Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy
40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. "If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean," he said.
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," he said. "Be healed!" 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 "Don't tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed."
45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn't publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Jesus risks personal defilement in order to bring healing to a social outcast.
Leprosy (Mark 1:40)
Forced to live on the fringes of society, lepers were allowed no contact with other people - they "were regarded as the living dead."120 A common justification for not helping lepers - a rationale found among the Jews and their pagan neighbors alike121 - was the belief that leprosy was God's way of punishing people for their sins,122 making the physical leper a "moral leper" as well.123 Only twice in the OT is a leper healed (Numbers 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:1-14),124 and the rabbis of Jesus' day equated curing leprosy with raising the dead.125 Jesus heals the man and then orders him to submit to the prescribed law concerning healing. In so doing, Jesus demonstrates "compassion, power and wisdom."126 This one miracle proved that Jesus was/is greater than "Moses the lawgiver, Elijah the prophet, and the priesthood": Jesus commands rather than requests the miracle, and the priest could not bring about the cleansing but only offer public witness to it.127
Instantly (Mark 1:42)
Notice the instantaneous nature of the healing. As one modern English paraphrase renders it: "Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy" (The Message). This is important to note because it goes against the false claim of many a skeptic that the miracles recorded in the four gospels are fabrications. If that were the case, doubtless they would be long and drawn out rather than the brief but powerful accounts they are.128
The priest (Mark 1:44)
Having been cured, the leper was told to present himself before the priest. Why? So that, in accordance with the OT law, the priest could examine the leper and declare him clean and thus ready to be restored to the community, including being fit to worship God publicly in the temple.129 Moreover, such miraculous power as Jesus demonstrated proved that he was the Messiah (see Luke 7:22). Which meant that if the priest declared the man clean, he would likewise be obligated to accept Jesus as the Messiah. If, however, the priest declared the man clean "but rejected the One who cleansed him," his "unbelief would be incriminating evidence against" him (the priest).130
"Leprosy brought anguish at all levels: physical, mental, social, and religious."131 As such, it makes for a vivid illustration of sin. Like leprosy, sin:
Jesus' mission certainly included temporary physical healing. But, much more importantly, it also and especially included "pardon, peace, spiritual consolation, and strength."133
??? As seen both in this incident and throughout his entire ministry, "[t]he sorrows of the people are [Jesus'] own sorrows. He dearly and intensely loves the burdened ones, and is eager to help them."134 What classes of people does our contemporary society consider untouchable? What can Jesus' example teach us about reaching out to them?
Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man
1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God's word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn't bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "My child, your sins are forgiven."
6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 "What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"
8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, "Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man 'Your sins are forgiven,' or 'Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk'? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins." Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 "Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!"
12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, "We've never seen anything like this before!"
Unable to reach Jesus because of the crowd, four friends of a paralyzed man take him to the roof, dig through it, and lower their friend down to Jesus, who is preaching to the crowd. Jesus heals the man as proof that he has the authority to forgive sins.
House ... roof (Mark 2:2, 4)
The house where Jesus was preaching was so crowded that the four men carrying the paralytic could not get through to Jesus. Rather than waiting for the crowd to disperse135, however, they quickly came up with an alternate plan. There are a number of ways in which the four men carrying their paralyzed friend could have gotten to the roof: they could have used a ladder136; they could have taken an outside, attached stairway137; or they could have gone onto a neighbor's adjacent rooftop and then "crossed over from roof to roof." 138 In any event, the flat roof covering the house would have been "a composite of grass, clay, clay tiles, and laths,"139 making it relatively easy to dig through. If, as some suppose, there was a trapdoor leading from the roof to the inside of the house, it would not have been large enough to accommodate a grown man laying prone on a mat/stretcher ("[a] rude pallet, merely a thickly padded quilt or mat, held at the corners"140) - hence the need to "widen that space by pulling off the tiles that lay about it."141 In any case, the men dug through the roof and lowered the mat/stretcher down to Jesus. The point, of course, is the faith and determination shown by the paralyzed man and his four friends.
Your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5)
The religious leaders were outraged that Jesus, whom they accepted as nothing more than an ordinary man, claimed for himself a prerogative that belongs to God alone. "To be sure, for a mere man to pretend to remit sins would be one of the worst forms of blasphemy."142 At best, following the necessary sacrifice, a priest could pronounce that a person's sins had been atoned for. But no sacrifice was made for the paralyzed man, and Jesus never claimed to be a priest. Jesus, speaking in his own name, proved his right to forgive - or "dismiss"143 - sins.144
There is a very real sense in which all illness and disease is due to sin. The very first sin (of Adam and Eve) plunged the earth and all its inhabitants into a sinful state, the outworking of which includes disease and death. What's more, people routinely make sinful choices that result in emotional and physical pain and suffering for themselves and others. Both in the OT (note the counsel offered by Job's friends145) and during Jesus' day it was commonly believed there was a direct, causal link between a person's sin and his/her physical illness. While in general we should be very slow to draw such a conclusion in any particular case, this may well have been true regarding the paralytic146 - although this point is disputed (compare John 5:14; 9:3).147 In any event, Jesus' pronouncement of forgiveness resulted in the man's being delivered from his affliction and, what's more, the physical healing proved that the sin which had caused it - whether in a general or a particular sense - had been removed. The paralytic experienced a foretaste of the salvation of both body and soul that awaits all true believers in Christ.
Son of Man (Mark 2:10)
When Jesus identified himself as "the Son of Man," he was alluding to the figure described by the prophet Daniel as having absolute authority on earth (see Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus was "God's vice regent on earth, proclaiming God's rule and offering forgiveness to those who respond in faith to the proclamation."148 Jesus' true identity is both revealed and concealed: To those who respond in faith to his words and works, it is revealed; to those who do not, it is concealed. In "the Son" we see Jesus' divinity, while in "of Man" we see his humanity. There is an element of mystery here which, in turn, reflects the sense of mystery inherent in the incarnation, in which human nature was joined to divine nature. Notice that rather than merely "a" son of (hu)man(ity), Jesus is "the" Son of Man - meaning this one man is lifted "out from among all men as being one who bears this human nature in a way in which no other man bears it, who, while he is indeed true man, is more than man."149
Forgiven ... forgive (Mark 2:5, 7, 10)
The word used in this passage for "forgiveness" (Greek aphiemi) means "to send away." God can never merely overlook our sins, since doing so would be to go against his own perfect sense of justice and holiness. "God does not overlook our sins. He actually wipes out the sins themselves!"150 The record of our sins is wiped clean because Jesus has already paid the debt we owe. As Warren Wiersbe has noted: "Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need; it costs the greatest price; and it brings the greatest blessing and the most lasting results."151
The prophet Isaiah testified to the conditions that would prevail when God came to deliver his people, including the lame being made to walk and the people's sins being forgiven. In Mark's gospel it is becoming increasingly clear that God is calling Israel to a revised relationship centered on Jesus and her (= Israel's) response to him.152
Amazed ... praised (Mark 2:12)
What was the result of Jesus' miracle? In a word, revival. Notice the descriptions provided by the synoptic gospel writers:
"But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matthew 9:8).
"They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, 'We have seen remarkable things today'" (Luke 5:26).
" ... they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this'" (Mark 2:12, all NASB).
Amazement mixed with fear that resulted in praise to God. Why fear? Because being in the presence of holiness makes us acutely aware of our lack thereof. As one source puts it: "The fear was the reaction in their hearts because of the consciousness of their own sinfulness."153
The Transforming Power of Forgiveness
Mitsuo Fuchida was a staunch military pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a proud Japanese warmonger who admired Adolf Hitler. He wore his hair like Hitler and sported the same little mustache. Fuchida took part in the Battle of Midway, the Marianas Turkey Shoot, Leyte Gulf and other major engagements of the Pacific war. He stood on the deck of the USS Missouri at the surrender ceremonies. Though defeated, he was pleased with his behavior as a pilot.
After the war, though, he became disillusioned. He was surprised to learn that Japanese POWs were treated humanely - a sharp contrast to the Japanese treatment of Allied prisoners. He also learned of a woman who ministered to the Japanese prisoners. Her parents were missionaries to Japan but had been beheaded by his countrymen. She had forgiven the Japanese and met the needs of their captured soldiers.
Such love led him to the Bible. He eventually became a Christian, and later an evangelist. Before his death in 1976, he led many to Christ through his preaching in Japan and the United States.154
A forgiven life is a powerful testimony to the reality of God's healing love.
??? "A sign in a convenience store read, 'Check Cashing Policy: To err is human. To forgive, $10.'"155
What did it cost God to forgive us? Does he remember our sins once they are forgiven? What does that say about how we are to treat others?