February 21, 2016
A reminder to readers: We have begun a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. 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.
The crowds are now starting to grow. We have our first summary statement of how Jesus prioritized his time. He basically focused on two things: “preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” This is the focus: declaring God’s rule and reign, and overturning the evil impostor who has asserted his lordship over the true Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In our text today (as we continue this Sunday series of daily texts through Mark’s gospel), Jesus meets a man with leprosy. It is truly amazing what happens. It is too easy to move rapidly to the healing and miss the glimpse we are given into the inner life, heart and thought of Jesus. Jesus was moved with compassion. The word translated “compassion” is not easy to fully convey in English. Other translators will say something like “he was deeply moved from within.” The word used here is a Greek word (splagxnistheis). Surprisingly, it is where we get our word “spleen” from. The ancient peoples of the world believed that the spleen was the inner most organ of the human body, so for Jesus “spleen” to be moved, is a way of saying that he was moved very deeply in the innermost part of his body, which is why some translate it as “he was moved deeply within.”
We have already seen that Jesus speaks the way God speaks, as one who has authority. Here, we see that Jesus sees the way God sees. Jesus did not just come to earth like a messenger who was sent to do a mission. He sees the world with compassion just as God the Father sees a lost and broken world with compassion. The ancient world was taught to run from lepers as fast as their legs would carry them. People would throw stones at lepers and even make them wear bells and shout “leper, leper, leper” whenever they came near, so that people could run away. Lepers lost their names, their dignity, their places in society. They were now “named” as a leper and nothing more. Certainly, no one would dare to touch a leper. It was a contagion so easily caught.
But, we are seeing in Jesus something altogether new at work. Jesus does not fear the touch of a leper. In fact, Jesus reaches out his hand and He takes the initiative to touch the leper. We are capturing a glimpse into the true power of Jesus Christ. When we touch lepers, we catch leprosy. When Jesus touches lepers, they catch his health and wholeness! It is the great reversal. Normally, everyone flees from leprosy, but here, it is leprosy which flees from Jesus, for the touch of Jesus made this man well.
Jesus is turning the tables on the contagion of sin, disease, and sickness. Rather than Jesus becoming unclean, we sinners “catch” righteousness, purity and health when we come into contact with Jesus! Here, we finally meet the Man—the God-Man who can turn the tables on sin and death. The whole human race has been defeated by sin and death; none has escaped its power, and none has eluded its grasp. That is, until this Man comes on the scene. Jesus speaks, sees and touches the way God speaks, sees and touches. Praise be to God.
- If you hold this text up like a mirror, can you see yourself here? Are you the one who runs away from those in need? Are you like the one who needs and longs for the touch of Jesus?
- We are now the extension of Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Jesus still directly heals people today, but He also uses us to touch in His name and to see the world with compassion in His name. Is there someone you need to reach out to and touch today in the Name of Jesus?
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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.