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Jesus is Willing

Date: May. 12, 2019

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 1:35-45

Key Verse: Mark 1:41

Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Since it’s Mother’s Day, I’d like to give a big thank you to all the moms for all the things they do for your kids. Moms have such tough jobs but they are willing to do almost anything because they love their children. Things like, clean their poopy diaper, clean them after they spit up and make a mess, get up in the middle of the night and take care of them when they are crying (enough about their husbands, now let me get to what they do for their kids – just kidding). Moms are amazing, they give life to their kids, they hold their them any time of the day or night when they need it, they are fierce protectors of their children, they are selfless and love unconditionally, they listen to their kids when they need someone to talk to, they give tough love when they have to, to make their kids better, they teach their children right from wrong and sit with them for hours helping them with their homework, they sacrifice their life for their kids, they make sure their kids never go hungry and put them down to bed at night and wake them up in the morning for school, moms are incredible because of their willingness and love. So, THANK YOU moms for all you do. In today’s passage we find that moms have one of Jesus’ most important qualities, his willingness.

Jesus’ ministry had begun to take off. He had been baptized by John, blessed by God, tested in the desert, called his first disciples, driven out demons and healed many people. The word around town was spreading and everyone was beginning to take notice. Things were moving fast and Jesus needed take a moment to recharge and refocus. Take a look at verse 35, “35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” After a long night of healing the sick and driving out demons Jesus got up long before sunrise and headed out to look for a place where he could be alone. He often started his day like this, it was like breakfast for his soul. Nutritionists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research clearly suggests that what we eat and what we drink first thing in the morning can have a pretty dramatic effect on both our health and mental well-being. Likewise, Jesus knew how important it was to start his day off right, he wanted to spiritually feed his soul and he did this through his early morning prayer. This would set him off in the right direction and strengthen his spiritual wellbeing. It was the time when he talked with God his father, to receive his direction and strength to care out his duties for the day, prayer was Jesus’ power source.

In order to pray, Jesus left his house. He thought about his environment and prepared a place to prayer. The environment in which we pray can have a big impact, if there are things there that distract us, like our bed, TV, computer, family, etc. we might never be able to focus and pray. I’ve seen some interesting prayer closets that freaked me out when I first saw them because I was not familiar with them. I used to think, “why do you need a little room to pray in? Can’t you just pray in a normal room?” But the movie “War Room” helped me understand the concept behind them. “War Room” was about a woman’s small prayer room, where she went each day to do battle, praying for the ones she loved. Living in the city, it’s not easy to find a secluded place where we won’t get distracted and can concentrate on prayer. Likewise, Jesus understood the importance of having the proper environment to pray, that’s why he left the house and went to a secluded place apart from the crowds and even his disciples. Jesus wanted to be alone so that he could spend some quality personal time with his father God.

I read that the translated word for solitary place is the same word for wilderness that is used in verses 3, 4, 12, 13 which maybe hinting at the same kind of spiritual testing when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. In the original language, the writer Mark seems to be suggesting that Jesus was engaged in prolonged prayer at this time. Mark records in only two other places where Jesus prayed like this, in chapter 6 after Jesus fed the 5000 and the crowd (v6:46) wanted to make him king by force, and in chapter 14 right before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane (14:32–42). All three, were times of crisis when Jesus was tempted to take an easy way rather than that of suffering and death.

Take a look at verse 36. “36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”” Here we find Simon, who is not yet called Peter, in an early stage of discipleship development. He is not sure yet what is going on in Jesus’ ministry but he’s doing what he thinks is best. Simon is with his companions, which probably consisted of Andrew, James, John, and maybe Philip & Nathaniel. Notice that Mark calls them companions, noting that they are not yet called disciples, probably because they didn’t act like disciples yet. Mark doesn’t start using the term disciple until the middle of the next chapter. What I hadn’t realized until I was preparing for this message was, that here Mark was pointing out a mistake by Simon and his companions. When we read this verse, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in the original language, the word Mark use for “looking for” means to seek with evil or inappropriate intention. And so, what this reveals, is that the companions wanted Jesus to take full advantage of his growing popularity by perform more miracles. And they wanted to be a part of it, “Come on Jesus, get over there, don’t miss this opportunity, everyone is looking for you. And take us with you!” However, Jesus’ primary mission was not to be a miracle-worker but a redeemer. Jesus was not willing to be a street performer or a circus act, he came to do the work of God. And apparently the people of Capernaum had no interest in Jesus beyond his miracles nor did they have any real interest in following God.

Simon and his companions failed to understand that this kind of popularity didn’t entice Jesus, but actually made him want to withdraw. Take a look at verse 38, “38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”” Jesus’ reply shows that he wasn’t tempted by the crowds to be popular or famous. When he saw this coming, he wanted to go somewhere else. I believe Jesus’ early morning prayer helped prepare for this spiritual attack and give him a good foundation to sustain him. Jesus knew God’s purpose for him was to preach about the kingdom of God. This is why Jesus came, to proclaim God’s word. So, he took this opportunity to leave the area and take his ministry on the road to all the other cities and along the way he taught God’s word and drove out demons. This was a snapshot of Jesus’ life. Some celebrities fall into this trap when they become successful, but Jesus, wasn’t going to be controlled by the crowds or his disciples.

“So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” (v39) At this point, Jesus was free to go whenever and wherever he wanted to in order to preach about God. He focused on teaching in the synagogues, where he could reach a lot of people. But he also went to places where the people didn’t go to the synagogue, to those who were sick and demon possessed so that he could reach all people. Along the way he ran into an interesting person take a look at verse 40, “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”” Mark makes no reference as to time or place when this event took happened; it could have taken place anytime during Jesus’ ministry. Mark probably included it here to provide a climax to the preceding acts of healing and as a transition to the controversies that follow, which will raise the question of the validity of the law. In this miracle, there are only two characters involved. The first is a person that is untouchable, conscious of his own state, earnestly desiring to be cleansed, humble enough to ask for cleansing and believing that Jesus had the power to heal him. The other figure is the compassionate Jesus, who didn’t shrink away from laying his hand even on the grossness of leprosy.

Jesus didn’t come to discriminate, he came to preach & heal all people, especially the sick. Lepers were outcasts, they were unwanted and thought to be contagious at that time. Most commentators agree that in the Bible “leprosy” is a general term covering various chronic skin diseases and is not limited to what is called today as Hansen’s disease. Without treatment in a hot climate many skin diseases were vicious. Not only was the disease painful and debilitating but it rendered the victims religiously and socially unclean. They were required to live outside of cities and towns, have no contact with anyone, and declare themselves unclean when anyone approached. However, this leper breaks the law in approaching Jesus. Still he had the faith to overcome those obstacles and come to Jesus. Also, he had absolute faith that Jesus could heal him. In him there was no doubt.

It's here we learn why Jesus came. Take a look at verse 41, “Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”” The man believed Jesus could heal him, the only question was if Jesus was willing. This faith moved Jesus’ heart, he was filled with compassion, however, other translations (even earlier versions of the NIV) say that Jesus was indignant, these are very different emotions. I had a bit of difficulty reconciling these differences. I have always known Jesus to be full of compassion in this story, so to hear that he was angry or indifferent was a bit of a struggle for me. And what I’ve found from the research is that most manuscripts say that Jesus was full of compassion, but the earliest ones say that Jesus was indignant or angry. So, it’s not clear what it was changed. One way I can see it is that Jesus was filled with compassion for the Leper and angry at the situation and the unfair treatment the man received. Some have suggested that Jesus was angry with the leper for interrupting him or approaching him which would make him unclean or knowing the leper’s actions were going to make preaching difficult, but this seems out of character for Jesus. Even if “with compassion” is not the original reading, the compassion of Jesus comes out clearly in the fact that he touched the leper. Such a thing was unheard of and made Jesus ceremonially unclean. Jesus loved the man and wanted to make him whole. No one wanted to be near lepers, let alone touch them. Jesus didn’t have to touch him, he could have healed him with a word, but Jesus knew how much physical touch would mean to this man. Physical touch is so powerful, newborn babies do so much better when they have skin on skin touch. Recruiters even say that a good firm handshake is important after an interview because people remember you more because you touched them.

One thing is clear is that Jesus came to make us clean. To be completely clean that means clean on the outside; to heal our sicknesses, to redeem our failures, to restore us to be the children of God. But also, to clean us on the inside; clear out our demons, give us pure thoughts, motives, desires. This made me think about what St. Paul said to the Philippians believers, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8) This is in essence what it means to repent and it connects to the beginning of the chapter when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.” When John came, he said that Jesus would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit, which would bring real change in us and clear out the evil spirits and fill us with good things, the things of God. Otherwise we would become like a vacant building and more evil spirits would come back and try to take up residence again. (ref)

“Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (v42) The man was healed. It was an immediate healing. It was a complete physical healing, there was no trace of the disease left. His skin was as smooth as a baby’s bottom once again. It’s interesting how it says, leprosy left him and that he was cleansed not healed. The law regarding leprosy is found in Lev 13–14. The Bible never speaks of healing leprosy, but always of cleansing it. Maybe because leprosy is a symbol of sin that must be cleansed and only Jesus can cleanse us because only, he can forgive sin.

Verses 43-45 tell us, “43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

Jesus gave him a strong warning. Jesus wanted to restore his life as well as his health. So, he sent the man to offer sacrifices and present himself before the priests so that he could assimilate back into society. But the man wouldn’t listen. The man didn’t do what Jesus told him to do and as a result he wasn’t fully healed inside. This event reminded me of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and no one could heal her. She went up to Jesus, touched him, and was healed immediately. (Lk 8:43) Sure she was healed outwardly, but she wasn’t healed on the inside. Jesus wanted to heal her completely, just like he wanted to heal this leper completely. But he had to obey Jesus and follow his commands to be fully healed but he didn’t so he missed out on the blessing of complete healing. Another result was that Jesus couldn’t preach in that area easily anymore. There is consequence to not obeying Jesus, some are more serious/severe than others. The man had to go back to the priests, and do what the law commanded, but he didn’t obey. As a result, he didn’t get cleaned inside. Jesus came to preach, but now he can’t because of this guy. Jesus said don’t tell, maybe so that people could hear the word before being healed so that they would be healed both on the inside and out.

In this passage we see Jesus prayed for God’s wisdom, strength, and direction. Prayer was his power source. He wanted to do God’s will and preach about the kingdom of God. He also wanted to heal others but sometimes that got in the way of his preaching ministry. Jesus came to make us clean, to save us from our sin and cleanse our soul.

Also, we see what Jesus is willing to do and what he’s not willing to do. In the first part we see what Jesus was NOT willing to do. He wasn’t willing to become like a circus act performing for people who had evil or selfish intentions. In the second part we see that Jesus was willing to preach the word of God and heal those who were sick. However, the people of Capernaum weren’t interested in Jesus but only in his miracles. And the leper wasn’t much different, he wasn’t interested in God, but only in getting what he wanted. He didn’t want the healer, but only the healing. And often we fall into this category too. We’re willing to follow Jesus’ commands when we need something, but not so much after we get what we want. We come to Jesus when we are in need, and as soon as we get our problem solved, we leave without obeying his commands. 

In our modern hospitals with advanced medicine, it’s so easy to lose sight of the wonder of this healing of Jesus in all his purity stooping to touch the ugliness and stench of this sick leper. Likewise, it’s so easy to forget how holy and pure Jesus was in heaven and how he was willing to come down to us to touch the ugliness of our sin just to bring healing and forgiveness. Jesus was willing to get dirty with us, in order to save us. Some people don’t want to associate with others because they are beneath them, or they don’t look good to their eyes. In the ancient world, the attitude towards leprosy was like the modern attitude towards Ebola or AIDS today. To the pious Jew, conscious of the ritual uncleanness of the leper (Lev. 13:3), the wonder became even more staggering: Jesus was willing to incur defilement (as they saw it), so that the defiled leper might be made clean. The whole of the gospel is here in a nutshell: Christ redeems us from the curse by becoming under a curse for our sake (Gal. 3:13). Thank God for Jesus who was willing to come to us, when we couldn’t come to him. Thank God for Jesus, who was willing to get dirty to save sin sick people like us.

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