Our text for this morning continues to show us the Epiphany of Jesus, that is that He is truly human. We are told that when He was approached by this man with leprosy that Jesus “was moved with pity.” Jesus had an emotional feeling of mercy and pity toward this man. He was moved. He demonstrated a human feeling, a feeling of pity.
Mark says that Jesus touched the man. Jesus had a physical hand. He was physically present. Contrary to those who teach that Jesus was only a spiritual being, even while on this earth, here Mark tells us that He actually, physically, touched the man with leprosy. Of course, according to ceremonial law, this touching of an unclean leper would have made Jesus Himself unclean, but Jesus was not so much concerned about that ceremonial law as he was about the man with leprosy.
And Jesus spoke. He first listened to the man, then He spoke to the man. Jesus used His human senses of touch, sight, hearing and speaking. He showed Himself in every way to be a human being. Not just here, but in other places in the Gospels we are reminded of Jesus’ humanness. He was thirsty, He cried, He was hungry, He was tired, He slept, He exemplified all the traits which make us human. Our celebration of Epiphany is a celebration of the humanness of Jesus.
Jesus is also truly God. Jesus shows Himself to be God. When Jesus spoke to the man with leprosy He said, “Be clean!” and the man was at once cleansed of his leprosy. Jesus shows that He is God because only God can do miracles. Jesus shows that He had all power, the power to make whole, the power to cleanse, the power to heal. Most importantly, the power to forgive sins.
Jesus shows that He is true God. When He spoke He spoke with authority. His Word did what He said. Jesus said “Be clean!” and the man was clean. Just as we see that Jesus is human from this text and from other places in the Gospels, so here and in other places in the Gospels we are reminded of Jesus’ divinity, that He is truly God. He healed people of various diseases, He raised people from the dead, He forgave sins, He cast out demons, He exemplified all the traits which show Him to be God. Our celebration of Epiphany is a celebration of the divinity, the God-ness of Jesus.
Someone may have wondered about Jesus’ previous casting out of the demon of two weeks ago, “Why did Jesus not let the demon tell who He was?” Again, we might also wonder why this week Jesus told the man not to tell anyone. There are several suggestions why this might have happened. One suggestion is that Jess did not want to be just a “miracle worker.” In other words, He did not want people just to come to Him to be healed. A second suggestion is that Jesus did not want to bring attention on Himself, which He knew would end His public ministry prematurely. Another suggestion is that Jesus did not want to bring on Himself the attention of the authorities which would bring on His death, again, prematurely. And one last suggestion is that Jesus knew the psyche of people and He knew if He said “do not tell anyone” then the natural response would be to go out and tell everyone. What is the right answer? I cannot give you a definitive answer, all I can say is that it is probably some combination of all of these. I do not know about you, but I am adding this question to the list of questions I already have for when I get to heaven. —Anyway, I hope you noticed the man does not listen to Jesus and the result is that He, Jesus, “could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places,” and yet people were still looking for Him and coming to Him.
Jesus came to this earth for a purpose, to fulfill all of Holy Scripture, perfectly, concerning His life, death and resurrection. Jesus came to do for us what we are unable to do. He came to live perfectly for us in our place. It is something like what happened in the civil war years ago. I am told that during the civil war, a person with enough wherewith all, cash, might hire someone to take their place, to go to war for them. The actual person who goes to war is not credited with being in the war, instead the one who was supposed to go gets the credit. Jesus came to live for us in our place. Thus, we are credited with living perfect lives and He is credited with our sin when in fact, we are the ones who are sinners and He is sinless.
Jesus came to this earth on a mission. Unfortunately, not everyone understood who Jesus was or why He came. This misunderstanding by the people brought about the fact that for a while Jesus became popular, but for many of the wrong reasons. People were coming to Jesus, not to be saved by Him, but to be healed by Him, to be fed, uplifted, and the like, by Him. Some were even looking to Him as a political savior.
Jesus came to preach the Good News of salvation. He came to call the people to repentance. He came to show Himself as the Messiah, as the one promised from the Garden of Eden. He showed Himself to be God through the signs and wonders, the miracles He performed, but too many did not understand.
And so, as the word about Jesus went out, as His popularity grew, He was put out to the lonely places. And still, as Mark tells us, “people were coming to him from every quarter.” Perhaps many of these came for reasons such as healing and being fed, but there were those who had a right understanding of who Jesus was and why He came. There were those who were looking for a spiritual savior. There were those who believed He was the true Messiah.
As we progress through this season of Epiphany we continue to celebrate what a great and loving God we do have. I heard, what I think is an excellent explanation about Jesus becoming flesh. It is a story about a farmer who in the middle of the winter would put out seed for the birds to eat. One day during one winter it was just too stormy for the birds to find and eat the seed he would scatter in the yard, so he opened the barn door and tried to get the birds to go into the barn. The birds, however, would not go into the barn. The man thought and had an idea, “if only I could become like them, a bird, then they would trust me and I could lead them into the barn where there is food and shelter.” Jesus came as one of us, a human being, in order to lead us, in order to teach us, in order to be an example to us, but most importantly, in order to take our place, to die the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell for us in our place.
And although Jesus was a human being, He was also God. He was God so that He could fulfill the Law perfectly and the prophecies perfectly and so that He could rise from the dead. Because He was God He could forgive sins. He could drive out demons. He could heal people. He could raise people from the dead.
Jesus came to give His all for us. When the leper approached Jesus he said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Notice that the leper did not rest his faith on himself but on Jesus. He rested his faith in Jesus alone. I read a church sign once that said, “miracles happen to those who believe.” I wanted to stop and correct the sign to make it read, “miracles happen (Period).” Miracles happen, whether we believe or not. Miracles happen, because God makes them happen. It was not the lepers faith that healed him, it was Jesus who was truly God who healed him.
This morning we come before our Lord’s throne and we speak. Our words are, “Lord, if you are willing, you can save me.” Our words to Jesus are the words of the man who was begging Jesus to heal his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. He suggested that “if” Jesus could do anything that He would help Him. “‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23,24). We come before the Lord’s throne praying that the Lord will continue to help us in our own weakness of faith and unbelief, that He would help us to grow in our faith and life. Our Lord’s response to us is that He comes to us through the means of His Word and His sacraments in order to do just that, to give us forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation, and to keep us in faith even unto eternal life. Our response is to rejoice and say to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.