As this first chapter draws to its close, it is interesting to look back upon the service of the perfect Servant and to see what He has accomplished. The demoniac in the synagogue, the multitude of diseased and possessed folk, and, here, the leper all come into contact with the Saviour. It would appear that Mark collects together the hopeless cases. The demoniac had remained undiscovered, until the Lord came. Those that were brought to Simon Peter’s house had not found a cure, until the Lord came. Those, of that same multitude, that were possessed with demons were not delivered until they found the Lord. Finally, Mark tells us of this leper, a man beyond the care and cure of normal medicine – until he meets the Saviour.
The approach of this leper to the Saviour is most instructive. It displays a man of considerable appreciation in respect to the person of the Saviour. Mark tells us that he came and knelt down to the Lord. Here is an action that acknowledges that the Saviour deserves worship. His words, ‘Thou canst make me clean’ tell us that he recognized the Saviour’s ability to cure and cleanse him of this terrible disease. It was an expression of faith, as well as a testimony to the character of the Lord.
The leper’s appreciation of the Saviour’s greatness is coupled with his recognition of his own need. He was:
It is only Mark that tells us of the compassion of the Saviour, ‘Jesus, moved with compassion’. This glimpse of the heart of the Saviour tells us of His pity for the plight of this man. Although others may be affected by the sight of a man in the grip of this loathsome disease, the Saviour was moved not just to pity him but also to effect his cleansing and cure. Hiebert observes, ‘the verb moved denotes not only a pained feeling at the sight of the suffering but also a yearning to relieve it. Doubtless deeply conscious of the social ostracism that his leprosy had brought upon him, Jesus’ warm touch moved the man’s heart and assured him of the true love of Jesus for an outcast like himself’.3
Love without words or action is not love at all, but an open sham. However, the Lord demonstrated His affection. He ‘saith unto him, I will; be thou clean’. The man’s faith in Christ was rewarded with the cleansing he sought!
A man who was a leper and therefore constituted ceremonially unclean, was automatically banished from human society. All contact both physical and social was forfeit and he either lived alone or amongst a colony of other lepers.
A further demonstration of the love and affection of the Saviour came by His touch, He ‘put forth his hand, and touched him’. He did not need to touch to effect the cleansing and cure. Mark will tell us in the next verse that the spoken word was what brought that cleansing. The touch was the evidence that the Saviour had wrought the cure and that by it the leper was brought back into human society once more – restored to the fellowship of his family and friends. Wuest comments, ‘The first kind touch of a human hand that leper ever experienced, was the gentle touch of the Son of God’.4
Mark’s words are in keeping with the tenor of his Gospel. He tells us, ‘as soon as He had spoken, immediately’. The cure was:
The language of these verses is very strong and means that the leper would be left in no doubt as to what was required of him. As to the reason for the charge given to the cleansed leper, Cole suggests, ‘Christ never desired men to be drawn to follow Him simply in hopes of material and bodily benefits to be obtained from Him’.5 The Saviour gave clear command to the leper as to what he should do:
From the verse that follows, it would seem that the Saviour knew what the leper would do and sought to instruct him as to the right path – the path of obedience.
In disobedience to the Saviour’s command, the leper went out and published abroad the cleansing he had received. Hiebert describes it as an aggressive action. It was not a single act but a continuous proclaiming, blazing abroad the fame of the Saviour. The outcome of this activity was that ‘Jesus could no more openly enter into the city’.
This error of the leper had a detrimental effect in two respects:
There are practical applications in this incident. Whilst the cleansed leper acted in gratitude and his actions may be wholly understandable – he wanted others to know – he failed to consider that he was violating the express command of the Lord. How important that our zeal to tell others about the Saviour does not lead us to act contrary to His revealed will. Zeal in service does not excuse disobedience.
The result of the man’s disobedience in reporting his cure produced a rush to the Lord as a miracle worker and, as a consequence, He could no longer enter the city. It brought His synagogue ministry to an abrupt halt. There are many today who detract from the true gospel by offering a ministry of so-called healing and the concentration upon the physical leaves the spiritual and eternal need unresolved.
The Lord had given this leper the desire of his heart. The true gratitude of the leper’s heart should have been demonstrated in obedience and worship, but the account here indicates neither. How sad, but what a lesson for us – the Lord must have His portion first!