When compassion gains power
In an age of social distancing, it is not hard to imagine life for a leper in Jesus' day. What’s worse is that they didn’t have medicare or antibiotics. If you contracted leprosy, it’s a death sentence. You are immediately put into quarantine - permanently. You are kept outside the towns, outside the markets, outside society. It’s how leper colonies begin.
All of us would react the same way. No one wants to expose themselves right. Which is what makes our passage really interesting because Jesus doesn’t pull back. He heals the leper and by doing so, shows us something about who he is.
Our passage tells us that Jesus is the compassionate King.
Jesus is the compassionate King
38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
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.
The leper didn’t say make me well. He said make me clean and this is why leprosy is a horrible disease to have because it makes you unclean. You are cut off. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, you don’t belong to the realm of the living. Because everything you touch becomes death.
And when a leper comes before Jesus, what does Jesus do? The one thing you should never ever ever do. He touched him! Don't you realise what you’ve just done Jesus? You’ve exposed yourself to leprosy! I mean if you want to heal the guy that’s very cool. But you didn’t have to stretch out your hand and touch him. There are a lot of times Jesus healed people from great distances so why touch the guy? Notice how the Bible specifically describes it – stretched out his hand and touched him.
Why? Because he had compassion on the man.
I wonder how many of you guys know this year is election year for the president of the USA. And the democratic party is choosing their nominee who will go and challenge Trump. And would you be surprised that there a few billionaires in the mix? They all get up on TV and debate and give speeches promising this or that. I stand for this right, I stand against that injustice. But we all know they’re all saying whatever the people want to hear. They’re saying whatever they have to say to win.
Any politician can be motivated to stand for you. You got enough money they will definitely stand for you. But which of them will trade places with us? To live in your house, sleep in your tiny bed, drive your little box car, have the same bank account as you. Would a billionaire trade places with you?
Think about it. Why do we quarantine those with the coronavirus? Why are lepers outcast? Because to come into contact with them is to expose yourself to danger. When Jesus touches a leper, he has made himself unclean. As far as everyone else is concerned, he might as well have leprosy himself. Why did you do that Jesus? You’ve just started your career and now you’re throwing it all away? And for a leper?
Why did Jesus do it? Verse 41 – moved with pity. He had compassion. Jesus stands with the hopeless. When the world casts you out, when no one else wants you, Jesus stretches out his hand puts his hand on you as if to say, you’re mine.
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.”
It will be stupid to touch a leper unless you are Jesus. Because immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean. The unclean became clean. And Jesus the clean, became unclean. What’s more look what Jesus says in verse 44. Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.
Here the question: Proof of what? That he was healed? That was obvious. And why do the priests need proof anyway?
Because the healing of a leper is a sign that the Messiah has come. It’s proof that Jesus is the king of Israel. See if you were a first century Jew and all you’ve known is that the Romans came from far away and conquered your home and all you were taught is one day God’s King will come and save you, you’d be looking out for him too. And one of the main signs of the Messiah is that he will heal lepers. When that day comes, God will save His people.
It seems to me that so often the powerful are not as compassionate as they could be and the compassionate are oftentimes powerless. But in Jesus Christ, both those things come together. He is compassionate and kind, but at the same time he is powerful and able to defeat his enemies.
He is the King but he is the compassionate King. What does this mean for us? None of us are lepers. Nobody here has the coronavirus. I hope. But all of us are suffering from different things – some are outwardly obvious, like leprosy. Some bleed only on the inside. No matter the case, Jesus will have compassion on us. He knows our pain and he really really cares. If he could trade places with you, He would. And he did on the cross. Don’t forget that. God should judge us, but he judged Jesus. God should save Jesus, but he saved us.