Willing

Mark 1.40-45

> 40A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ???If you choose, you can make me clean.??? 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ???I do choose. Be made clean!??? 42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying to him, ???See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.??? 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Leviticus 13.45???46 says, ???The person who has the leprous disease shall
wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he
shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ???Unclean, unclean.??? He shall
remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall
live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.???

I???m not going to dance around it: the Levitical Law here is harsh.
The life of the leper, or even the sick person, is never easy. I
would say that we experience this almost daily. When you are sick, no
one wants to be around you. Everyone is afraid they are going to get
your cold or your fever. But when you are really sick, like
hospital-sick, its not just about catching it anymore. There is an
emotional piece to it. If you don???t believe me, go hang out with
cancer patients or those suffering from AIDS at the hospital. It is
lonely when you are sick and being a part of normal life feels
impossible.

Lepers didn???t necessarily do anything to get the disease they suffered
from. In fact, the term ???leper??? or ???leprosy??? often referred to a
variety of skin diseases. People never really knew what was or wasn???t
infectious and so to safeguard the community, people were made to stay
away from others, which is somewhat normal. If it was in fact leprosy
that people carried, they were excluded from contact. Sure, it made
it easier for the community and kept them healthy, and that???s
important, but it really made it difficult for the leper to have any
sort of normal life at all. There was no family to come home to, no
loved one to hold or be held by. It was a lonely life and not one
chosen willingly.

But Jesus??? willingness to heal the leper despite the rule of staying
away isn???t a political statement and it isn???t a move that is meant to
offend or cause controversy. Jesus isn???t breaking the Levitical Law
by reaching out to touch the man, because Jesus is the fulfillment of
the law. The real take-home from this act of reaching out is that the
time has come for the leper to come home, to come back to community.
God is showing compassion, reaching out and bringing all people back
to himself. The time of the leper and the unclean has come to an end.
Jesus is opening up the doors of salvation, of wholeness, to all who
come to him. As we???ve read the last few weeks, most of his time and
ministry has been healing people and restoring their lives so that
they can turn their hearts back to God. Jesus and his ministry are
proof that God???s kingdom is breaking into a world that is plagued by
sin. The kingdom of God is truly near.

Look closer at the miracle. Did Jesus have to touch the leper in
order to cleanse his leprosy? Of course not, but this gesture is an
invitation. It shows God???s desire to be in relationship with his
people. All Jesus had to do was say the word, to will the healing to
happen. But in his great compassion he reaches out and touches the
untouchable. St. John Chrysostom said, ???For the leprosy did not
defile his hand, but his holy hand cleansed the leprous body.???
Church, Jesus is Lord over that which is unclean, broken, and cast
aside. The holiness of God is stronger than the decay of both soul
and body. It is in coming to him, laying ourselves before him and
recognizing his Lordship that we are changed.

It???s important to recognize the leper???s forwardness here. He came to
Jesus knowing that Jesus had the power to heal him. ???If you choose,???
he says, ???you can make me clean.??? No one else had the power to do
this, to give him his life back, to restore his place in society, his
place in community, his relationships, and his health. The Pharisees
and the Sadducees didn???t have the power to heal his leprosy but they
did have power to have mercy, to show compassion, to care better for
those who were outside of society. In fact, Jesus sends the leper to
the priests as proof of what he has come to do. This should cause
worry for the Pharisees because Jesus??? authority is becoming more and
more apparent.

And that apparent authority is to be seen in the life of the Church.
The authority of the Church is the power to restore the outcast to the
family of God. The great challenge for us today is seek out the lost,
to welcome the sinner, to restore the outcast. We are the Body of
Christ, the bearers of the mission of God. We are being sent into the
world to make sons and daughters of those who have forgotten their
place within the family of God. Just as Jesus has been willing to
touch the one who was considered unclean, so we are to reach out with
holy hands and make new that which is worn and tired and neglected.

Ah, but to have holy hands means that we must first be holy. And we
are holy when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out in the
name of Jesus. We are called to ???lay aside every weight and the sin
that clings so closely, and…run with perseverance the race that is
set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our
faith. We are being perfected by Jesus but only when we turn to him.
And a Church, a body, that turns to him is one that is endued with a
holiness that comes from God.

And do you know that your hands are holy, Church? Do you know the
great responsibility you have to extend salvation to the world? Have
you accepted the role of priest in the lives of those who God desires
to make clean? Will you be their mediator as Christ is your mediator?
Will you come alongside the hurt, the broken, the forgotten, and will
you give aid to those who need healing. I do not know what ailments
those around you have, but you do. And through your obedience to God
you can raise up with holy hands and provide for others what they
need. And what do they need, Church? Find out. Take notice. Live a
life that encourages them to come to you and say the words, ???If you
are choose, you can make me clean.???

Are you willing? Will you be made available to those who need you.
Do not look over the heads of the needs that are around you. Mission
work is staring you in the face and it only takes two or three
gathered in his name for God to be in the midst, raising you up with
holy hands to serve them in the name of Jesus.

We have this great responsibility to be Christ to the world, to pray
for them, to love them, to make their lives everything that it can be
in order for them to be healed. Go, Church, and teach them to obey
everything that Christ has commanded us. And what has he commanded us
above all else, but to love God with all we are and to love each other
as we love ourselves. Care for the world and be willing to heal. Let
us pray…

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church
www.newlibertyumc.org

Devotional Blog – http://devoblog.posterous.com

Sent from Whit’s iPad

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