease, but could also have referred to a skin rash or severe acne. It was a dismissive term that turned some people into second class citizens. Jesus put people above social conventions. What about us?
Jesus’ healing of a leper in Mark 1:40-45 was immediate. Sometimes it is God’s will to intervene in a moment, and other times it may take a long time. While people die and lose their homes due to lack of health insurance, our politicians argue over method. Should the states do something, the federal government or should we trust the drug companies and the medical profession for an answer? While we argue, people are suffering. Sometimes, God makes us wait too. Ancient Israel waited four hundred years for freedom from slavery. All of this is in God’s will. Sometimes our sins prevent God from intervening immediately. Sometimes our sins have not caused the issue yet God (for reasons which we cannot always understand) delays things. If it is his will, he can intervene and we can be immediately cleansed.
When asked if he was willing to make a leper clean (Mark 1:40-45), Jesus was deeply moved with compassion and replied, I am willing. It is the same word used in Matthew 9:13, when Jesus said that God will have mercy and not sacrifice. In a world where the weak become collateral damage, sacrificed and cast aside, Jesus was willing to become personally involved. To whom will we be Jesus? Jesus means savior. It is his will to save from all kinds of sickness and injury. We live in a world where people don’t want to help directly. We would rather the government do it or give money for a charity to do the dirty work. Charities and governments have their place in solving social ills, but what does Jesus’ example say about willingness to be personally involved?
When a leper suggested that Jesus could heal him if he was willing (Mark 1:40-45) Jesus was deeply moved with compassion. The word literally means moved in his bowels, or as we would say today, he felt it in the pit of his stomach. The word is used to describe how Jesus felt when he saw people scattered without caring leadership and in need of healing. It also describes the attitude of the Good Samaritan when he provided for the robbery victim when others had just walked on by, and the heart of the loving father who ran to welcome his prodigal son home. That compassion is the same as God our Father’s towards us, and God or Provider in time of need. It also describes Jesus’ compassion as he looks down on our many needs for healing today.
Although leprosy was known since ancient Egypt, it is uncertain as to whether or not Mark 1:40-45 is referring to that disease, as the original language meant “scaly-rough” and was used to describe a variety of skin complaints. What do we do with those whose lives are scaly-rough? Do we prefer the comforts of home rather than reaching out to the needy? Do we avoid touching the lives of others that may cause us fear? Some skin disease spread through touch and that was perhaps why the Old Testament law mandated quarantine and forbade touching anyone so infected as an unclean thing (Leviticus 7:19-21). Yet Jesus’ taught that the law of love overrode the letter of any other law, and he willingly touched the man. How willing are we to reach out and touch the lives of others?
A leper approached Jesus for healing and pled his case saying, if you are willing you can make me clean (Mark 1:40-45). When asking for God’s help in our needs, it is always good to ask for his will. Sometimes it is not his will that our suffering be relieved or removed in this life. God does occasionally say no. Before his death on the cross, Jesus prayed that God would let his cup of suffering pass, but God did not. Paul asked to be healed of a certain affliction, but God told him that his grace was sufficient. We must always be willing to accept that God knows best, yet we certainly should ask. God invites us to go before his throne boldly and bring all our petitions. Whether God heals or not he knows what is best.