Filled with Compassion (Mark 1:40-45)

Filled with Compassion
Mark 1:40-45

Years ago at a railroad station in NJ, a little girl stepped up to a shackled criminal and looked tenderly into his face and said, “Oh man, I am so sorry for you.”

It made the man angry and he tried to hit her. The girl’s momma came over, drew her away, and told her to leave the man alone.

As they waited for the train, the mother’s eyes were distracted and the little girl wandered back over to the criminal. She whispered to him, “Poor man, Jesus Christ is so sorry for you.”

The man started to move toward her, let out a low groan, and did nothing further.

The train came, took them all to their destinations, but the two never saw each other again. But years later, the man left prison a Christian and a preacher. He would often tell how the compassion of Jesus Christ, from the lips of a little child, broke his heart, subdued his spirit, and led to the salvation of his soul.

Family, it is not ultimately our sympathy that men need; it is His!

The Law of Moses’ most extensive discussion about leprosy is found in Leviticus 13-14. Noteworthy is the fact that touching a leper made the individual unclean (11:24-40; 13:45-46;14:46-47; 15:5-12, 19-27; Num. 19:11-16). The process of a leper being declared clean would take eight days and had to accompany sacrifices in Jerusalem, which would have been about 90 miles south of Capernaum. The priest was responsible for declaring a leper cured, or not contagious. The Hebrew word “leprosy” was a general term for any skin condition, many of which would not be contagious. What is now known as “Hansen’s disease” would have been contagious. But that was just one of many skin conditions in the Bible times.

We learn from Numbers 12:10 and 2 Kings 5:1-14 that Israel believed only God could cure leprosy. The Messiah, when He came, would perform miracles: Isaiah 35:5-6; fulfilled in the life of Jesus, according to Matthew 11:5; Luke 7:22.

The leper who came to Jesus would have had some type of skin condition. He would have been isolated from his family and friends. He could not go to the temple to offer animal sacrifices. I suppose that he would have been believed incurable, otherwise, he would have just waited it out.

This leper ignored the conventions of society and came to Jesus, breaking the taboo of social conversation. The text says he “beseeched” Jesus. This verb is used over 100 times in the NT; it is often translated “comfort” or “encourage.”

Notice this man’s humility: he falls on his knees. How much humility do you have to have to fall on your knees before someone else?

We also observe that this man understood that there was only one thing that separated him from being pure of leprosy - the will of Jesus.

Jesus was “moved with compassion.” This verb is used a dozen times in the NT, always in the gospel accounts, about Jesus or someone in a parable who represented Jesus.

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus was moved with compassion about His audience’s lost condition, and it motived him to pray that God would send out more workers.

In Matthew 14:14, Jesus was moved with compassion to feed the hungry.

In Matthew 18:27, compassion led a master to forgive his slave who could not repay his debt.

In Mark 9:22, compassion moved Jesus to throw a demon from Satan out of a boy.

In Luke 7:13, compassion moved Jesus to raise the widow’s son from the dead.

In Luke 10:33, compassion compelled the Samaritan to help the Jew who had been beaten, and to pay for his expenses.

In Luke 15:20, compassion moved the prodigal son’s father to run to great, embrace, and welcome home his lost son.

What does compassion move you to do? What does compassion move me to do? Am I someone who would be characterized as a compassionate person?

Do I forgive?
Do I encourage?
Do I tolerate other people’s weaknesses?
Do I serve?
Do I help?

Here in our text, the compassion of Jesus, His heart moved Him to also violate expectations for He stretched out His hand and touched the leper. Of course, at the moment Jesus touched the leper, the leper was cleansed, and was no longer unclean. So Jesus said to him, “I am willing. Be cleansed.”

Jesus wants to be compassion. Do you? Compassion comes from our hearts; it begins in our hearts. If our heart is compassionate, we’ll be compassionate. If our behavior does not show compassion, it is probably because there isn’t any compassion in our hearts.

How can we be more compassionate?

By remembering what God has done for us, despite the fact that we don’t deserve it.
By remembering what others have done for us, when we haven’t deserved it.
By remembering that we will be judged based on whether or not we have showed compassion on others…

Let’s look at James 2:14-24 - “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Please observe that James uses the verb “justified.” “To be justified” is salvation language. You could easily paraphrase that last statement by saying, “You see that a man is saved by works and not be faith alone.” Of course, the foundation for our salvation is not our works; its our response to the blood of Christ. But God will most certainly taken into consideration our eternal salvation whether our not we have worked to serve those who need our compassion.

The miracle Jesus performed is recorded in verse 42: “Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” This is one of the key characteristics of true miracles, miracles performed by God - they were instantaneous. In fact, Mark loves the word “immediately;” he uses it 42 times.

The man was cleansed immediately. Hallelujah!

Jesus did not need to be hindered in His work; He did not need to have His claims to be the Messiah brought into the public view too early. He was working on His Father’s time schedule, so He sternly warned this man not to tell anyone about His healing but Jesus sent him away, commanding him to follow through with what the Law of Moses had commanded (ver. 44):

Go, show yourself to the priest and offering for your cleaning what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them…

Jesus did not come to set aside the Law as if it was a matter of choice to obey it (see Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus obeyed the Law and He came to bring it to its completion in providing righteousness through the offering and sacrifice of Jesus Himself. Consequently, He told the leper to show himself to the priest, who alone under the Law of Moses could pronounce the man clean. He would also have to offer the animal sacrifices which the Law required. He would do these things as a “testimony” to “them” - perhaps the priests or the Jewish people or both - that the Messianic Age had arrived.

The law for cleansing is given in Leviticus 14 - the man, under the guidance of the priest, would take two live birds and he would kill one over a pottery bowl, over running water. The second bird would remain alive and with some cedar wood, tied together with a scarlet string to a branch of marjoram (known in the Bible as “hyssop”) and all these would be dipped into the blood from the dead bird. That blood would be sprinkled on the cleansed leper seven times; the priest would pronounce him clean, and then the live bird would be released.

The cleansed leper would wash his clothes, shave his hair, bathe, and he could then come into the camp of Israel, but he had to sleep outside of his tent for seven days. On the seventh day, he would shave his head again - his beard, eyebrows, everything. He would wash his clothes and bathe again.

On the eighth day, he would take two perfect male lambs and a female lamb along with some flour and olive oil and he would offer a grain offering to Jehovah God. One male lamb would be a guilt offering - to show that this man was offering his life to God in appreciation for his cleansing. The other male lamb was offered as a sin offering - to make atonement for his sins.

The blood from the guilt offering was then smeared on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe of the cleansed leper. This was likely symbolic to show that the cleansed leper was to be careful to: listen to God’s teachings; perform God’s commandments; and walk in God’s ways. The leper was also to offer a burnt offering, a sacrifice which was totally burned on the altar and it symbolized the total dedication of someone to Jehovah God.

However, the healed leper was far too excited and thankful to keep quiet about his healing (ver. 45). He “preached” (“proclaimed freely”) about Jesus all over Galilee so that the fame made it difficult for Jesus to enter publicly the city. He had to stay in “unpopulated” areas. Yet people continued to come to Him and He healed those who came to Him.

Isn’t that the ideal end result of us having compassion on people? They have to tell people about the Jesus who motivated us to have compassion on them. We make Jesus look good when we are compassionate. Of course, the opposite of that is also true; when we fail to be compassionate toward people, we make Christianity and the Christ look badly.

The Alpine strawberry is no larger than a pea, but it is said to be very sweet.

Many of the most precious acts of Christians are the smallest acts in our lives - giving the cup of cold water to a tired disciple, speaking a word of encouragement at the proper time.

“The smaller the gift or the service, in certain circumstances, the greater the evidence of love.”

To wash the feet of Jesus, like Mary, was a greater act of love than the feast prepared by Simon the Pharisee.

Mary with her alabaster box of ointment, the widow with her two pennies, Peter leaving his rod and reel - these are truer acts of benevolence than the gifts to the poor of the wealthiest men in American history.

A little boy gave an envelope at church on which he wrote: “Fasted a meal to give a meal.”

Take home message: Christ leads us to actively show compassion on those around us.


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