I AM WILLING BE CLEAN!
Key Verse 5:13
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"
First, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (12). Look at verse 12. "While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." He was a leper, condemned as an unclean person according to God's words in Leviticus 13 and 14. Not only he himself was unclean, but also everything and everyone he touched became unclean. He was a source of uncleanness. So, whenever someone was coming closer to him, he had to warn that person, by covering the lower part of his face with his hand and shouting, "Unclean!" "Unclean!" That was what he was about - unclean! That was his identity. Since he was a source of uncleanness, he could not stay with others, but he had to live in the lepers' cave or valley, separated from his own family. There was deep sorrows and pains in his heart that he had been separated from his family. At the same time, there was deep sense of loneliness due to isolation and no fellowship with others. The expression, "who was covered with leprosy" shows that, despite all his attempts to be healed such as repentance, prayers and fasting, his situation got worse and worse until his whole body was covered with leprosy. It seemed that God was really punishing him for his sins. He felt condemned; he despaired deeply.
The Bible talks about leprosy extensively. For example, in describing God's creation of the universe and the earth, the Bible spends 26 verses in Genesis chapter 1. But in describing the leprosy, the Bible spends 78 verses in Leviticus 13 and 14. The reason why the Bible talks about leprosy so extensively like this is not because God specifically hates this disease, but because this disease has the characteristics of sin; in other words, God is showing us what sin does or what happens when people sin through leprosy. Like leprosy, sin makes people unclean. Many people are exposed to sexual immorality even from childhood. As soon as they are exposed to it, their purity, their innocence is taken away and they feel unclean and suffer from the sense of guilt, shame and uncleanness. When people live a sinful life, they are disgusted about even themselves, resulting in self-abuse, self-destructive behaviors. The result of a sinful life is broken relationships - broken relationship between God and men, broken relationship between husband and wife, broken relationship between parents and children, broken relationship among coworkers and friends. When all these relationships are broken due to their sins - violent words and actions, sexually immoral life, foul language, weird behaviors, or terrible character flaws, they are isolated and lonely, because, now even though they try to have some fellowship with others, people avoid them. During the whole summer, no one calls them. How is their life? Painful, lonely, sorrowful, and miserable! That's how people live their life. This is the result of sin; this is the real condition of all fallen men. Isn't there any remedy? Isn't there any hope for mankind? Yes, there is! Our Lord Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, made a way for anyone and everyone to be forgiven of their sins, and thereby, start all over again as if they have done nothing wrong. Today’s passage shows us how the leper, unclean sinner received cleansing from Jesus.
In Israel in those days, there were many lepers, but not all of them received healing from Jesus, but this leper. Why? Because all other lepers had already given up their hope for cleansing, but this leper. So, even though they might hear the news of Jesus - how powerful he was, how he healed many, they were not so excited; they did not respond. But this man was different. He saw the hope and possibility of being cleansed; he came to believe that Jesus could heal him. The first step for cleansing, for healing is to keep hope for it. That's what faith is about. Faith is being sure of what we hope for. Then, because of this hope for healing, because of his faith in Jesus' power to heal him, he began to seek Jesus; he got up from his bed, left his cave, and made his journey to Jesus. As a sick person, it was not easy, but somehow, dragging his feeble body, he walked and walked. There was the danger that, once he tried to enter the village where Jesus was, people might throw stones at him; he was willing to face that danger. Overcoming all those difficulties and dangers, he finally came to Jesus.
When we really believe that Jesus can cleanse us from all our uncleanness, when we believe that Jesus can heal us of our leprosy, what do we do? We really seek him with all our heart and strength, despite dangers or difficulties. The second step for healing, for cleansing is to seek Jesus wholeheartedly. Because only he is the solution. But the problem many people have is: they don't seek him really. Instead, they assume that they are already forgiven, cleansed and healed, because they believe that Jesus is the Almighty and that Jesus can heal them and forgiven them. What they rely on is not Jesus himself, but what they have heard about him; what they rely on is not Jesus himself, but on theology people talk about. As a result, even though they say that they believe in Jesus, fundamentally, there is no real change in their life, and there is no real commitment to God, because there is no real encounter between Jesus and them. In the Old Testament, God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13) This is what He said to the Israel people - those who believed in God. He was showing his believers how they would be able to meet Him and experience Him. Those who seek him with all their heart find him and experience His healing and forgiveness. Only Jesus can heal us; only he can cleanse us; only he can really help us. So, what do we do? We seek him wholeheartedly.
When the leper finally came to Jesus, what did he do? He knelt at Jesus' feet and said to him, "Lord, If you are willing, you can make me clean!" Even a man born blind cried out to Jesus, saying, "Son of David, have mercy on me. I want to see!" People asked Jesus for help directly. But this leper, even after having made such a heroic struggle to come to Jesus, he did not say to him, "Please heal me." Instead, he said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," totally relying on Jesus' choice. It was because his heart was so guilt-ridden that he felt unworthy to ask Jesus for anything directly saying, "Lord, please heal me." He was a condemned man even according to the Bible, and through all his failures, he was confirmed of it. In his eyes, such a condemned man did not have any right to ask Jesus to do anything for him. If Jesus did anything for him, it was purely by his grace alone. So he knelt at Jesus' feet and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."
Some people are confident about themselves, and say, "Thank God for helping me not to sin too much." "Thank God for blessing me to grow up in a believing family so that I might not become sinful like others." Some others sin freely, but they say, "Lord, thank you for forgiving my sins. I love you." Some others are also bold and say, "I have sinned. Please, forgive me." They say so as if God is obligated to forgive or love them. But some others are like this leper; they know how terrible their sin is that they cannot say, "Lord, forgive me." Instead, they stand there in a remote place and beat their chest, crying, "Oh, oh! What shall I do?" In their eyes, their sins are too big to be forgiven. At late night, when no one is around, they kneel down and sob endlessly remembering their terrible sins, which cannot be revoked. While others sing songs of praise so joyfully, they groan deeply. What a terribly ravaged heart it is that they cannot even ask God to forgive them, but just say, "Oh, Lord, have mercy! My sin, my sin!" What they say is this: "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean!" Because of the terrible sense of guilt, they are poor in spirit. They cannot laugh, but mourn day and night. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Second, "I am willing. Be clean!" (13-16). How did Jesus respond to his plea? Look at verse 13. Let’s read this verse together:
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man!!! According to the Bible, Jesus was not supposed to touch him. But when Jesus heard such disturbing words from him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," he was so touched; he felt this man's terribly ravaged heart by the sense of condemnation. With these words, he could see what kind of life he had lived, and what's going on in his heart - such pains and sorrows, such sense of guilt and condemnation - he could not bear to see such a terribly ravaged and broken heart by the sense of condemnation any longer. So, out of his desire to comfort and encourage him, Jesus expressed his affectionate heart toward him by touching him, by even going out of the Bible's instruction. Certainly, Jesus could not despise such a broken and contrite heart.
The man had never expected this. The response he had expected from Jesus was: maybe, at his request, Jesus would say, "Ok, I got it. But don't come closer; just stay where you are," then, healing him without touching him. Then, he would be thankful for his grace all the days of his life. That much would be more than enough. But Jesus did far more than he had expected. Jesus, a holy servant of God, reached out his hand and touched his leprosy-covered body! He had forgotten about that warmth of human hand. No one touched him since he had had leprosy; instead, they avoided him and threw stones at him; they never allowed him to come closer. But Jesus touched him!!!! How was it for the leper? At first, shocking; maybe, he tried to avoid it instinctively, but when Jesus touched him, the warmth of his hand was so good; Jesus was accepting him just as he was, a leper; Jesus' touch, his affectionate heart for him was so soothing that his heart melted. Maybe, at this moment, he broke down and wept uncontrollably. Who could understand his agony that he had been separated from his family by force, and that he had to live in a cave with unclean lepers? Who could understand his pains and sorrows that people avoided him and isolated him? How did he feel when people refused to come near him but instead, threw stones at him? But Jesus accepted him just as he was!!! Jesus touched him. No one had touched him like he did. No one had touched his heart like Jesus did. At this, all his bitterness, sorrow, loneliness and despair melted in him. Now the man could forgive all those people who had despised and mistreated him.
We all experienced this marvelous moment of Jesus touching us, when all our bitterness, anger and sorrows melted in us. When was it? Sometime ago when I was in deep pain. We need to remember it and record it so that we may never forget it, we may never forget his grace. Polish it because it was your wonderful time with Jesus, your Master.
And Jesus said to him, "I am willing. Be clean!" Immediately, he was cured. The man believed the power of Jesus to heal his leprosy, but he was not confident that holy Jesus would be willing to heal such a condemned and worthless man like himself. But Jesus said to him, "I am willing." Not that Jesus was going to just do the minimum for him reluctantly, but it was Jesus' willing desire for him to be cleansed. Because of his repeated failures in his attempts to be healed, he thought that God did not care, or God did not want him to be healed. But that's not the case.
We all have sin problems; we all have weaknesses. We want to overcome them; we fight against them. But when we fail in this fight, when we sin over and over again even against our own will, we despair deeply. When such a sin problem exists continually despite our struggle, we despair; we become fatalistic, thinking that we are doomed to live a miserable and unclean life all the days of our life because of this sin; we wonder why God does not help us with our sin problem; we wonder if God cares for us or not. But Jesus says, "I am willing. Be clean." It is never God's desire for any of us to live such a miserable, shameful and unclean life only because of our sins. It is really God's willing desire to help us in our fight against sin; God wants to see us overcoming our sins and become clean, healthy and sound as children of God. What is God's will for us? He says in the Old Testament, "Be holy as I am holy." Jesus says in the New Testament, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is God's willing desire for us; for this, He is more than willing to help us in our fight against sin. While we fight against our sin, God is right next us, cheering up on us, saying, "Go on, you can do it; I will help you." When we shed tears for the pains and sorrows due to our failures, God remains silent and does not interfere, lest He may ruin the whole thing; watching all our tears and pains, sensing the same pains and sorrows, He remains silent for our sake. Certainly, we are fighting together with God in regard to our sin problems. Then, at the right time, usually, when we reach our limit, when we are about to collapse, God grabs us and reveals Himself to us. There, we experience God, and victory in Him and through Him. Then, everything changes because we experience God, because our eyes are opened to God - our perspectives of life, of God, of ourselves, of the world; our hopes and desires; our life never becomes the same. Jesus says, "I am willing. Be clean!" Those who have faith in Jesus and thereby, seek him with all their hearts and strength come to experience this freedom from sin, this cleansing from their sins. God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)
Look at verse 14. Let's read verse together:
Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."
After cleansing him, Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone." In the previous passage, we learned that Jesus had a clear direction for his ministry, that was, he would focus on preaching the good news, instead of healing the sick; that was his ministry's direction, and that's what he had been doing. Then, at the words of the leper, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," at such a broken and guilt-ridden heart, Jesus was so troubled that he could not ignore his case, even if he was determined to focus on preaching the good news. So, he embraced him and healed him, even going beyond his ministry's direction. He was a compassionate shepherd. But he still did not want all kinds of sick people coming to his ministry. So, he told him not to tell anyone about it, so that his teaching ministry might not be bothered. In this way, he struggled to focus on the teaching ministry.
This passage shows us what kind of person Jesus was very well. He was a compassionate shepherd. At the same time, he struggled to hold onto his ministry's direction, that was, teaching and preaching, not healing. But even if he had such a clear direction and decision about how to do God's work, he was not legalistic; his ministry was not governed by rules and regulations alone, because he did not serve God's work legalistically, but with a compassionate heart for the poor people. At that time, there was harmony in his ministry. Indeed, he was full of grace and truth. This is how we are to serve God's kingdom work, and to serve college students as shepherds - a clear direction of teaching and preaching the word of God, fishing and one to one Bible study, at the same time, not going by rules and regulations, but serving them with compassionate heart.
At the same time, he was concerned about this man being restored to the community. So, he encouraged him to do what the law suggested for his restoration in the society. In this way, he was concerned about his wellbeing very practically. This is how we take care of college students who are under our care, being concerned about their school work, about how they can be successfully established in the society with a good career job, and about their family life. We stand before God with absolute attitude to his will and purpose, and at the same time, we stand before God's flock with deep concern for their wellbeing and practical life in the society. The apostle John says, "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." (3Jn 1:2) When we lead God's flock with grace and truth, they will grow up as sound and healthy Christians, enjoying this new life in Jesus freely.
So, how did the man respond? Look at verses 15 and 16. It reads: "Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Mark's gospel 1:45 reads: "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." Maybe, he was thankful for Jesus' grace; maybe, he wanted to tell how great Jesus was. But when he did not follow Jesus' instruction carefully, but did what he saw right, eventually, Jesus' teaching ministry was hindered. Whenever Jesus entered a town, so many sick people flocked to him, and since Jesus did not want to dilute his ministry's direction, he was not happy to offer medical service to them. So, even though many people gathered, often he simply withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Indeed, Jesus struggled to focus on teaching and preaching in serving God's kingdom work. He struggled hard to keep his ministry's direction. Let's pray that we may follow his example, focusing on teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to poor college students all the time.
One Word: Jesus Says, "I Am Willing. Be Clean!"
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