Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, April 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/3/14 Sermon - Jesus Switches Places

“Jesus Switches Places”

Mark 1:40-45

 

We have finally made it to the last verse of chapter one. 

It is important to note,
that in the original Greek,
in the book,
Mark actually wrote,
there are no verses or paragraphs.
 

The Bible was first divided into chapters, in 1227 A.D. by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

The Wycliffe English Bible was the first Bible to use his chapter pattern, in 1382.

 

Then in 1448 A.D. the Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi, Nathan.

 

Robert Estienne, also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into numbered verses, in 1555.

 

The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to utilize both Nathan’s and Stephanus’ verse divisions, and they have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions, since then.

 

The purpose was to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily. And it certainly does. *

 

Today’s Scripture, in Mark, tells us about the first of two encounters, recorded in the Gospels, where we have Jesus healing a leper.

There is this encounter

and then there is an occasion in Luke 17, where Jesus healed ten lepers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that Jesus didn’t heal other lepers.

 

Remember the miracles we have recorded in the Gospels are selective. Jesus was healing people by the thousands. And since leprosy was common in Israel,

Luke records that in Luke 4:27,
and had been common for a long time,

it is very likely Jesus healed many lepers.

 

Which may lead us to question, if the miracles recorded are selective?

 

Why was this miracle of healing a leper selected over the others?

 

As we have learned from the first chapter of Mark, Jesus had a purpose for coming to earth, and that was to proclaim the good news of God.

 

“The time had come, the kingdom of God was near, repent and believe the good news.” Found in verse 15.

 

Then in verse 38 we read where Jesus told his four disciples,

“Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.    That is why I have come.”

 

Jesus had a message, and he wanted everyone he came in contact with to hear that message. And to validate the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, miracles started happening.

 

Jesus was revealing glimpses of what the Kingdom of God was like. The Kingdom had come to earth and that meant the healing of diseases, ending of death, casting out of demons, feeding multitudes, walking on water, you name it, Jesus could do it! He had supernatural powers and combined with his compassion for his creation, Jesus couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and touching those who were hurting, including this leper.

 

Just think about it. If Jesus’ message was that He was the Messiah, God incarnate,

what would he have to do to prove it?

He would have to do the miraculous, which fulfills prophecy.

 

Let’s take into account what we know to be true. Jesus spent a period of three years in ministry.

 
Not a lot of time,
but during that time,
Jesus started His ministry in Judea,

then he spent up to a year and a half, going through Galilee,

then at the end of his time,

leading up to his crucifixion, he was in the southern part of Judea.

 

All this time, he was going from town to town, village to village, place to place, and preaching the same message,

 
the gospel, of the Kingdom of God,
the good news of salvation,
forgiveness,
and eternal life.
 

Just like he told his disciples when they first started out,

“That is why I have come.”

All along the way, He proved His point by continually performing miracles.

By doing the things that only God could do.
 
This created a dilemma.
 

And this interaction with this particular leper not only represents the dilemma, it also compounds the dilemma. Thus, we now have a good reason for Mark to record this healing of a leper.

 
Let’s take a look at the dilemma.
 

Jesus has but started out on the journey for which he has come to earth, when a man with leprosy,

of all things,
comes up to him,
drops to his knees,

and begs, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Quite out of the ordinary, let me try to explain why.

According to the laws of the Old Testament, given in Leviticus 13, whenever a leper was anywhere near other people, they had to say,

 

“Unclean, unclean, unclean,” in order to warn people.

 

They also needed to shred their clothes, so others could also see they were lepers.

 

Lepers were also forced to live outside of the city, and were not allowed to associate with healthy people, which left them to associate only with other lepers.

 

This meant, no family, no friends, no job, no worship, no hope.

 

Matthew and Luke describe the same scene, and Luke, who was a physician describes the leper this way: …”visibly, ugly, frightening, a living death…a living death.”

 

When you combine the horrendous disease with the fact that lepers could have no contact with anyone except other lepers, the results of the disease was almost worse than the disease itself. 

 

Okay, having understood the way of life for a leper, what on earth is he doing coming up to Jesus?

 
Let’s face it, he’s not supposed to do that.
 

But this leper not only came up to Jesus, but in order to do so, he would have had to come through a crowd, because there was always a crowd around Jesus.

 

This man was violating all necessary standards of exclusion because he was desperate.

 

He must have also been confident that Jesus was able to heal him, but by his question, the one thing he wasn’t so sure of was if Jesus was willing, because he begins his request with        “If you are willing..”

 

I wonder what had been going through this man’s mind?

 

He knows he has no just claim on Christ, because he has to be aware of his own wretchedness.

 

He had to have viewed himself as an outcast, despicable, despised both by humans and by God.

 

Yet, if Jesus is the Son of God, it looks like this leper is giving it a last ditch effort to appeal to God’s compassionate side and seek healing.

 

Can you imagine how the crowd must have reacted?

I suspect horror spread quickly through the crowd.

 

Now let’s look at Jesus’ response. Mark writes,

 

“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”

 
Jesus felt the man’s pain,
He connected with his isolation,
his social isolation,
his religious isolation,
his physical distress.
 

And He did the one thing that this man had not felt in what must have seemed eternity…. He touched him.

 

I want to point out another piece of Jesus’ response that may be easily overlooked.

 

I want you to see, that Jesus did not respond to this man, because the leper “believed in him” or “worshipped him”.

 

Jesus made a point of healing all kinds of people, whether they had faith

or had no faith.
Jesus did not have a prerequisite.
 

People did not have to be something or do something in particular in order to be touched by Jesus.

 

The healing was not determined by the leper’s attitude.

 

Jesus healed him because he had compassion for him.

 
God is a God of compassion.
 

God feels the pain of sin’s effects on sinners.

 

God feels the pain of suffering in this world.

 

That is what motivated Jesus to reach out and touch the leper and say, “I’m willing, be cleansed.”

 
Then notice what Mark records.
 

“Immediately, the leprosy left him and he was cured.”

 

Well, healing a leper must have been at the top of the list of the miraculous.

 

As far as we know, it had never been done before.

 

And yet, Mark writes, that Jesus gave the man a strong warning,

 

“See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go directly to the priests and do what you need to do according to the Jewish law, and give your testimony to the priests.”

 

My initial response to this is, “You have got to be kidding?

Don’t tell anyone?
 

In fact, we will see that Jesus often gives this instruction to the people he heals. There are many speculations as to why, and today I am going to give you one of them.

 

God has appeared on Earth, for the first time,

as a human,
and yet,
he has super-human powers.
 

Even today, humans have come up with a cure for leprosy, but we are still unable to restore the parts of the body destroyed by the disease.

 

Jesus warns the man not to tell anyone, and what does the man do?

 

Tells everyone he sees. And what happens to Jesus?

 

Jesus is now forced to stay in the outskirts of the city.

 

It is Jesus who can no longer enter the cities and villages.

 
When he does,
the crowds become so large
he is trampled
and no one can hear the message.
 

Remember, it is the message that Jesus wants to share, not necessarily his ability to heal everything and everyone.

 

In order for Jesus to teach and share the message of the kingdom of God,

 

he is now in the place where the leper once was,

 
and the leper who was healed
 
is now in the village, with other people.
 
Ironic, don’t you think?                      
Or not.
 

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus ultimately came to do? Trade places with us?

 
It seems to me Jesus is like Superman.
 

I know it is not an exact comparison, but hear me out.

 

If anyone finds out that Clark Kent is Superman, it will never be the same.

 

Clark Kent will no longer be able to be a mild, mannered reporter.

 

The popularity of what he does as Superman would become so overwhelming,

 

he would no longer be able to leave his house without people swarming all over him.

 

That means he would no longer be able to be out in public, and it is in public, that Clark Kent is able to recognize when people are in trouble, and when Superman needs to appear to help someone.

 

Therefore, if he couldn’t be in public, he would no longer be able to find out who is in danger and the superhero would be trapped.

 
I think Jesus had a similar dilemma.
 

If everyone gets wind of what he is capable of doing, he will no longer be able to go to the people and tell them about the kingdom.

 

And yet, to give credence to his claim, Jesus performs miracles that only God could do.

 
Somewhat of a “Catch 22”.  

The longer Jesus can keep his true identity quiet, the longer he has to spread the Good News, and to teach his disciples how to do so when he’s gone.

Because, ultimately what happens?
 

When Jesus was forced by Pilate to answer the question as to whether he was God or not,

 

and he answers the truth, that he and God are the same.

 
Jesus was crucified.
 
So there we have it.
 

This miracle is a metaphor for what Jesus did for us at the cross.

Today we come together to remember this metaphor.

We come to the Lord’s table.
 

We are spiritual lepers, who lived in alienation and isolation from God. We met him,

we were brought into the presence of God,

into the realization of the Kingdom of God

and the only way we can be taken from our isolation and brought into the presence of God,

was for Jesus to isolate himself on the cross,

and to be forsaken, for our sake.
Because Jesus was treated as an outcast,
we are welcomed into the presence of God.
 

Would the ushers please come forward to prepare for the Lord’s Supper.

 

We begin our preparation for the taking of the bread and the wine, by taking an offering.

 

This offering is an opportunity for us to give to others.

 

The money collected during this offering is used by the Deacons to reach out to the outcast of our society, those who live in our area and are in financial need for food, housing, or medical assistance.

This is our opportunity to give money that will directly touch people who need a gift of compassion and encouragement.
 

And now we come together to remember exactly how Jesus traded places with us

and was crucified and buried to cover our sins.

And yet, on the third day
He again demonstrated the miraculous,
which gives us hope,
that when we come to this table and say,

“If you are willing, Jesus, you can make me clean.”

We will hear Jesus respond with, “I am willing, be clean.”

 

Just before Jesus was to be taken before the high priest to be crucified, as he was eating supper with his disciples, he took the bread and said, …….

 

*[The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton's chapter divisions.

 

The Bible was divided into chapters and verses to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily.

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan's verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html#ixzz39BjhUSnt]