Friday, June 9, 2017

46 - Death By Degrees

He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. Mat 3:16.  This statement may well be the key to defining the ministry of Christ. 

And He proclaimed in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out demons. 
   And a leper came to Him, begging Him and kneeling down to Him, and saying to Him, If You will, You can make me clean. 
   And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him, and said to him, I will; be clean! 
   And He having spoken, the leprosy instantly departed from him and he was cleansed. 
   And He strictly charged him and immediately sent him away, 
   and He said to him, See that you say nothing to anyone. But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer those things which Moses commanded for your cleansing, for a testimony to them. 
   But going out, he began to proclaim it very much, and to spread about the matter, so that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was outside in deserted places. And they came to Him from every quarter. Mark 1:39-45
   And Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest. And offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. Mat. 8:4

The Curse of Leprosy

After Christ left Capernaum where He had cast a demon out of the man in the synagogue He went throughout Galilee and preached in various synagogues. Remember preaching, not healing or casting out demons, was Christ's main calling.

However, a certain leper came to Him, begging Him and kneeling down to Him. Mark 1:40  We well might imagine that he knelt to show his humility.  No doubt, as a leper he was humble.  He was scorned by all in his community.  The Jews believed that a person would get leprosy only as punishment for sins committed. 
The story is told of a Jewish rabbi who was walking down the street to buy some eggs but when he saw a leper on the same street he refused to buy eggs from anyone on that street.  Perhaps the rabbi thought he was too holy to deal with anyone who had a leper walking their streets.
The account in Matthew indicates that his purpose for kneeling was to worship; a leper came and worshipped him. Mat. 8:2.  However, the word worship, as it is used here, has a variety of meanings.  It can mean as little as to fawn or crouch too. Strong G4352

Leprosy begins as small, red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots get bigger, and start to turn white, with sort of a shiny, or scaly appearance. Pretty soon the spots spread over your whole body and your hair begins to fall out - first from your head, then even from your eyebrows. As things get worse, your finger nails and toenails get sort of loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of your fingers and toes begin to rot, and they start to fall off, piece by piece. Your gums start shrinking, and they can’t hold your teeth anymore, so you lose each of them. It keeps eating away at your face until literally your nose, your palate, and even your eyes rot - and you waste away until you die. Guzik

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him.  No doubt Jesus could have healed him by simply saying the words but He knew how lonely this man must be.  Luke tells us that there was a man full of leprosy.  This statement tells us that he was not recently diagnosed with the disease; he had been sick a long, long time.  Once it was known that he had leprosy no one would touch him anymore.  

Lucado@ writes a very emotional, imaginary story about this man and his contact with the Saviour.  Here are two snippets from that story.  

Five years ago my wife stepped toward me.  She was the last to do so.  Now, he did.  I did not move, I just spoke.  "Lord, you can heal me if you will."  Had he healed me with a word, I would have been thrilled.  Had he cured me with a prayer, I would have rejoiced.  But he wasn't satisfied with speaking to me.  He touched me.  Five years ago my wife had touched me.  No one had touched me since.  Until today. ...
He cupped his hands on my cheeks and drew me so near I could feel the warmth of his breath and see the wetness in his eyes."

Our society has taught us that it is "not proper" to touch?  Would we put our arms around an unkempt homeless man?  Jesus Christ knew the value of the human touch.  

Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest. Mat 8:4.  This was required according to the law of Moses. 

 And so that is where I am going.  I will show myself to my priest and embrace him.  I will show myself to my wife and embrace her.  I will pick up my daughter and I will embrace her.  And I will never forget the one who dared to touch me. He could have healed me with a word.  But he wanted to do more than heal me. He wanted to honour me, to validate me, to christen me.  Imagine that ... unworthy of the touch of a man, yet worthy of the touch of God.  

Christ said to the man He had healed, See that you say nothing to anyone. But the man was so excited, and who wouldn't be, that he disobeyed Christ and he began to proclaim it very much.  Wasn't he speaking well of Christ, was Christ not being glorified?  So often we think we know what is best and so we do not follow instructions.

Because this healed man disobeyed Christ Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was outside in deserted places.  No doubt everyone in the city would have clamoured to be healed.  Christ's mission was not to heal but to preach the gospel of the kingdom.

   Max Lucado, Just like Jesus, copyright 1998, p.35