40And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch 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 1:40-45
In this encounter with Jesus, a leper comes to Him and makes an impassioned plea for healing. Jesus, moved with compassion, heals the leper, but then makes His own “request”. He instructs the leper to keep the miracle a secret. However, the leper fails to reciprocate Jesus’ compassion. Instead, he broadcasts the news of his healing so much that Jesus was unable to enter openly into the city. This report illustrates for us two key challenges that face us every day. The first is avoiding self-absorption and the second is activating faith.
Me, Me, Me it’s all about Me.
This passage shows us that the leper was greatly concerned about his condition. Who wouldn’t be? The physical and mental anguish of leprosy is real. It was both rotting away his body and robbing him of the comfort of friends and family. He either had to suffer his slow painful death alone or, at best, with others in the same depressing predicament. His pain was real. Likewise, many of us are dealing with truly difficult circumstances—gravely ill children, joblessness, impending homelessness, mental illness, and so on. And, like the leper, we cry out to Jesus for relief.
However, the leper had a problem he wasn’t aware of. He was struggling with leprosy, but he was also ravaged with the disease of self-absorption. The leper was preoccupied with what he wanted Jesus to do for him. But, he was oblivious to doing anything for Jesus. Even when Jesus gave him a clear instruction, he was so caught up in the joy of his healing that he plunged headlong into direct disobedience to his Healer. We should ask the leper and ourselves this question: “Is what Jesus can do for us more important than what we can do for Jesus?” In other words, is our emphasis on receiving from God, or serving God?
Scripture clearly teaches that it is better to give than to receive
“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” ~ Acts 20:35
Moreover, our purpose here on earth is to carry out God’s agenda which includes loving our neighbor and walking with God.
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” ~ Micah 6:8
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:37-40
Therefore, it is crucial that we get our lives in relation to God in perspective: the important thing is not what I want; the important thing is what God commands. As real as my difficulties are, God’s will far supersedes my desires.
Nevertheless, there is more. Believers have already received the greatest miracle possible in their lives: salvation: the new birth. One day, overwhelmed by the sin disease that doomed to an eternal life of darkness and anguish, we called out to Jesus: asking Him to make us clean. And out of his great compassion and mercy, He did. He removed the curse of sin from our lives, washed us clean and reunited us with God. Then just like the leper who was healed, Jesus gave us a command: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9, 16:24, 19:21). In that one command, Jesus instructs us to leave our agendas behind, to put aside everything and make Him our ‘one thing’.
What has our response been to that command? Have we, like the now-healed leper, succumbed to the dreaded disease of self-absorption? Are we so deeply involved with fulfilling our desires, ambitions, goals and/or plans that we forget Jesus’ command to follow Him, to conform to His agenda?
In broadcasting the news of his healing, it probably was not the now-healed leper’s intention to hinder Jesus’ ministry. The now-healed leper was probably possibly just overcome by his desire to share his joy/excitement. But the fact is that he did hinder Jesus’ ministry by his actions.
Similarly, we don’t usually set out to hinder God’s plan when we choose to go our own way. Like the now-healed leper, we too are often overcome by the pressing desire to change our situation: to escape our troubles or to reach our goals. However, whenever we go our own way we are then not going God’s way and so we inevitably ‘get in the way’ of God’s perfect plan.
Therefore, if we are to accomplish God’s will instead of our own, we must constantly seek to do things His way and follow His commands as outlined in His Word, The Bible. We must always seek to subjugate our goals and aspirations to His goals and aspirations for us. Unlike the now-healed leper, we must accept by faith that it is more important to obey Jesus’ commands than for Him to fulfill our requests: we are here to serve Him.
Perplexed Perspectives (can) Foster Faith.
From the now-healed leper’s point of view, Jesus’ request must have sounded quite strange.
- Why would Jesus want him to keep quiet about the greatest thing that ever happened to him?
- Why wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know how great He (Jesus) was?
- Why shouldn’t everyone know that there was a solution to their health problems in the community?
Unlike the now-healed leper, we are privileged to have the ‘back story’. As we have discussed previously, Jesus’ main aim was to preach the Word to the people (Mark 1:38). Yes, Jesus cared much about their physical sickness, BUT He was much, much more concerned about their spiritual sickness. As much as they were suffering physically, their spiritual suffering was greater still. Though their physical ailments imperiled their bodies here on earth, their spiritual ailment put in danger where their spirits would dwell for eternity.
But the fact that the now-healed leper was ‘in the dark’ about the reasons behind Jesus’ instruction is exactly what enlightens us. Specifically, we too are usually unaware of the reasons for God’s commands or the reason’s we are in certain situations. Why does Jesus forbid divorce (Matthew 19:3-9) when He knows how awful my husband/wife is? I worked hard and did what was right, why did God allow me to lose my job? How can I trust Him now? However, it is when we don’t understand that we exercise faith. And that’s exactly what God wants from us, faith.
“…The gospel of Christ… is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth… therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:16-17
The now-healed leper had been freed from the disease of leprosy, but Jesus also wanted to free him from the disease of sin. And so, for that to happen, the leper needed to exercise faith. The Gospel of Christ first works in us salvation by faith. Then it works in us sanctification by faith. We might not understand the way God does things, but that’s okay because He wants us to accept His way by faith, not by sight, not by human logic. That’s what pleases Him!
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” ~ Hebrews 11:6
Let us therefore, commit ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Let us submit to His will and purpose. Let us concern ourselves far more with what we must do for Him, rather than what we want Him to do for us. And, when we are confused, as we almost inevitably will be, let us use the opportunity to exercise faith in Him. In so doing, may we not become hindrances/obstacles to His will, but instead channels/conduits of His love and Divine purpose.