The True Ministry of Compassion | Mark 1:40–44
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Leprosy was feared for good reason. The Romans and the Jews knew it to be incurable, deadly, and highly infectious. So, in Leviticus 13:11, the leper was “unclean,” a social outcast not to be touched. Throughout Scripture, this debilitating and life-consuming illness becomes a picture of our sin. What learn about the Lord in His interaction with this leper?
The Lord is willing to heal. The leper approaches in faith that Christ can heal. Even so, he seems to understand that this faith and his desire are secondary to Christ’s willingness to heal. The modern Word-Faith Heresy has this backwards, that our faith guarantees healing. We must pray believing (Mk 11:24), but we must also pray per the will of God (1 Jn 5:14; Js 4:3). Yet, we never have to wonder if God is willing to cleanse us of our sins if we also look to Him believing (Jn 6:38–40).
The Lord is compassionate. Consider that Jesus could heal him with a word, but having compassion, He chooses to touch Him. This man would not have been touched by a healthy person since contracting leprosy for fear of transmitting the disease. This emotion is no less real when the Lord stretches out both His hands on the cross and heals believers of sin. God loved us, so He sent His Son to die as our substitute and pay the penalty for our sins (1 Jn 4:10); God is love (v. 16) and first loved us (v. 19).
The Lord fulfills the requirement. Jesus commands the man to “be clean.” How can He command the man to be what’s not in His power to be? We see that, not only does Christ command it, but He Himself fulfills it. Just as we are commanded to be as perfect as God (Mt 5:48), and Christ lives the saving life for us (Rm 5:10), this man became clean by the work of God in Him. He nails our record of debt to the cross (Gal 2:14).