Jesus and the Leper, Mark 1:40-45

Mark writes his Gospel in a way that really brings out the heart of Jesus in all His actions.

The Leper’s Life (40)

Leprosy was the terror of the ancient world.  It was a terrible disease to live with and if you contracted the more severe types of leprosy your life was ruined.  The disease distorted the person’s appearance into something repulsive and led to a life of terrible isolation.


This man was a Jew, and, the Law of Moses instructed anyone with leprosy to be pronounced unclean and they were banished from society (Leviticus 13).  It was not only physically painful, but, socially agonizing. Imagine contracting the disease if you were married and had a family. You were forced to leave your wife and children and go live alone outside the community.  The aching loneliness would be unbearable as you truly lived “on the outside looking in” . Adding what seems to be insult to injury was the requirement that whenever you were in public you were required to declare “Unclean!  Unclean!” to warn those around you of your presence.  


So perhaps that day as he was approaching Jesus his voice could be heard shouting “Unclean!  Unclean!” We can imagine the crowds parting to let him through, everyone appalled at his appearance and wanting to avoid him lest they become unclean for coming in contact with him.  


He begs Jesus.  On his knees. This is the picture of how someone is saved:  seeking Jesus out, falling to their knees before Him which is the posture of humility and need, the posture of someone in desperation seeking rescue and mercy.


This man knew Jesus had the ability to heal him.  There was no question in his mind about the power the Nazarene had If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  He’s not like the guy in chapter 8, “If you can do something Jesus, please do it…”  Which insulted Jesus.  No, this leper in chapter 1 knows Jesus can do something.  Which honored Jesus. What he doesn’t know, however, is if Jesus will do what he asks.  So, he’s appealing to Jesus’ compassion.


Application:  When you pray do so with certainty in God’s ability to do what you’re asking.  Don’t question that. Approach Him with that already settled in your mind and heart.  Instead, when you come to do business with God on His throne spend your energy appealing to His will.  Spend your time appealing to His mercy, His compassion, His love, His righteousness and justice, His holiness, His tenderness, His glory.


The Compassion of Jesus (41-42)

Mark mentions the compassionate feeling in Jesus while He healed this leper “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand…” verse 41 says. Luke does not mention the way Jesus felt when he wrote his account of this healing.  Mark writes his Gospel in a way that really brings out the heart of Jesus in all His actions.  

  • In chapter 6 Mark doesn’t just want you to know that Jesus saw the crowds and that He fed them miraculously, but, he puts it this way for us, “When Jesus saw the large crowd He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”  
  • He does it again later in chapter 10 with the rich young ruler.  Both Matthew and Luke also tell us about this guy, who came to Jesus to find out how to have eternal life.  But Mark, being Mark, says it this way, “Looking at the young man Jesus loved him”  


Mark doesn’t want you to miss what was going on in Jesus’ heart in that moment.   Mark wants his audience, us included, to not only see what Jesus did, and was capable of in terms of power, but, He wants us to see what Jesus is capable of in His heart.  “His compassions never fail” Lamentations 3:22 says. Psalm 103 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious…As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him”  


Compassion is always the attitude behind the merciful action.  In other words, where there is compassion, there is action. “Filled with compassion (the feeling), Jesus reached out and touched him and healed the leper (the action).  Compassion is the feeling of sympathy for someone who is suffering, but, that feeling moves you to relieve the suffering of that someone. The feeling and the action go together, if there is no action we can’t really say there is the true feeling.  Somehow, human to human, you have compassion when the other person’s plight affects you deeply – as in somehow you are suffering while watching them suffering and it is impossible any longer for you to sit by and do nothing. You move towards that person and tangibly get involved to do whatever you can to alleviate what they’re going through. 


That is Jesus.  He sees this man, is filled with compassion for him, and, He acts to alleviate him from his suffering.  And alleviate Him He did – verse 42 says “immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” That’s the power of God at work because of the compassion of God.  John Logan wrote:

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great High Priest our nature wears,
The Patron of mankind appears.

He who for men in mercy stood,
And pour’d on earth his precious blood,
Pursues in heaven his plan of grace,
The guardian God of human race.

Though now ascended up on high,
He bends on earth a brother’s eye,
Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame.

Our fellow-sufferer yet retains
A fellow-feeling of our pains;
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, and agonies, and cries.

In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part;
He sympathises in our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known,
And ask the aids of heavenly power,
To help us in the evil hour. 


Application:  See that God sees you with compassion.  Some people have the distorted view that God hates them, and, that He doesn’t care about them.  They don’t know God. God wants them to know Him, and, know Him as a compassionate God. He knows your needs, and, when you turn to Him and trust Him He has compassion on you like a father has on his child.  


The Command of Jesus (43-44)

When someone was cured of leprosy, the Law of Moses required that person to go to the priests and show them they were cured.  The priests were to take the cured person through a detailed ritual lasting 8 days before they could re-enter society.  


Again we remember that Jesus’ ministry on earth was to the Jewish people, the people whom God gave His Law.  The Law is still in effect at this point, and, would be in effect until the death of Jesus on the cross. So, Jesus was not going to encourage anyone to go against the law, even if it were the ceremonial aspects 


The guy can’t stop talking about Jesus.  He goes out and joyfully tells everyone what Jesus did for him.  When Jesus changes your life you’re different. Last week we saw Peter’s monther in law healed by Jesus and she got up to start serving Him.  A person whose life is touched by Jesus wants to serve Jesus with their life. This week we see a man whose life is transformed by Jesus and he can’t stop telling people about Jesus.  


***A Christian is someone who is saved by Jesus, then, as a result wants to serve Jesus and speak about Him to others.



Jesus stayed outside in lonely places…interesting isn’t it?  At the beginning of this story it was the leper who came from his lonely places seeking Jesus out.  Now at the end of the story, because of the leper, Jesus had to go out to lonely places.  


It implies a picture of our Savior’s mission here on earth – to trade places with sinners and suffer their penalty for them.  The most lonely place was going to be on the cross, where He alone carried all the sins of the world all by Himself. He alone suffered the wrath of God for those sins.  No one was His partner at the cross. The most piercing loneliness came when His own Heavenly Father turned away from Him…Remember when Jesus cried out on the cross in Mark 15:34,, “Eloi!  Eloi! LamaSabachthani!”, which means My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me!”


He suffered alone for all of us.  But, He is not lonely anymore. His death opens the door for us to have eternal life.  He suffered loneliness for us so we don’t have to be abandoned and forsaken by God in Hell forever, but, rather that we can be with God forever.  


Do you know today if you will be with God?

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