Mark 1:40-42 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
We live it a time of Biblical Illiteracy. It is shocking that most people know more about the lives of sports and entertainment figures, than they do about their Lord and Savior. Even Christians are not immune from its effects, we here the beginning of a story, and figure we know the rest, so that often we don't really listen. For example, many people, hearing the beginning of today's lesson jump immediately to the story of the 10 lepers we hear every year at Thanksgiving, since they think they know the point, be thankful, they stop listening. So, what's the big deal? Its sinful - it is arrogant, and disrespectful, and so contrary to the 4th commandment which tells us not to provoke our masters to anger, but hold them in love and esteem. But the biggest problem is that when you don't listen, you don't learn.
Lets review what we have learned about the Gospel of Mark - it begins with the Baptism of Jesus, then his temptation, then he calls his first disciples and then preaches in a synagogue & casts out a demon, next he heals Peter's mother in law of a fever, after which he casts out more demons & heals more sick, and then he goes on the road to preach to other towns. Mark is telling a story that slowly unfolds, and you need to listen closely, he's telling who Jesus is, he begins with things we can understand, for people have heard about people who preach, and about people who cast our demons, and about people who heal the sick -but as I said, itís a story that slowly unfolds, and our lesson adds a new and extraordinary piece - Jesus heals a leper.
Itís a big deal, and itís a big deal because usually the people who healed the sick, could do nothing to heal leprosy. Lepers didn't get better, they died. And among the people of Israel, a story of someone healing a leper would immediately bring to mind Elisha the prophet, in the OT he is the only one to heal a leper. What does this mean? If Jesus heals a leper, Jesus must be like a prophet. And this is big news, for it had been a long time since there had been a prophet in the land. If John the Baptist had come in the spirit of Elijah, here is Jesus with a double portion of the Spirit, something remarkable is happening here, God is at work.
And that's a good start at hearing our text, but there is a lot more to it, there is a lot more for us to learn about who Jesus is. One of the things to learn is about compassion and mercy. Leprosy is contagious, and was incurable, lepers had to stay at a distance, at least 30 feet away from healthy people, if they got any closer, you could through rocks at them. Being a leper was a very lonely thing, a complete outcast, cut off from your community and waiting to die.
Being a leper is kind of like a baby with dirty diapers, nobody likes to change diapers, nobody really wants to touch that dirty diaper. And so, some times you see a baby being passed around to see who will change the diaper - someone with compassion finally changes the diaper, and once its cleaned up, the baby is loveable and huggable again. Being a leper is rather like dying from a dirty diaper that no one can cure. And in the midst of a hopeless situation, a leper hears of someone who can cast out demons, and heal the sick, and in hope he comes to Jesus and says, if you will, you can make me clean. If Jesus stood at a distance and healed him, that would me remarkable, Elisha had kept his distance in healing Naaman - but the remarkable thing is that Jesus had pity on the leper and touched him, touched him with a healing touch.
The mercy of God reaches out and touches us, touches us while we suffered the leprosy of sin, and healed us and made us new creation. The mercy of God touches us when we were good as dead, and the blood of Jesus washes us clean and gives us new and everlasting life. Who is Jesus? He is the Savior who comes to us to heal us, forgive us, and give us life. And this is such good news, the only thing we can do, is tell the good news of the merciful Savior who has come for us.