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Relationships Matter Most

Messiah not just Miracle-Worker  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Most Valuable Commodity?

Money?
Time!
I have a friend who is retired military, Lt. Col. in the army. Owned 3 radio stations in LR. Retired in his 50’s.
Since he’s retired from everything, he’s managed his own investments and done quite well.
Since he’s retired from everything, he’s managed his own investments and done quite well.
Has a net worth somewhere in the low 7 figures.
He is successful in his career.
Not too many years ago after spending 40 years in LR they packed up and moved to Dallas to be closer to grandchildren.
He told me that as he has gotten older he has realized that he had made a mistake.
Early in his life, end of life completely off his radar screen, he believed his money was his most valuable commodity.
And, he did a lot of good with it.
But now, looking back, he says he was wrong. He wasted a lot of time that he can’t get back.
He wasted some money too. But, he regrets more the time.
Now, clearly he understands that his time is by far his most valuable commodity. And, he is judicious in how he spends.
B/C, it’s not just having the time, but spending the time wisely. And the best use of time is with the people you care about and those that care about you.
Time is the most valuable commodity. And, relationships are the most important use of your time.
One of the lessons Jesus taught over and over again; relationships matter most. Beginning w/ what He made possible, a personal relationship w/ God.
Marriage, children, extended family, and church.
Church is not a building. Ecclesia means a group of people who share a common purpose.
Church is unique. We are the only org united and bound by the indwelling HS. Other relationships are good and important. But none more so than those united by God.
Time is our most valuable commodity. And, building and maintaining strong relationships and our community is the most important way we can spend it.
Miracle #6, cleansing the leper, this is one of the important lessons Jesus communicates to his disciples and us.
It’s found in ; ; and .
We’re spending most of our time in the Mark passage.

Context

Still very early in Jesus’ ministry
, in the synagogue, reads from , a Messianic passage and claims that this was written about Him.
Clearly, claiming t/b the Messiah. A capital offense. Crazy and dead; or true.
Authority over nature, demons, and disease.
But, they’ve been taught and are used to a distant, impersonal God.
Jesus is very relatable. Hangs out w/ the guys. Casually visits w/ women. Comfortable in a crowd of both religious and irreligious ppl.
And, He seems much less concerned about the religious rules and much more concerned about irreligious people.
He claims t/b the Messiah, proves He is by the miracles He performs. But, at the same time, blows up the people’s paradigm of what they expect of God.
The disciples are just beginning to understand what it means that Jesus is the Savior and what it looks like to be one of His disciples.
Then, this happened:

A Dangerous Approach

Mark 1:
Mark 1:40 NIV
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Leprosy

More than just one skin disease, it causes organs to rot, slowly.
Extremities lose feeling. Unrealized injuries. Open wounds that bleed and ooze.
Eventually, fingers, toes, and the nose fall off.
Ugly to look at. A horrible odor. Incurable, certain slow death.
Leprosy was a metaphor for sin. The disease wasn’t sinful and it wasn’t necessarily contracted as a result of sin.
They would use the picture to illustrate what God sees when He sees a sinful person. Ugly, smelly, separated from God, w/ no way to gain access.
There were many religious and societal rules regarding lepers.
The OT law was no only worship rules but it kept Israel alive and healthy.
“Wash your hands before you eat.” Long before germs were discovered. The Pharisees way overcooked what hand-washing cleaned. Thus, the water pots that were used for the wine.
“Don’t cut meat w/ your butter knife. Don’t spread butter w/ your meat knife.” Prior to modern processing a chemical reaction would kill you. If you did, throw it all out and bury the knife for 2 weeks. Natural germ-killing.
Kosher again.
Today, we could eliminate virtually every STD w/in one generation if we strictly obeyed the OT laws regarding sex.
Only have sex w/ your spouse. And, stay married until death.
Lepers terrified people b/c of the disease’s infectious nature and severity. Lepers were quarantined. No human contact for fear of spreading the disease.
Lepers had to cover themselves from head to toe to keep their bodily fluids to themselves and so people wouldn’t have to see them.
They had yell, “Unclean! Unclean!” as they walked thru the village.
People were allowed to throw rocks at them to keep their distance. Where “10’ pole” came from. Allowed to hit and poke their bodies w/ their open wounds.
No groups, crowds or confined spaces w/ people.
If anyone touched a leper they were quarantined until it was certain that they had not contracted the disease.
Certainly, no worship. No societal contact. No physical contact. Relationally, they were already dead.
Years w/out any physical touch. (Orphanages in Romania)
People were terrified of contracting the disease.
I remember when HIV/AIDS was first showing itself in our society. In seminary, we had a class discussion about this. Babies were born infected and there was huge issue about whether churches should allow AIDS babies in their nurseries.
It’s transmitted thru bodily fluids.
Toddlers don’t keep their spit to themselves. They fall, have accidents and bleed. People were afraid. Less so not, but still a concern.
The disease was a pitiful one. It brought suffering to all levels of existence. It was an ideal illustration for sin. The disease wasn’t sinful and it wasn’t necessarily contracted as a result of sin.
They would use the picture to illustrate what God sees when He sees a sinful person. Ugly, smelly, separated from God, w/ no way to gain access.
That’s why they were “unclean” not just sick. And were cleansed, not just healed.
There were only 3 previous instances of a leper being cleansed. And the most recent had been hundreds of years earlier. .
W/ all this in mind, think about what this guy risked by coming up to Jesus. Jesus always attracted a crowd. So, he had to work his way thru that crowd to approach Jesus where he fell to his knees and begged Jesus for help.

Bold, yet humble

Luke, the doctor, said his leprosy was advanced. Everyone knew this guy was well on his way to dead.
He risked his physical safety. The people could have panicked, stoned him, mob rule could have taken over.
He risked his physical safety. The people could have panicked, stoned him, mob rule could have taken over.
Up to this point, Jesus hadn’t cleansed a leper. So, the man had very limited precedence to go on.
Up to this point, Jesus hadn’t cleansed a leper. So, the man had very limited precedence to go on.
But, he showed great boldness and faith in Jesus’ power in the way he approached.
He violated numerous laws in approaching Jesus while risking transmitting the disease to so many.
He recognized his own fatal situation and unworthiness to approach Jesus and did so as a beggar.
He knelt and turned his head so he wouldn’t look at Jesus and Jesus wouldn’t have to look at him.
He didn’t question Jesus’ ability to heal him, only His willingness.
In terms of willingness, the man knew that Jesus not only had to be willing out of compassion but also his cleansing had to fit Jesus’ purpose in coming and the bigger picture.
Or, would He have compassion for the man.
In terms of willingness, the man knew that Jesus not only had to be willing out of compassion but also his cleansing had to fit Jesus’ purpose in coming and the bigger picture.
How would Jesus respond? Run? Push away soas not to touch the man. Sacrifice his disciples for His own good?
Or, would He have compassion for the man.
Either way, the leper submitted to Jesus’ will once he made his request known.

Jesus’ Compassionate Response

Mark 1:
Mark 1:41–42 NIV
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

First, he touched him

“indignant” Moved deeply. Maybe angry. Certainly not at the leper or the crowd. If angry at anything, angry at the ugly effects of living in a sinful world.
More accurately, “moved w/ a deep sense of compassion.”
He cared for the man. And Jesus hurt that the leper hurt so badly, both physically and emotionally.
Immediately, w/out fear or hesitation reached out and touched the man.
Jesus was not concerned w/ contracting the disease, violating any rules, or the reaction of the crowd. He was concerned for the man.
The leprosy was advanced, so he had not received any human contact in some time.
Think about what it did for the man that Jesus reached out and touched him before he cleansed him. Desperate for human contact.
Jesus met the man’s needs right where he was.
Why? B/C to Jesus, a relationship w/ the man was a higher priority than anything else.
The man did not need to cleanse himself before approaching Jesus (he couldn’t anyway) and Jesus didn’t cleanse him before reaching out and touching him.
He accepted him unconditionally as he was.
If Jesus were a mere mortal man, he would have made himself unclean by touching him.
Like a surgeon who scrubs before surgery. Immediately they put a gown and gloves on before touching anything. If the surgeon were to shake someone’s unscrubbed hand before being gloved he would have to scrub up again.
B/C the unclean makes the clean unclean with a touch. The clean does not make the unclean, clean.
But, Jesus, as God w/ authority over leprosy, did not need t/b concerned.
He didn’t have to touch him to cleanse him. But, He did.
And, yes, He was willing.

Second, he cleansed him

The cleansing was immediate and complete, never to return to the man again.
Like every other miracle, there was no need for follow-up. No physical therapy, no lasting pain, immediately he was returned to complete health.
Jesus is the only One Who could do this.
Then, Jesus did the counter-intuitive thing. You’d think, if He came to establish and build the church He’d want the news of this cleansing spread far and wide. It is today.
But, at the time, that is not what Jesus wanted. So, He gave the man a stern warning.

Jesus’ Strong Warning

Mark 1:43–45 NIV
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 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.

Don’t tell anyone

2 reasons:

Crowds would grow so He couldn’t preach

Jesus already had the problem very early on of so many people crowding around Him clamoring for a miracle the masses couldn’t hear Him when He spoke.
As the word spread and His reputation grew as a Miracle-Worker the crowds grew larger and larger.
Remember, He didn’t come as a Miracle-Worker. He came to save us from our sins and get us to Heaven. Our healing and comfort in this life, while important to Him, were secondary to His purpose.
Also, ...

Inaccurate expectation of the Messiah

Prior to Jesus, the people had been taught and expected a political and military Savior.
Someone who would come and fight to rescue Israel from the Roman oppression and establish an earthly kingdom.
Jesus needed to keep the crowds down so He could teach and correct their faulty expectations of Who the Messiah is and what He came to do.
Jesus was not political or military. He came as the sacrificial Messiah.
So, those expecting a military coup were sorely disappointed when Jesus didn’t force His way in, Judas Iscariot included.

Except, the priest

Again, 2 reasons:

Declare him clean again

The priest was the only one who could declare him clean. There was a prescribed process for the priest. Then, the man would be allowed freely back into society.
That was his ticket to freedom. Family, friends, synagogue, worship, work, marketplace, everybody, everything, everywhere would now be available to the man once again.
No one else had the authority or ability to perform the prescribed test or declare him clean.

Evidence that the Messiah was there

Once the priest realized the authenticity of the cleansing, he could not deny that something new and important was occuring.
The priest would need to verify the cleansing by proving that the man actually had it.
Given the advanced nature of the disease, the time he had suffered w/ it, and the importance of identifying the individuals who had it; it would have been an easy thing for the priest to authenticate the cleansing.
It would have been obvious.
The cleansing of the leper was most certainly a messianic sign that God was working in a different way than the priest was used to.
The priests would be faced w/ a dilemma.
They would have to declare the man clean, but to reject the One who cleansed him would be incriminating evidence as to their unbelief.
Jesus gave every opportunity for the religious leaders to accept Him and lead the rank and file Israelis in welcoming their Messiah.
But, they didn’t do that.
The proof was right in front of them. But, their pride prevented them from seeing it.
Jesus just wanted them to accept Him, believe in Him, and follow. He didn’t expect perfection.
Not from the religious leaders, nor even from those He helped.
Good thing.

He didn’t obey

The former leper immediately disobeyed. Probably overcome w/ joy and excitement. He had to explain how it cam about that he should be allowed back into society.
His family, friends, the synagogue all needed to know.
He told everybody he saw.
And, no mention that he went to the priest. He probably thought he didn’t have to. It was obvious. He no longer had leprosy and he didn’t need any priest telling him or anyone else that it was so.
Jesus wasn’t surprised. He knew what the man would do.
It still had an adverse effect on Jesus’ ministry. The crowds sought Him out. Still they couldn’t prevent Him from what He came to do.
Jesus just had to do it from a solitary place outside of town.
Knowing the man was going to disobey Jesus didn’t stop Him from showing compassion and cleansing him.
Jesus showed compassion on people no one else would. Either, because they were so needy and difficult, or b/c they would be unappreciative after the fact.
These mattered less to Jesus. What mattered was He came to save the lost and establish relationships with the people who believe in Him.
We should be grateful that Jesus shows us compassion when no one else might.
And, we have the opportunity to have a personal relationship w/ God Almighty, Creator of the universe.

Applications

Nobody’s perfect

Our future disobedience does not prevent Jesus from being compassionate with us in the present.
No one is perfectly obedient, ever; much less immediately after coming to faith.
We bring a lot of our bad habits with us into our new life.
Praise God everyday that in His grace and mercy he overlooks our future sins to treat us well today.

Come as you are

Like leprosy, our sin makes us smell bad and look ugly.
While we were still sinners Jesus died for us. ()
We don’t have to clean ourselves up before we come to Jesus. Come as you are. Come boldly. Come humbly.
Jesus will clean you up and set you free.
And, when you get more worldly stuff on you from time to time. Again, you don’t have to clean yourself before you come back to Jesus.
He will do it again, and again, and again.
Avoid the stuff as much as you can. But, when you do, don’t let anything keep you from Jesus.
Boldly, humbly approach and Jesus will keep setting you free.

Compassion

One thing about Jesus that He wants us to emulate, have compassion on those that no one else will.
There are people in this community that no one wants to be nice to. Maybe, they don’t deserve it at all.
Remember, you didn’t deserve a bit of what Jesus did for you.
Be compassionate to those who smell bad, look ugly, act mean and won’t appreciate the compassion the minute they walk away.
Jesus did it for us and showed us how to pass it along.

Relationships!

Relationships are our highest priority.
First, our relationship w/ God. Then, our relationships w/ each other. Family, friends, church, community, they all matter.
Time is our most valuable commodity. And how we spend it matters more than how we spend our money.
Spend your time building and maintaining relationships.
Give God a little time every day.
Date your spouse. Initiate with your kids and grandkids.
Play w/ your friends around here. Break down walls so you can have meaningful discussions.
Take full advantage of all the time you have on earth to enjoy the people that care about you.
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