Mark 1:40-45 (ESV)
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Leprosy was a devastating skin disorder in the ancient world. If someone contracted the disease, her life was basically over. She had to isolate herself from the community and, to keep others from contacting the horrible condition as well, the Law required her to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” when people approached her. Many with leprosy spent their lives away from their family and friends. And to top it off, the general population believed leprosy was a sign of God’s judgment, so the misery associated with the sickness was dreadful. What a nightmare! It was almost like a living death sentence. Now when Jesus met the leper in verse 40, he didn’t remove himself from the leper’s presence, which was very unusual. The leper begged Jesus to make him clean. He didn’t ask Jesus to heal him, as one might typically request, because the unique nature of leprosy meant that it required “cleansing.” The infected were not only seen as sick but as contaminated too. What’s so incredible is that not only did Jesus engage this leper, he actually stretched out his hand and touched the man. Mark records that Jesus did this because he was “moved with pity.” Though others would have been made unclean by contact with a leper, Jesus remained unscathed.
Leprosy was also a symbol of sin. It reminded those who saw it of the separation sin works between God and man. Jesus completely cleansed and healed this man, so that he went from uncleanness to immediate purity. In the same way, Jesus completely cleans the broken sinner too. Looking again at his request, the leper didn’t ask Jesus, “Can you heal me?” Instead, in faith, he declared, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Do we come to Jesus like this? Are we confident he can do whatever he wants to do when he wants to do it? The issue wasn’t Jesus’ ability but his will. Even if you are already a follower of Jesus, if any sin remains unconfessed in your life, stop and ask Jesus to cleanse you. We know that if we come to Jesus, begging to be washed from our sin, he is both willing and able to heal us. Let’s be restored to spiritual health today by confession and repentance, thanking Jesus for his pity upon and power over our weak and sinful flesh.