Today, a leper comes to Jesus.
With nowhere else to turn. No place else to go. This broken creation makes his way to the Master Artist.
Have you ever noticed that wherever you find Jesus, you usually find crowds of people? Except for those solitary times of prayer—there are always crowds of people—and usually at least twelve guys somewhere in the shadows.
Many times, we see hundreds. Sometimes there are even thousands. There’s just something about Jesus that seems to draw a crowd. Today would be no different. Jesus has been advancing the Kingdom. Matthew puts this event in chapter eight, right after the Sermon on the Mount. If that’s accurate then the crowd would have surrounded Jesus.
Do you see it?
Jesus is surrounded by the multitude.
Everyone seems to be captivated by His presence. That is, everybody except for the group of people toward the back. They’re whispering, pointing. What’s the distraction?
You’re there. You’re part of the crowd. Go ahead. Turn around and see what’s happening.
Looking in the direction where one is pointing, you see him. He’s hobbling toward the crowd—toward you. You can’t help but notice hisunkempt hair, torn clothing, and covered face.
It’s a leper.
“Hey! What’s he doing here?”
“Someone lasso the trash and drag him back to where he belongs!” You notice those around you covering their noses, and you smell it, too—the odor of decaying flesh. The stench of rotting skin is unmistakable. Several begin to gag.
But the leper continues. He’s not looking at the crowd.
He’s focused on an audience of One.
The people know if they breathe the same air, touch the same ground then they, too, will be defiled. So they back away.
But look! As the multitude parts . . . Jesus stands firmly in place, unwavering. Undaunted. Unafraid.
This leper continues toward Jesus with hishead cast down, ashamed of his condition andfearing for his life. Watching from a distance, you see him fall on his face before Jesus.
We listen as he begins to worship at His feet. We hear him as he begins to speak. Listen to his trembling voice. What’s he saying?
“If You are willing, You can make me clean” (Mark 1:40).
Notice, he’s not saying, “If You’re able.” In fact, there’s no question of ability in that statement. He obviously believes that Jesus has the ability and the authority to restore his life.
In the context of this day, the people would have believed the following. He’s getting from God exactly what he deserved. This is payment—a penalty for his sin. God had removed His hand of mercy from this pitiful man’s life.
See, that’s how the people could justify their lack of compassion. If God didn’t love this man,why should they? But, the leper believes if Jesus is the Promised One—the One who acts on God’sbehalf—then He could, should He choose, extendHis hand of mercy. He could show compassion, and love, and restore his broken life.
How would Jesus respond? Keep watching.
“Then Jesus, moved with compassion . . .” (Mark 1:41).
Can we pause here for a moment? When we read that Jesus is “moved with compassion” we need to know that this is really strong language. “Moved with compassion” in the Greek language is splanchnizomai. It’s pronounced: Splangkh-nid’-zom–ahee. And it means: to be moved as to one’s bowels; to feel deep sympathy for; to be moved with compassion. The bowels were thought to be the hub of love and pity.
It’s referring to a deep inner emotion that’sgenerated from the seat of passions. It’s an arousal of emotion that results in response. This is coming from the place where anger is born, where frustration exists or indignation is found. But, it’s also the birthplace of tender affections such as love and care. Jesus is moved by a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow, so much so that it’saccompanied by the strong desire to alleviate suffering.
In other words, it broke His heart.
He saw the isolation. He recognized the hurt, the pain.
Jesus was moved by the leper’s condition.
This strong phrase (“moved with compassion”) is used almost exclusively in Scripture to describe what happens inside Jesus.At least eight times in the Gospels we run across this phrase. We see it four times in Matthew, three times in Mark, and twice in Luke. It’s referring to what’s going on inside of Him.
A leper comes to Jesus. Begging. Pleading: “If You are willing. . . . ”
What would Jesus do? With the Father’s heart pounding in His chest, He. . .
“. . . stretched out His hand and touched him,”
Jesus does the unthinkable.
And He does it without hesitation!
He reaches out and touches the unclean. Canyou see how far compassion is willing to go?
What others were afraid of, Jesus was not.
When all society was willing to throw this man away, Jesus would not.
When everyone else turned their backs, Jesus could not.
He touches the untouchable! He reaches down, takes the man by the face and lifts it so they’re looking eye to eye. When he looked into Jesus’ face he saw the Father’s heart and heard as He . . .
“. . . said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’” (Mark 1:41).
I want to.
I am willing.
“As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him,
and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:42).
Life is restored. Jesus didn’t receive what the man had when He touched him. The leper received what Jesus had. Real life. Restoration. The outcast is now part of community. His life is changed.
It was the Father’s tender heart pounding in His chest.
It moved Him.
It’s what He wanted to do.
It’s what He’s still doing.
Touching the unclean places of our lives.
Making whole what we’ve broken and tried to hide.
He places His holy hands onto our tear-stained faces—and lifts our eyes to meet His.
And He makes us whole.