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Separation and restoration

Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus is willing to touch the separated and cleanse the unclean, restoring them. We're called, like him, to welcome the separated home.

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Pain of separation

0 Just the other day one of my old uni friends asked if I happened to know the address of the house we had shared together - 25 years ago - crikey, getting old!
Reminded me of one particularly memorable episode [Leamington Spa; Will + Ajay + thermostat; divergent views on optimal temperature; one fateful day (can’t remember hot or cold)... ]
small thing - but it ended the relationship between Will and Ajay; not even a Facebook friend.
I’m sure many of us could think of people we were once close to but now are alienated from, separated from. Perhaps because of things they’ve done - perhaps because of things we’ve done - perhaps both. I think most of us have mourned the loss of a relationship at one time or another, felt the pain of separation.
Continuing our journey through Luke’s biography of Jesus and we come to a section today which, although it might not seem like it at first, once we dig in a bit, we’ll see is a story about separation - but not just separation - it’s also a story about restoration.
I think
Jesus, aged about 30, has just begun his ministry. Rejected in his hometown, he’s celebrated in Capernaum, healing and delivering, but he moves on to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. Last week we saw him calling his first disciples through an extraordinary fishing trip. Where do things go from here?
Come with me to Luke chapter 5, and let’s find out:
3:30 READING

Unclean therefore separated

unclean -> separated from people and from God
4:15 key character has a terrible skin condition. “leprosy” => whole category of conditions
unclean -> separated from people and from God
We’ve already seen many healed, “all” in Capernaum. Why does he get the spotlight? his own story? What’s new?
unclean -> not just opposite of clean, separated from people and from God
Rulebook for life in this time and place sets out what that separation looked like in practice:
Meant to keep it that way, outside of the camp, calling out “unclean, unclean”
Leviticus 13:45–46 NIV
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
Sounds extreme, right? But this separation from people was at least in part pragmatic, practical - leprosy, at least, is contagious - other serious conditions the term covers are likely to be too.

A desperate approach

6:15 But he dares to approach Jesus
But he dares to come to Jesus
an emotional moment:
falling on his face [many meet Jesus, few fall facedown],
begging [may ask, speak, call out; few beg]; it’s a big deal.
High stakes: rejection, separation - or the hope of restoration
why? High stakes: rejection, return to separation - or the hope of restoration
Knows Jesus is able - his question: is Jesus willing? recognises how big an “ask” it is

Jesus’ willing touch

His question: is Jesus willing?
7:30 Jesus touches the man first
Risky for Jesus - will he get sick?
Risky for Jesus - will he get sick?
Costly for Jesus - will it make him unclean? perhaps legally; at least by association
Not the sort of thing fine, upstanding people do: getting Pilate to meet them outside
Uneccessary for Jesus
Unnecessary for Jesus - seems to be his word that heals rather than his touch v13
so why?
Jesus actually cares about people
also pictures end of separation
“be clean!” command; immediate results
separation ended; connection restored - sudden yet profound

Marching orders

Willing to reach out and touch, to comfort
Able to make clean -> ending separation, removing distance
9:30 But that’s not the end of the story; Jesus has marching orders for the newly cleansed man:
He’s to carry a message to the religious types
ever heard the phrase “show-don’t-tell”? picture = 10^3 words?
commanded not to tell anyone
not even the priest
doesn’t need to tell anyone
Show-don’t-tell: he is the message
Show-don’t-tell: he is the message
can’t argue with cleansed skin [would be the best skin product ad ever - before/after!]
can’t argue with clean skin [skin product ad!]
demonstrates Jesus’ undeniable power, unique power
more: a testimony of his identity
Moses commanded the priest go outside, to the healed, and cleanse them
Jesus sends the healed one inside, to the priest, already cleansed
Jesus is the one true high priest
Jesus touched the unclean, the untouchable
And now I’m clean
a cost they would not like to pay - e.g. getting Pilate to meet them outside
which makes him unclean - has a cost
And now I’m clean
challenging their presuppositions
challenging their presuppositions
Implication: the once-separated is now to be welcomed back
in Jesus, our holy God comes to the broken + outcast
comes with compassion and mercy, not judgement
Implication: the once-separated is now to be welcomed back
And Jesus will do more than just cleanse the leprous as high priest
[but as we’ll see, they’d prefer things stayed separate]

The great separation

12:00 Let me bring this back to where I started:
we know the pain of losing relationships with others
often because of wrongs done - leaving us separated, alienated
we were all made for a relationship with God - that’s what the Bible tells us
but just like we’re separated from others by wrongs done,
we’ve been separated from God by the wrong things we’ve done
like our first parents, sent out of the garden, separated because of wrongs done
this alienation, separation, we know its wrong-ness in human relationships
Like the ache of a lost loved one; or a best friend who is friend no more
separation isn’t how it’s meant to be with God either
But here’s the Good News: Today’s story isn’t just an amazing healing - lots of them already
Jesus’ restoration of the separated one is a picture of something much greater he will do

The great restoration

13:15 part of the message he’s sending to these priests
part of the message he’s sending to these priests
their picture: unclean -> go away. be separate. keep your distance.
but instead, in Jesus, the holy God has come to the unclean, the broken
come with compassion (cf his touch v13);
comes with compassion and mercy, not judgement
separated not by a skin condition, but by our wrong doing - but still
comes with mercy not judgement
So as people separated from God, we can approach Jesus with hope
He’s able to cleanse us, restore our relationship, end this separation [the true high priest]
He’s able to restore us, end this separation
Nothing beyond his ability
this was the worst, most feared disease. As unclean as you could be. Cleansed with a word
No matter what you’ve done, no matter how unclean you might feel, he’s enough, he’s able
“His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.” (O for a thousand tongues)
Not just able. More than that:
“I am willing,” he says in the story;
still holds out his nail-scarred hands to us: “I am willing”
Just need to ask
See yourself in the outcast? you can come to Jesus today.
Just need to ask

So what?

Separation
The great restoration
in Jesus, our holy God comes to the broken + outcast
comes with compassion and mercy, not judgement
16:30 For many in this room, that restoration is already part of your story
What does this passage have to say to you?
1. Show-don’t-tell: or at least Picture = 10^3 words. be a testimony
our lives often speak louder than our words
think about your own journey to faith - others’ words, I am sure - but their lives too
certainly our lives can easily undermine and nullify our words
you’ve been cleansed by Jesus - now be clean
1. There’s hope for those far from God
17:30 2. have compassion for the outcast - like Jesus
no-one beyond his care
no-one he is unwilling to touch
nothing beyond his ability to repair
nothing he can’t restore
Yet we’re so quick to write people off.
We presume God’s not interested in them
To presume God’s not interested in them
We presume they’re not interested in God
the man in the story was desperate for help
maybe most of the people around look pretty sorted
but so many are desperate inside
living lives of “quiet desperation”
look at the terrifying suicide and self-harm stats
We’re profoundly wrong whenever we write anyone off of God’s agenda
so often he restores - and even delights in using - the most unexpected
Paul. Mez.
open your eyes to the people around you; “notice”, listen to them
2. Jesus welcomes the outcast - so must we
We’re also
2. We should share Jesus’ compassion for the outcast
Easy to prefer a quiet, orderly room to the chaos and mess of welcoming the broken home
But Jesus’ compassion challenges us
don’t keep your distance from the mess of this world, don’t stay safely separate, his actions say
In Jesus, God enters into this messed up world rather than abandoning it
In Jesus, God touches the unclean rather than running from it
And he calls us to follow him with his transforming love and power
“It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” Jesus will say, just a few verses on
don’t keep your distance from the mess of this world like the priests
house with no children can look like a showhome - but also painfully empty
“It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” Jesus will say, just a few verses on
the good news we have is explicitly for the broken, not the sorted
“It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” Jesus will say, just a few verses on
So this has to be a church where the broken are welcomed
where we recognise the truth: we all come to Jesus broken
3. Show-don’t-tell: or at least Picture = 10^3 words. be a testimony
give hope to those separated - no-one beyond his care, nothing beyond his ability
no-one beyond his care
nothing beyond his ability
have compassion for the outcast - like Jesus
don’t keep your distance from the mess of this world like the priests
show-don’t-tell: be a testimony; celebrate cleansing
Jesus who cleansed you can cleanse
where your wrong, or others’, has separated you, pursue reconciliation.
micro level - grudges
light example [Leam Spa thermostat alienation story]
heavy example [but this is serious: I’m sure for many of us there is real alienation in our life story, separation from those we were once close to; maybe we walked away, maybe they did]
Jesus changes things to end the separation
But if doesn’t have to stay that way
If we come to Jesus and ask
He is willing to touch us, and make us clean, end the separation
sometimes separated by terrible things - leprosy/disease
But “His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.” (O for a thousand tongues)
But
if you’ve been that outcast, you have a story to tell too...
see yourself in the religious types Jesus is sending a message to?
“Cleanliness is next to godliness”, separate is safe?
want to keep your distance from the mess of our world?
tempting - but not Jesus’ way
Do you prefer a “holy huddle”?
prefer a tidy, empty room to the chaos and mess of welcoming the broken home?
But Jesus touches the broken, the unclean; ends the separation, brings them home
Are we like those religious types, prefer things to stay clean + tidy?
holy huddle danger; clinically clean + tidy
He is willing to touch us, and make us clean
holy huddle danger; clinically clean + tidy
rather than staying safe at home (to keep it that way)
can we rejoice in this rather than fight against it?
And if we’ve been made clean, rather than staying safe at home
Rather than staying safe at home, clean
We’re sent out like Jesus
Called to be ready, be unafraid, to touch the unclean and share Jesus who can cleanse all
the church is the glorious mess of him working this restoration among us
our lives often speak louder than our words
celebrate cleansing
chaos sometimes - perhaps even a lot of the time
think about your own journey to faith - others’ words, I am sure - but their lives too
but one day we’ll see the beauty of his work
certainly our lives can easily undermine and nullify our words
you’ve been cleansed by Jesus - now be clean
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