JESUS CLEANSES A MAN WITH LEPROSY
Key Verse: 1:41-42
“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.”
In the previous passage Jesus preached the kingdom of God and supported his message by healing many sick people. Even evil spirits obeyed him. He visited Simon’s house and healed Simon’s mother-in-law. In the evening he served the whole town. Wherever Jesus is, the kingdom of God comes and grows and expands. Today Jesus prays in a solitary place to find the will of God for his ministry. It is forever beautiful to see Jesus praying in a solitary place. Then Jesus declared his primary purpose of his coming into this world, “…so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Then, Jesus heals a man with leprosy with his loving compassion. I pray that we may follow Jesus’ example of prayer life and reach out our hands and touch many students who are lonely and need healing of their sins. May God fill our hearts with the compassion of Jesus Christ through today’s message!
PART I JESUS PRAYS IN A SOLITARY PLACE (35-39).
Look at verse 35. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” The previous day Jesus worked hard to lay his hands on many sick people until late in the evening. Despite a full day of ministry, Jesus got up the next morning very early, before daybreak about 4 A.M. Where did he go? He went out to a solitary place where he spent time praying. He withdrew from the demanding crowds of people to the wilderness. He spent time with God his Father in spite of the urgent needs of the people. Mark portrayed Jesus in prayer on three crucial occasions-one in beginning here (35) and one in the middle (6:46) and one at the end (14:32-42). All three were occasions when he was confronted with the possibility of achieving his messianic mission in an easier way. His popularity grew stronger as he healed many and he fed the five thousands with 5 loaves and 2 fish and he entered Jerusalem triumphantly with cheering crowds, “Hosanna!” But in each case he did not choose a more attractive, less costly way. He chose the way of the cross and suffering. He maintained his goal to preach the kingdom of God. What was his secret? It was prayer. Before a major decision, Jesus always prayed before God and found the will of God. Jesus heard the voice of God through his prayer in a quiet place. M. Maria K. asked me to build many small quiet prayer rooms when we expand our center. Yes, we need many small prayer rooms. Though Jesus was the Son of God, he did not seek his human glory and praises from men when he was successful. He wanted to follow the will of God though it required persecutions and endless hardship. His personal prayer enabled Jesus to maintain his priority. Jesus renewed his strength through prayer. Jesus prayed 40 days and night in the desert before he began his messianic mission. Compare Jesus to Peter. He did not pray and pushed Jesus to heal more people saying, “Do not pray too long. People need you.” After confessing Jesus as the Christ, he rebuked Jesus not to take up the cross. Why? Jesus said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33) Peter was thinking about the things of men when he did not pray. When Jesus asked him to pray, he slept in Mark 14:37. Then he denied Jesus three times. Later, Peter became a man of prayer and God used him to build the first church. Daniel was a Jewish POW to Babylon. But he was a man of prayer. (Dan. 6:10) ‘Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.” God blessed to interpret dreams and he became the prime minister of Babylonian kingdom. God revealed the coming of Jesus’ eternal kingdom to him because he was a man of prayer. God uses a man and a woman of prayer in his redemptive history. Why do we need to pray? Prayer is our spiritual life line. Prayer connects us to God and leads us to have daily talks with God. Jesus said in Luke 11:9, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” James 4:2b says, “You do have, because you do not ask God.” Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” All of us want to pray like Jesus. Some said, “My spirit is willing, but my body is weak.” But why do we have to pray in the very early morning? Hey! I am not a morning person. Why don’t we pray in the noon or before we go bed? As we know, we live in a fast moving modern time filled with packed schedules. It is very difficult to find time to pray. Often the only time we have is very early morning away from the noisy world of media and people. The busier we are, the more we need to pray kneeling down before God. S. David B. said, “Prayer traffic is less in the very early morning and God can hear our prayers better. There is no congestion.” Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” We offer our best time of the day the very early morning to God. God uses the early morning person. The new Korean president Myung Park Lee used to be an employee of Hyundai automaker. He was an early morning person. He came to the company in the early morning and met the company president Chung. God blessed him to become the president of Korea today because he was the early morning person. When we pray, God will hear our prayer and grant what we pray. President Abraham Lincoln found time to pray during the Civil War and God saved the nation through his prayer though it was costly. Last march I had a chance to attend the early morning prayer meeting in the Full-gospel church in NY, the church payer room was packed with people who came to pray before they go to work. Through the early morning prayers God enabled me to quit my dream job at UMCP and began a humble life of serving with decision to offer my life as a living sacrifice to God. To me prayer is a spiritual battle with myself. It is a lonely battle but it gives me access to God. Last Monday I was only one listening to M. Esther’s daily bread messages. I thank God for giving me privilege to pray for all God’s flocks through the early morning prayers.
Look at verses 36-37. “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘everyone is looking for you! Heal more people.” Simon and his companions were surprised that Jesus was gone. When they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” (37). Simon dreamed to become a director of Capernaum Medical center. He was popped up with excitement. They literally hunted him down (katadioko in Greek). They thought that Jesus was failing to cash in some excellent opportunities in Capernaum. Some people wanted Jesus to take leadership of their synagogue. Others wanted to make Jesus mayor of Capernaum. The hospital wanted him to join their infectious disease unit. How did Jesus respond? Look at verse 38. “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” Jesus was ready to go somewhere else, leaving Capernaum right away. Jesus was ready to spread the good news all over Galilee. Through prayer, Jesus’ passion for Galilean spiritual revival was kindled. Through prayer, Jesus shared God’s heart for all those who were under Satan’s rule. Through prayer, Jesus did not please people’s desire but set preaching as a priority of his ministry. He did not yield to Simon’s pressure and maintained his mission goal.
When we read verse 38 carefully, we find that Jesus set the direction of his ministry according to God’s will through prayer. Jesus defined his mission field–Galilee, and his main task–preaching the message. Though there were many good opportunities in Capernaum, Jesus left there. Though there was pressure to engage in healing and social work, Jesus decided to give first priority to preaching. Jesus’ ministry was guided by God through prayer. Jesus knew with certainty what God wanted him to do. Jesus said confidently, “That is why I have come.”
There are many people who are not sure why they are here. We can learn from Jesus to find our purpose of life in God through prayer. We cannot find our purpose in our situation, or by listening to people’s demands. We can find our purpose of life in God through prayer. Then we can say, “That is why I have come.” We can have great confidence in doing God’s work. This gives us real joy and peace.
For the last 50 years, God has used UBF as a student movement. Mother Barry met Jesus as a student and taught the Bible to her classmates. Dr. Samuel Lee gave up a church pastor’s position to engage in student evangelism. Dr. John Jun began Bible study as a student and brought his classmates. First generation UBF members in Korea and America were called into campus mission in the same way. Today, church leaders are amazed at our missionary work throughout the world. One church pastor told me, “If we knew UBF tent-maker missionary work earlier, the world mission history might have changed.” I met Jesus as a student and found God’s calling to shepherd students like myself, who were lost, confused and seeking direction. Many of you may have the same calling from God. Individually and collectively we found God’s purpose for our lives in campus mission. Our mission statement is to teach the word of God. Our primary goal is to raise up future leaders through 1:1 Bible studies. Jesus’ goal was to raise up 12 disciples to change the world history. Our life and resources are limited. It is important to set the right priority. Steven Covey wrote a book called “7 habits of highly effective people. His habit number three is “Put first things first-principles of personal management.” The point is “prioritize, organize around priorities and discipline yourself.” Allocate 95% of your resources to your priority and 5% to other things. When I examined his point, I found that Jesus mentioned this in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteous, and all these things will given to you as well.” What is the first thing here? It is the kingdom of God and our relationship with God. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will be highly effective in our mission life. What is the first priority for the student? It is allocate 95% to the study and 5% to other things. But students spend 95% on other things and 5% on studying, that person will not be effective and will fail. Let us pray like Jesus and set a clear direction to set our priorities and do our mission. Jesus said in Mark 9:29, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” When we pray, we can maintain our mission purpose-campus mission through Bible study and world mission through prayer.
PART II “I AM WILLING AND BE CLEAN” (40-45).
Right after Jesus decided to focus on preaching, a man came to him for healing. Who was he? Look at verse 40. “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” It was a bold move for a leper to come to Jesus. Leprosy was totally debilitating, fatal, and incurable. It was a serious skin disease, a progressively disfiguring disease. This man experienced a pitiful existence due not only to the physical ravages of the disease but also to ritual uncleanness and exclusion from society. He must shout when people approached them, “Unclean! Unclean!” Lepers were quarantined like in the movie “Ben Hur.” This man seemed to be without help and without hope in the world. He was isolated from his family and friends. But one day he heard the good news about Jesus, that Jesus healed any kind of disease. Faith was born in his heart. He found hope in Jesus. So he came to Jesus. We can learn two things about his faith. First, he was humble. He got on his knees before Jesus, like an unworthy subject before the king. He acknowledged that he was unclean. He was totally dependent on Jesus’ mercy. Second, he believed Jesus could heal him. He was certain of Jesus’ power. He acknowledged Jesus’ sovereignty, admitting he had no right to be healed; he was not presumptuous. Yet he firmly believed that Jesus could heal him. Though it was unlawful for him to approach Jesus, he was bold in his faith. His humility and faith enabled him to overcome all obstacles and allowed him to come to Jesus. In order to receive Jesus’ healing mercy we must recognize our need and then come to Jesus with humble faith.
How did Jesus respond to this man? Look at verse 41. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’” Jesus’ was filled with compassion. Jesus had deep pity on this leper. Jesus put himself in the leper’s place. Jesus understood how much this man suffered isolated from normal world. Jesus knew what the man needed: he needed to be touched. He needed acceptance and affirmation. In the past nobody touched this man and people ignored, avoided and ran away from him. But Jesus did not rebuke him. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man before healing his leprosy. Now Jesus accepted the man just as he was, with God’s compassion and genuine love. Jesus loved him fully before he was healed. In the same way, Jesus loves us before he forgives and heals us. Romans 5:8b says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I was not used to hugging people. Most Korean men look serious and rarely express their emotions. But when I went to the international Latin American conference last year, everybody was hugging. Now I became comfortable. Here touching is the symbol of messianic love. Our life was dry and lonely before we met Jesus. We were untouchable in the past but Jesus touched the untouchable. We were selfish and unclean due to our sinful life. But Jesus touched us with his sacrificial love. Jesus’ touch changed our life forever. Let’s thank Jesus who touched our dark life. Jesus went on to articulate his willingness. Jesus said, “I am willing.” Jesus is not reluctant in healing those who come to him. Jesus is willing and happy to do so. In Greek “I am willing” is present tense and “be clean” is past passive form. It means that he was cured already when Jesus said, “Be clean.” It was immediate, complete, visible to all who saw him. Jesus cured the incurable. Jesus demonstrated the power of his word. Jesus demonstrated his Messianic power by saying, “Be clean.” Jesus transformed him into a new man.
In some ways, leprosy is like sin. Sin spreads throughout our inner being, making us unclean and a danger to others. Outside uncleanness can be washed by showers but inward uncleanness cannot be washed. Inward uncleanness disfigures our life and brings slow but steady death. It results in spiritual death. There is no cure. Yet when we come to Jesus as we are, acknowledging our dirty sins and asking his mercy, Jesus will cleanse us from all our sins. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Later, Jesus shed his blood on the cross to wash away our sins. Like a leper, modern people are lonely because they are separated from God. They are lonely among the crowds because people became so selfish. But Jesus’ blood can cleanse us to be whiter than snow. In the past Landry was lonely among the crowds. But when he came to Jesus as he was, Jesus forgave all his sins and welcomed him to become the child of God. We are preparing the Purdue International Bible conference with a prayer to invite one friend. With the compassion of Jesus, let us reach out lonely and isolated students and invite them to Jesus so that they may have new life in Jesus. We may find another Landry and another Tony. Let’s experience the power of Jesus with our prayer life in the early morning.
In conclusion, Jesus prayed in a solitary place to talk with God. He confirmed God’s direction to preach to all Galilean regions. In a critical moment, Jesus prayed and made a right decision to obey the will of God. Jesus also showed his compassion to a man with leprosy. He touched this dying man with messianic love and gave him a new life. Let’s come to Jesus as we are. Let’s learn from Jesus that we can find our purpose in God through prayer, and say with confidence, saying, “That is why I have come.” Let’s read the key verse 41-42.