Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed. Mark 1:40-42
Out of the 4 Gospel accounts, the Book of Mark is my personal favorite. It is fast-paced; moving readily from scene to scene with a narrative that seems to “cut to the chase” time and time again. Understanding that this book was most likely relayed by Peter to Mark, it makes sense that it’s written the way it is. Peter strikes me as a “no-nonsense” type of guy and someone who very much wanted to put the story of Jesus out there as it really happened. He wanted to make the case for Jesus as Messiah and Lord. The older I get, the more I respect and come to love Peter…I hope his boldness and righteous audacity marks my own life and the legacy I’ll leave behind someday.
In the first chapter of Mark, an account is tucked away about a leper who approaches Jesus. It’s a short passage and it’s easy to miss as scenes change very quickly within Mark. To give a quick backstory: Mark 1 starts with John the Baptist heralding the way for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus arrives, John baptizes Him, Jesus goes into the desert, He then returns to call His first disciples, and then starts ministering around the area of Galilee. Very quickly the news of Jesus spreads. He’s known as some sort of teacher with authority; He holds the power to cast out demons and heal the sick. He didn’t have to go very far to find a crowd; it seems as though crowds always found Him.
So back to the leper account. A man with a serious skin disease of leprosy comes to Jesus. We might assume it took place within a synagogue as Mark mentions synagogues as being the place for Jesus’ teaching in Galilee. We know from Old Testament law, lepers were outcasts from the rest of the general population. There were rules for lepers to be quarantined and kept within colonies. It was for the safety of all other healthy individuals and to stop the spread of disease. If a leper were to spontaneously heal from his spots, he would have to show himself to a priest and then be verified as “clean” in order to reenter society with other non-lepers.
In Mark 1:40, we see that the man’s posture before Jesus was humility mixed with a lack of dignity: he came on his knees begging. “If you are willing, You can make me clean.” What a statement and what a picture of a heart that recognizes the power of Jesus. In essence, he was saying “I already know You can heal me. It’s just whether or not you choose to.”
Jesus’ reply is motivated by compassion and suddenly, He brings dignity to the man through His touch. When was the last time anyone had touched this leper or even paid the least bit of attention to him? Yet Jesus touches him and says “I am willing. Be made clean.” At that point, the man was healed and Jesus instructs him to present himself to a priest in order to fulfill the law for his restoration.
I’ve probably read this account dozens of times but it wasn’t until recently that the actions of the leper and the words of Jesus sank deeper into my spirit than ever before. The leper displays remarkable faith. He’s at the end of his rope. He’s got nowhere to turn. But he knows that the one Who could save him is standing right before him. He’s heard and he’s seen the miracles Jesus has performed and he knows his miracle is entirely possible with Christ. All it takes is the asking.
Jesus’ simple response “I am willing” wrecks me as I think about it. How many times in my own lack of faith have I believed wrongly about Him? How many times have I forgotten that He is willing? Being convicted of my small faith, I begin to realize that I have trusted far too often in my own power to overcome. Rather than approaching Jesus as a benevolent, compassionate, and all-powerful Savior, I have approached Him as anyone else in my life: not big enough to solve my problem and not kind enough to care. Lord, forgive me…I repent of my own blindness!
You know I cannot end any entry without some sort of wrap-up in the hopes that this takes you into the next week as you apply it to your own life. This week is no different. Perhaps your faith in Jesus has been strong and much like the leper, you have approached Him saying “If you are willing…”. That’s an awesome place to be in and I truly want to encourage you to keep going; to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. But perhaps you are in another state of mind in which you have grown cold to the ability of Jesus to supernaturally enter your world and meet you at your point of greatest need. If so, there’s a lesson here to learn from this leper. In doing so, we see the heart of the Savior. Jesus was moved toward compassion; this was a common theme in the Gospels. In Him is a willingness to meet the need you have in a way that leaves no doubt about His character. In reestablishing who Christ is in your life, you reclaim the identity He has given you. And like the leper, you go away changed forever.
I hope wherever you’re at this week you can see the willingness of Jesus to touch your life no matter how unclean or unworthy you feel. Much love to you and always know I’m praying for you and running the race right alongside you.
Please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org