Mark: S1 E6 - Turning Outsiders Into Insiders
Resource: Lead Pastor Justin Dosch
Topic: Jesus became an outsider, so we could become insiders.
So let me ask you, have you ever felt like an outsider? The truth is, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you don’t belong. One of the absolute worst times in my life was middle school. And the primary reason was that I simply didn’t feel like I belonged. I was on the basketball team with some guys who just made my life miserable. I was scrawny and still looked like I should be buying my clothes at OshKosh B’gosh, and they looked like they were ready for “No Shave November!” Can anyone else relate?
As an adult, sometimes it doesn’t get much better. Especially when it comes to the way many people feel in regards to the Kingdom of God and the church of Jesus Christ. For many, the church is for perfect people who have it all together. And no matter what they do they’ll always be on the outside looking in. And that brings me to what I want to look at today as we continue our study in the Gospel of Mark; Jesus went to great lengths to make sure everyone has a chance to be an insider. And he does it in the most extraordinary way.
When we left off last week in Mark 1:39, Jesus had just spent a few days healing and teaching and he decided it’s time to head out from Capernaum (the “home base” for his ministry) to preach the good news to anyone who would listen. As he’s traveling from town to town in the region of Galilee Mark tells us of an extraordinary moment that gives incredible insight into the character of Jesus. And it’s one of the most moving in the life of Christ. Let’s dive in;
40 Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 Then he sternly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But he was out in deserted places, and they came to him from everywhere. Mark 1:40-45
Mark’s account of this moment begins simply by stating; “a man with leprosy.” The word leprosy comes from the Greek word “lepros,” meaning “scale.” It was appropriately named this for the scaly appearance of the skin that would occur as the disease ravaged a person's body.
Now what many people don’t know is that leprosy is a term used for all kinds of skin diseases and comes in many forms. But the one talked about here in the Bible is what we know today as Hansen’s disease, and it is absolutely awful. First, it attacks the central nervous system and renders a person unable to feel pain. Now that might actually sound kind of awesome at first blush. But it was terrifying. Think about it this way. If a person broke a bone in their ankle and they couldn’t feel it they could end up walking on it until it is so bad that it needs to be amputated. If someone got a cut they could bleed out before they realized they were evening bleeding. You could pick up a hot coal and be burned and the only way they’d know is by the smell of their burning flesh. The bottom line, it was truly horrific. Not only that but the disease causes nasty sores all over the body, particularly on the face. And those sores produced a putrid smell that made them pretty much repulsive to anyone around them. To top it all off there was no cure for leprosy in those days. And because there was no cure, there truly was no hope.
Now in those days if you noticed something wrong with your skin (a “skin defilement” they called it) you were immediately required to go and see a priest. The priest would then determine if it was thought to be leprous. If it was, the person with the skin issue was forced to quarantine for seven days. After those seven days if the symptoms worsened they would complete an additional seven days of quarantine. And finally, after 14 days you were condemned as unclean, cast out from society, forbidden from entering the temple, forced to live in a leper colony and cut off from everyone you loved. Not only that but you had to cover the lower portion of your mouth so people could easily identify you and were not allowed to come within 50 paces of another human being. If that wasn’t enough to isolate a person and make them feel like a complete pariah, they were also mandated to walk around yelling “unclean, unclean,” whenever they saw another person. The long and short of it is this. Leprosy wasn’t just a disease that destroyed the body. It devastated a person's emotional and spiritual health as well. And in many ways that was the worst consequence of all. Imagine, never being able to hug your wife and children ever again. In fact, never being about to receive a hug ever again or any human contact as long as you lived. It was truly devastating, and as a result it was one of the most feared diseases in the ancient world. With that in mind let’s unpack this;
Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Mark 1:40
I want you to just imagine the scene with me for a moment. Jesus and his disciples are moving from town to town, and along the way they’ve gathered a crowd. They’re following along just waiting for Jesus to do or say something stunning. When suddenly off in the distance a man wearing tattered clothing, with disheveled hair and a limp begins to approach. As he gets closer and closer it becomes obvious this man has leprosy, and the murmuring starts. Desperate, lonely and hurting the man comes right up to Jesus, way closer than he is allowed to come, and you can just hear the crowd gasp and begin to scream at the man, “unclean, unclean!” The disciples may have even grabbed Jesus and tried to pull him back. But Jesus doesn’t flinch, he certainly does not pull back, instead he moves TOWARD the man.
Now I want us to see a few things about this man before we go any further. First, his boldness. He knows it’s against the law to go near another person let alone someone as revered as a rabbi like Jesus. But there’s something different about Jesus. Something tells him it’s OK. And so in spite of what everyone else thought he boldly went to Jesus. Second, his humility. Notice what the man did the second he found himself in front of Jesus? He dropped to his knees. You see, in those days when someone was sick with leprosy it was widely believed that the reason they were sick was because they had some sin in their life that caused it. While sin does often have consequences, not all diseases and afflictions are the result of individual sin. They are simply the result of a fallen world. So when this leper approached Jesus this was his mindset, “I am a sinner and I am not worthy to be in your presence. He didn’t presume Jesus was obligated to heal him, but instead said something incredibly telling, “if you are willing.” In other words, “I know you don’t have to but Lord I’m begging you to heal me, have mercy on me!” Finally, I want us to see his faith. Because notice what he says immediately following “if you are willing?” He says, “You can make me clean.” Those are the words of a man who believes that Jesus can do anything. This is an incurable disease. But he has heard about what Jesus can do and he believed He could free him from the prison he was in.
Now the truth is that by the letter of the law Jesus had every right to be outraged. This man was violating the Mosaic law, the cultural social norms and the general welfare of the public, but instead of being angry Jesus responds in the way only Jesus often does, with compassion.
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. Mark 1:41-42
The word “compassion” is also translated as “angry” or “indignant.” And that’s an important distinction. Was Jesus angry at this man for breaking the law and risking making Him unclean? Absolutely not. Jesus was angry at what sin had done to the world and as a result what it has done to this man. And he is deeply moved to help him. That’s what compassion is. It’s being indignant at someone’s plight and being compelled to do something about it. Christ is angry not just over the physical toll on this man but the emotional toll on his life. He grieved for this man’s spirit. And so at this point Jesus does something unthinkable. He doesn’t just heal the man, he reaches out and touches him. And this is profoundly important. You see it is one thing for Jesus to get close, it was another for Jesus to touch him. Why? Because not only would this have exposed Jesus to the disease but it would have made him “unclean.” But Jesus is making a powerful point. The truth is Jesus could have just spoken the words, “be made clean,” and he would have been. But He wanted everyone watching to know this; He was willing to touch those that no one else would touch. And when he did that not only did Jesus not become unclean, He took away the man’s uncleanness. In an instant this man was set free from death and completely got his life back.
Now at this point Mark could have just ended this account, dropped the mic, and moved on to the next moment in the ministry of Christ. But Mark wants us to see something. What Jesus does next may seem strange to us, but in context is wildly important.
43 Then he sternly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But he was out in deserted places, and they came to him from everywhere. Mark 1:43-45
First, he sternly warns the man not to say anything. In other words this was a command. “Don’t tell anyone!” Which seems really strange. I mean doesn’t Jesus want his message to get out there to as many people as possible? Why would he do that? Because at this point in Christ’s ministry he needs to remain somewhat incognito. The truth is if he gets mobbed by people wanting healed he won’t be able to do what he came to do, preach the gospel. And so at this time in his ministry he needs this man to keep it under wraps.
Second, Jesus tells the man to go to his priest and “offer what Moses commanded.” The Jewish law required that people with skin diseases must go through a ritual washing and be presented to the priest who would then determine if they were clean and could return to their normal life. Jesus made him do this for two reasons; 1) To show that while he despised the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their legalistic ways, Jesus upheld the OT law. 2) “As a testimony to them.” Jesus is sending a message to the religious elite. He’s saying, “I know you’re going to question who I am.” But I need you to see the power I have. The kind of power that can even cure an incurable disease. The kind of power that can raise dead things to life.
Now Mark doesn’t tell us if the man obeyed Jesus and went to the priest or not. But we absolutely know that he didn’t listen to Christ’s instruction not to tell anyone. Like a young boy who’s been sworn to secrecy about what his brother’s birthday present is, he simply cannot contain himself. He is so blown away and overjoyed at getting his life back that he starts yapping to every person who will listen about what Jesus has done. And isn’t that just like each of us in our sin nature? Jesus just healed this man and “makes him clean,” and the first thing he does is turn around and sin! As a result, Mark tells us that Jesus was relegated to “deserted places.” From that point forward he was like a rock star, no longer able to enter any larger towns. In fact, Mark tells us that even in the deserted places “people came to Him from everywhere.”
And therein lies the stunning truth of this encounter. In an instant this leper, who was once an outsider, got his life back, and was able to fully enter into society again. He was able to go back into the town he lived in, reconnect with his family, get his old job back, hug his kids and enjoy life again. And Jesus? He was forced to become an outsider. No longer able to enter a town without being mobbed. No longer able to enjoy the peace and quiet of life. Constantly hounded wherever he went as people sought healing and miracles. And this is the amazing truth of who Jesus is.
Jesus became an outsider, so we could become insiders.
And this is what I want you to see today. This moment is an incredibly powerful foreshadowing of what Jesus would do for us on the cross. In the same way that Jesus healed the leper and made him an insider again, Jesus would die on the cross so that we could become insiders in the family of God once again. The truth is that we are sinners. We were once spiritual lepers on the outside looking in. But on the cross Jesus traded places with us and became the outsider. He willingly isolated Himself from his Heavenly Father, became a man and died the death we should have died so that we could have fellowship with God and be brought back into His glorious kingdom. And to the spiritual leper who comes boldly, humbly, trusting in faith, and says, “if you are willing you can make me clean,” Jesus’ response is always, “I am willing, be made clean.” Oh the incredible compassion of Jesus, and the incredible willingness to sacrificially put our needs above his own. What an amazing savior we have!
And so the question I have for us today is this; what should our response be to the incredible compassion of Jesus? The answer? It should be the same as that of the leper;
1) We should seek to be made clean!
Like the leper we must recognize our sinfulness and humbly drop to knees in repentance and seek Christ’s healing forgiveness. The moment we do that changes everything.
2) Tell everyone!
You know the incredible irony of the leper disobeying Jesus’ command to not tell anyone about what he had done for him is that even though he sinned in that moment, he does what every single one of us should do when we experience the lavish grace of Jesus. The fact is that he can’t contain telling people about Jesus because of what he’s done for him. He is bursting at the seams to share the amazing news about Jesus with everyone who will listen. The bottom line is if Jesus has made us clean we should want everyone to experience what we have experienced. We should be bursting at the seams to tell our Jesus story to the world. And if we aren’t, I think we must genuinely ask the question; have we really experienced any real life-change because of Him? Because if we have, it will be uncontainable!
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