Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mark.1.40-45; Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany; February 18, 2009

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 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.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

image It was a busy time for Jesus. Preaching in the synagogues of the area; casting out demons; healing sick people. There were crowds of people everywhere he went. They crowded around him wanting to hear more about the “kingdom of God.” They crowded around him because they had seen him heal people who were sick. And there were sick people among them, too. That day there was a bold leper there too. He made his way through the crowd to Jesus. He shouldn’t have been there. He shouldn’t have been pushing through the crowd. The law didn’t allow contact. But in order to get to Jesus, contact was required. He was persistent not counting the legal infractions. The law wasn’t cruelty; leprosy is a debilitating, deadly, very contagious disease. It was incurable. This man should have kept his distance, covered himself and shouted “unclean, unclean, unclean.” He disregarded all of that and pressed his way through the crowd. He was desperate to see Jesus. He was desperate to talk to Jesus. His desperation made him disregard the law.

Finally after struggling, wedging and pushing, he came to the place where Jesus was speaking. He almost fell to the ground as he broke through the final ring of people that encircled the healer. For a long moment he stood, looking at the object of his struggle. When he realized that he was looking into Jesus eyes, he fell to his knees. “Jesus,” he spoke loudly “I know that you can heal me.” As he spoke he pulled back the cloth covering his arms to reveal the dark red rash that identified his illness. “Will you heal me?” He knew what Jesus could do. He had seen and talked to people who had been healed. They were sick, crippled, in pain and suffering before. And Jesus set them free from it all. He wanted to be set free. It wasn’t a question of ability; it was a question of will.

Jesus looked at the man. For a moment he seemed angry, as if the interruption wasn’t welcome. The leper recoiled in fear, but Jesus face turned soft and caring, and his hand came to rest on the unclean man’s shoulder. “I am willing.” He spoke softly. “Be clean.” The words had barely left Jesus mouth and the rash was gone. The man stared at his arms in unbelief. Not that Jesus had healed a leper, but that Jesus had healed him. “Jesus is willing.” He said, “Jesus is willing.” He repeated even louder as he rubbed his now smooth arms faster and faster. He jumped to his feet “Jesus is willing!” he shouted. The hand on his shoulder tightened, and Jesus spoke again. “Don’t tell anyone yet.” He said sternly. “Go to the priests and show them that you are clean. Offer the sacrifices that Moses says are appropriate.” But the words fell past the healed leper. He spun around and flayed his arms to the crowd. “I’m clean, Jesus healed me! Jesus is willing! Jesus is willing!” and off he ran through the crowed. “Jesus healed me! Jesus is willing!” echoed the voice as it fell away in the distance. Jesus returned to his place and continued to teach. A second glance looked where the man had approached. The crowded pressed in they just had to be closer to Jesus.

Can you see yourself in this story? Pushing your way through the crowd, desperate to see Jesus, desperate to have him heal you? Well, I know you’ve been there. I’ve been there with some of you, sitting beside your bed asking the question with you, “Will Jesus heal me?” “if it is your will.” We pray together. It’s a common story; we know the pain of being sick. We know the shame that seems to be associated with it, shame that comes from not being able to take care of yourself, and feeling helpless. Our faith tells us that Jesus can do something about it, if only he will.

Yeah, we know the leper’s point of view, because we’ve lived it. And it’s not just a pov we know because we’ve been sick. Oh, we suffer enough because of sickness, but there are other things that we want Jesus to take care of too. We live every day with problems, and troubles, and pain. Not the kind you can take penicillin for either. It’s the world we live in…

Maybe you’re pushing your way through the crowed to see if Jesus will heal your marriage. Why is it that what started out with such joy and promise causes so much pain? Why can’t you talk about it to the person you love more than anyone? It’s shameful what you say to each other. You try to hide it, but you’re sure people are watching you. On your way to Jesus you just want the pain to stop. Jesus I know you can do something, but will you?

The news lately isn’t very comforting, is it? “Jesus I know you can straighten out the world, will you?” Why do we have to hear every day about how bad things are? Why does evil seem to be just a step behind us? Why is future full of so many questions? Is my job secure? Will I loose everything? Will my family be ok? What will my children do for their livelihood?

It’s hard to get to Jesus, the crowed is heavy, but you and I are desperate. Everything in life seems to weigh you down. Bad decisions, wrong turns, selfish thoughts, and uncaring, unloving actions plague us. When we look in our hearts we see sin. And we can’t get rid of if. Every one piles up and causes new pain and more. “Jesus you can help me forget the sins I’ve done in my life. Will you?”

We sit with the leper, knowing how he feels, knowing his pain and suffering, knowing his disease and ours. It’s evident all around us. No matter how hard we try, the world is a dangerous place, full of pain and suffering. But the real problem is that we are a part of the problem. We try to make a difference by our sinfulness just adds to the problem. Things keep getting worse instead of better. It’s a desperate situation. We are desperate people. “Jesus, are you willing?”

“I am willing.” Jesus said to the leper. “Be clean.” And he was immediately healed he was immediately clean. Something was different here with Jesus. Jesus reaches out and touches the leper, and drags him into a place, a kingdom, a place where God rules over everything; a place where things are different. Leprosy is not a part of His world. Pain is a part of the world. Fear is not a part of the world. Jesus makes the leper a part of it. He is healed. For him now everything is different.

We are a part of this story, too. The Good News is that Jesus drags us to a place that is different. He reaches out and touches you to drag you into his kingdom. You know what the problem is; you know what causes all the pain and suffering, all the disease and the hate in our broken and troubled world. It’s sin. Sin is the real disease. Sin is the real killer. And sin is right there in the middle of your life. Sin is right here in the middle of your life. Sin is right here in the middle of your heart. It’s you trying to live life on your own terms, your way instead of God’s way. It’s you trying to solve your problems on your own, and running to God when things fall flat.

Remember the leper. “I know you can heal me.” He said on his knees. But he also said, “If you will.” Maybe he was hedging his bets just a bit. We don’t need to hedge our bets with Jesus. We say here on Sunday morning, “I know you can heal me, a poor miserable sinner. Have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life…” And Jesus does. He takes care of your sin in the only way for your sin to be dealt with. He kills you. St. Paul says it like this:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20, ESV)

Jesus dies your death on the cross. You are connected to his death in Holy Baptism. He sheds his blood instead of yours. Just like Jesus cleansed the leper, He washes you free from your sin. He does that for you, not because you deserve to be forgiven, the leper didn’t deserve to be clean. He does it because he is willing.

Jesus comes to take care of sin in the world, to bring a new world, a new kingdom. You can see it everywhere he goes. He casts out demons. He heals the sick. And he most importantly he forgives sins. That’s the real difference. Jesus forgives sins. Wherever he goes he pushes away sin and all its effects. It’s like a bubble of clean that follows him everywhere. He heals, he cleanses, he teaches. Where Jesus is the world is a different place.

That’s all good and fine for the leper. He leapt for joy and told everyone what Jesus had done for him, that Jesus was willing to heal him. I know Jesus is able to take care of the things in my life, but is he willing? Why does my sin keep bothering me? I’m still sick. My marriage still isn’t perfect. War is on the horizon. The stock market isn’t recovering. Politicians are fighting over my future. The world is still broken. Is Jesus willing to help me?

Jesus says to you, too, “I am willing.” He touched the leper, he touches you. For you, he uses water and his Word. It’s in baptism that he touches you and makes you clean. We see the water and hear the words of promise. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is God at work driving out sin and its effects in your life. Your connection to Christ on the cross is sealed in God’s promise when the water touches you and God’s name is spoken. The Apostle Paul used these words:

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6, ESV)

When you put wine to your lips, when you eat that bread, Jesus is there, touching you and forgiving you. It doesn’t seem like much, but that’s God at work driving out sin and its effects in your life. Holy Communion tells you that everything Jesus Christ did he did for you, especially when he hung on the cross to die for you to forgive you of all your sins. Jesus blood cleanses you when you open your mouth and take the very blood and the very body that hung on the cross into you.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24, ESV)

That’s Jesus working in your life right now taking care of the sin that troubles you right now.

With these simple things Jesus touches you and drags you into his Kingdom, his place. That’s Jesus at work in your life right now. He is taking care of the things that bother you right now. You see in baptism he has made you his own, and nothing can change that.

“… neither death nor life, neither economies nor cancer, neither angels nor demons, neither broken relationships nor selfishness, neither the present nor the future, neither politicians or terrorists, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

There’s power in all that Jesus gives you right now. But, you still live in a broken world. And the trouble of that world interrupts you and still causes you trouble. “Jesus I know you can change it all, are you willing?” “I am willing.” Jesus says. “I am coming again. Look for me. Everything I have done I have done to set everything right again, once and for all.” Come Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for God's beautiful message.I needed this particular message. I usually try to fix things myself, then turn to God after I've messed it up. All praise to our Triune God who makes all things and sustains all things. Even our fallen world. And Who loves us so much - a love that sent His son to the cross for our sins and who will take us home some day to be with Him.
Thanks be to God.