are great at it. Others are reluctant, even scared. Some bask in the
adoration, and enjoy and even feed off the energy they feel from the people.
Others just get uncomfortable, and worry about the dangers that might lurk
behind all those eyes that are looking them over.
am I talking about?” you may be wondering. I’m talking about how certain
public figures react to the prospect of getting out among the people.
Sometimes it’s called “working a crowd.” Other terms for it include: “mingling
with the masses,” or “pressing the flesh.” It’s part and parcel of being in
the public eye. If you are a sports star, or media celebrity, you might be
able to get away from being too involved with the public, but there will be a
price to pay in your popularity for trying to remain too private or reclusive.
you’re a politician, of course, you don’t have much choice but to get out among
your constituents, and let them see and hear and touch you.
figures often have security people, bodyguards, to keep people from getting too
intrusive with them. In some cases, this is merely to protect them from
overly-enthusiastic fans who might engulf and inadvertently injure them. For
others, protection from people in the crowd is an absolute essential. Mayors
and governors have police escorts almost everywhere they go, and the President
and other national leaders, of course, have the Secret Service.
traveled with somewhat of an entourage, and some of them were no doubt rather
tough characters, being fishermen and all. However, other than when they
wrongly attempted to prevent children from being brought to Jesus, there’s not
much evidence they ever really provided “security” for Him. Usually, Jesus
would take care of the dangers which arose Himself. He’d speak a word of Scripture
which deflated enemies, or He’d make use of His divine powers to calm storms or
drive out threatening demons.
at the time of His arrest did the disciples show any inclination to physically
defend Jesus, and at that point, He put a stop to it before it could get out of
hand. He was prepared and willing to subject Himself to the danger of His
passion and crucifixion.
in the Gospel lesson from the account of St. Mark, we heard about Jesus getting
out and “pressing the flesh” among the people. It’s not the sort of flesh most
of us would want to have anywhere near us, though, let alone “press.” That’s
because it’s a leper, a man with an infectious disease and rotting flesh, who approaches
Jesus. It’s rather easy to understand why no one else wanted to jump in the
way to keep this man from getting too close to the master. They all knew what
leprosy was, and they didn’t want to take a chance on getting it themselves.
Law of Moses should have been enough to keep the man away, after all. Lepers
were supposed to dress and act in a prescribed way to make themselves obvious
to others. They were supposed to keep clear of healthy people. They were
suppose to cry out in a loud voice, “Unclean, unclean!” so that no one would
inadvertently come too close and risk catching this dreaded disease.
yet, in spite of all these obstacles and requirements of the Law, this poor,
afflicted, unclean man was willing to approach Jesus. Desperate as he was, however,
this leper did not demand healing from Jesus. He knelt before the Lord. He
demonstrated his humility. He admitted his uncleanness. He did not even ask
Jesus directly for anything. He simply made an observation: “If you are
willing…” the leper says.
while he showed great humility, he also demonstrated supreme confidence. His
was a very trusting faith. He knew that Jesus could do for him that which he
desired, if Jesus so chose. He was willing to accept the Lord’s decision for
his life. He was willing to take whatever Jesus would provide him.
leper came to Jesus, but this was not something that originated within the
leper himself. It was not caused by something within his own nature. Rather,
this leper had heard or seen what Jesus had been doing. He had been reached by
the preaching or teaching or by seeing some other miracle of the Lord, or had
been told about them by others. The Gospel had come to him in some form.
may not have been the complete message of the forgiveness of sins, salvation
from death, and promise of eternal life which has been communicated to us, but
the leper had still heard that Jesus could do wonderful things for him. The
leper’s response to this Gospel was to receive in faith whatever was offered to
him. He had faith in Jesus before making his confession: “If you
are willing, you can make me clean.”
this leper’s faith is rewarded. Jesus is moved by compassion; moved in the
sense of being physically drawn, almost compelled, to do something. We can’t
presume to force God to do anything, of course, but God, through Christ, is
compelled by His own loving nature and His compassionate character to do that
which expresses love to His creation. Jesus stretched out His hand to touch
this unfortunate man. He had a willingness not only to heal, but to touch.
According to the Law as given through Moses, touching a leper made another
person unclean as well.
Jesus is God, author of the Law. Jesus had made Himself subject to the Law
when He took on human flesh, and Jesus was still willing to come in contact
with the unclean, even to be counted among them.
am willing,” Jesus said. “Be
cleansed.” Note that it was not the touch of Jesus alone which healed
the leper. It was when Jesus spoke and said, “I am willing; be
cleansed,” that immediately the leprosy left him, and he was
cleansed. There is power in the Word of God, in the words of Jesus, in
the Gospel itself—power in the written and spoken Word, and power in Jesus, the
this power, the leper was immediately healed. This theme of “immediacy” is a
common refrain in Mark’s record of the Gospel. The man was also immediately
warned not to speak of this healing miracle, and immediately sent away to
fulfill the Law.
see, Jesus still wanted the man to meet the ceremonial requirements regarding
the restoration of lepers to the community. Jesus sought the fulfillment of
the Law, though He alone is the fulfillment of the Law for us.
theme we often find in Mark’s Gospel, and here in today’s lesson as well, is
the instruction by Jesus for people to keep quiet about certain things He had
done, especially regarding certain miracles. That perhaps seems odd during
this Epiphany season. After all, this is the time in the Church year when we
are supposed to be hearing and learning about the manifestation of Jesus’
divine nature, and His revelation to us as being the incarnate Son of God. How
strange to hear that Jesus often attempted to squelch certain news about
Himself. It’s difficult for us to understand. Doesn’t Jesus want people
to know Him, to have confidence in Him, to believe in Him?
of course—but as we considered last week, people’s coming to faith always takes
place on God’s terms, on His timetable, and according to His
good will. Jesus came to preach and to save, more than to heal or do other
miracles, and it’s in that preaching that saving faith is generated.
great an emphasis on Jesus the healer, or on Jesus the miracle worker, would
direct people away from the message of the Gospel. Jesus knew that the world
needed to be reached through the message of His ministry, and through the
learning, the teaching, and the writing of the apostles. Jesus also knew that
the jealousies of the Jewish religious leaders would eventually lead to His
death, and He was in no hurry to hasten this before He had been able to fully
communicate what He wanted the world to know. Jesus did not want to risk the
Gospel getting shortchanged or misconstrued by His being too well-known for the
different we are from Jesus, and even from the leper! When we do something
wonderful, or even sometimes just something that’s fully expected of us, we
want people to take notice. We want to bask in the visibility, the
acknowledgement, the appreciation. We want people to point at us and say, “Oooh,
look what he did! Look what she did! Isn’t it great?”
all too often, if we don’t get this validation of our efforts and our egos,
we’ll take matters into our own hands, and make people notice it somehow,
anyway. Even at the risk of appearing to be self-promoters, we’ll find a way
to call attention to ourselves. And it’s not always done in positive ways, is
it? Although we’d like to think that our motives are pure, and that our
notoriety is spontaneous and simply the natural consequence of the wonderful
people we are, if it’s not forthcoming, we’ll often brood. We’ll pout and
whine. We’ll sometimes even do negative things, if only to gain that fleeting
is humility, then? It seems that hardly anyone today values that as a
character trait. Those who make a splash, those who get noticed—they’re
the ones who make an impact on the world, aren’t they? They’re the ones
who get ahead in life.
willingly and humbly admitted his uncleanness. It was apparent to all, and it could
not be hid. Yet we sometimes intentionally hide our uncleanness. We rationalize
that maybe it isn’t so bad, compared to others. Perhaps that’s only because it
isn’t always fully obvious to others. But we can never hide it from God.
leper also showed his humility, and his faith, by not insisting on his own way.
He threw himself at the mercy of the master, saying softly and trustingly, “If
you are willing.”
often pray to God, “Thy will be done,” but do we always really mean it?
Are you willing to trust God’s judgment? God’s compassion? God’s will?
do you get disappointed and angry when things don’t go your way all the time?
Do you often complain about your lot in life, or sometimes wonder if God has
abandoned you or is ignoring you?
times like that, when we’re focused on ourselves, and our problems, and our
complaints, we should bow our heads—not in humility, not even in prayer—but in
and the insistence on one’s own way was not the leper’s approach. Nor was he
trying to hide his uncleanness—something that we sometimes might imagine that
the man’s plight, his humility, and his willingness to accept whatever good
might come his way, Jesus was moved with compassion. Moved not only to heal
this one poor leper, but moved even to willingly surrender heavenly glory and
power, and to move in humility from heaven to earth.
to the Father’s will, He moved from being purely divine to taking on human
flesh, clothing Himself in our weakness and our frailty. He subjected Himself
to temptation and torment, torture and termination.
humility, Jesus was willing to make Himself unclean for our sakes. He took on
our uncleanness—not merely to share in it, but to take it fully and
completely upon Himself, relieving us sinners of it entirely. In humility, He
stretched out His hands upon the cross. He accepted the Father’s will,
suffering the pain and death which coming into contact with unclean sinners
like you and me inflicted upon Him. This He did so that we might be healed and
cleansed of its curse and condemnation.
many people even today see Jesus merely as a wise moral teacher, as a miracle
worker, as a man given divine abilities. They don’t see Jesus as the Savior,
and certainly not the Son of God. But even Christians—even if we remember
Jesus as being divine and the second person of the Trinity—can sometimes take
our eyes off of seeing Jesus in the right way.
must always keep Jesus in focus as the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah who
came to suffer and die to save us from far worse things than hunger or
unemployment, war or catastrophe. He suffered and died to save us from things far
worse than leprosy, far more severe than even bodily death. He came to save us
from permanent, eternal, separation from God. From total death. From “capital
D” Death. And that’s part of the reason Jesus didn’t want to have the healing
and the miracles become the primary thing for which He was known.
wants people to come to know Him as the Christ, and He wants to do it His own
way—or, rather, the Father’s way. He wants us to know and understand Him
through the Word. To understand Him as the fulfillment of the Old Testament
prophecies. He wants us to know Him through the teaching and preaching of the
apostles, and even these apostles had to be steered slowly and deliberately to the
is through their writings, of course, that we have read and heard the message
of salvation which comes in Christ. It is a message which focuses not
on Jesus the rabbi, Jesus the miracle worker, Jesus the healer. Instead, it
focuses on Jesus the God-man; Jesus the Lamb of God; Jesus the crucified.
points not to Himself, but to the Father. But the Father points back to Jesus:
At His birth; at His baptism; and—as we will hear next week—at His
Transfiguration. The Holy Spirit also points us to Jesus again and again. And
since the Holy Spirit points to Jesus, all of Scripture—inspired by that same Spirit—points
to Jesus as well.
Scriptures tell us we have a Savior who was both humble and willing. Willing
to humble Himself to become human. Willing to humble Himself and become
obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
we be humbled by His humility, humbled by His death and resurrection, humbled
by the infinite gifts of life and salvation which became ours through baptism.
May we humbly admit our sins, and humbly accept His grace and His absolution.
we humbly approach the altar and the rail when He offers us His body and blood
to provide forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith. And may we
humbly return to Him, daily, in repentance and prayer, asking that His will,
not ours, be done.
humble acceptance of all He willingly provides us, may our hearts be
strengthened to be confident in His love and grace and forgiveness. May we be
made bold to willingly proclaim His Good News. And may we willingly convey His
good gifts to all those who are lost and suffering. God grant this for Jesus’