Last week, we saw Jesus teaching with authority, casting out demons, and healing the sick. He also called Peter, James and John away from their fishing boats to become fishers of men. We now pick up chapter 5 with verse 12...
It has been noticed by many that leprosy is a perfect picture of sin and its effects on a man. In its beginnings, its effects onthe nerves, it effects on the face and body, and in its imposed isolation.
When leprosy first appears, it begins as little specks on the eyelids and the palms of the hands. Jesus pointed out that sin, too, is a disease that begins to manifest itself on the eyes and hands:
Matt. 5:29-30 "...If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell."
Leprosy destroys nerves, leaving a person with no feeling,, which leads to further injury. Sin, too, destroys the sensitivity of the nerves, and the sinner injures himself further because he has no ability to feel.
If unchecked, leprosy spreads throughout the entire body, eating its way through all tissue. "The face and different members of the body are attacked and gradually destroyed until the sufferer becomes a hideous spectacle, and literally falls to pieces." So too, the sinner. If unchecked, the effects of sin become evident on our faces, our hearts, and our lives. And we often hear about people who fall to pieces because of sin.
The Old Testament Law said that leper was first to be isolated, then completely removed from God's people.
Lev. 13:46 ...He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
So too with sin, at first, we become isolated from others, and as it runs its course, we become completely removed from our families, the church, and God's people.
How can we have victory over being infected by this disease of progressive decay? As we read earlier, Jesus told us to amputate. When sin rears its ugly head, cut it off. Get control over it. As soon as the speck of sin appears on our eyes or hands, it must be cut it off. Paul wrote that to have victory, we must be...
2Cor. 10:5 ...Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ
But there have been many times we haven't done that. Instead of cutting it off as we should have, our sin was either neglected or submitted to. And even if those sins aren't a problem anymore, we are still suffering from the effects of them. It shows on our faces, the evidence is on our bodies. But even worse is what it's done to our insides. We suffer horribly from the effects of sin. We've got hangups, problems, and "issues". Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Defeatedness. Residual hurts and repeating behaviors that we can't explain until we realize and recognize that they are the effects of our sin.
I want you to know that there is a delivering, a healing, and a cleansing from the effects of sin. You won't find it in a support group, a seminar, or a psychologist. But you will find the cleansing in the same way the leper did - by the touch of Jesus Christ. Because this leper in our reading today is a perfect picture of a man suffering from the effects of sin. Of a man racked by the ravages of sin in his body, his heart, and his life.
This sinner has come to Jesus Christ for help. And he doesn't just want to be healed: he wants to be cleansed. Let's look at how he was cleansed, that we also could be cleansed:
Three things:he saw Jesus, he implored Jesus, and he believed Jesus.
1) Verse 12 tells us that first, he saw Jesus. If we're to be cleansed from the effects of sin, those residual hurts and repeating behaviors, we must first see Jesus. How and where can we see Jesus? Remember one Sunday morning when some women came to the tomb looking for Jesus? The angel told to them, "You're looking for Jesus of Nazareth....:
Luke 24:5-6 "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen."
And remember Steven in Acts 7, surrounded by an angry mob hurling stones at him...
Acts 7:55 ...Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God
If you want to see Jesus, look up! Look up! In other words, get your eyes off the hurts, the circumstances, and the problems - and look up. Earlier today we sang, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus..." Until you direct your focus towards Jesus, you cannot and will not be cleansed.
2) So the first thing the leper did was he saw Jesus. The second was this: he fell on his face and implored Jesus.
Implore is a word that means, "to cry out, to call upon, to request or pray for earnestly." Fall on your face and ask for cleansing. How many of us are holding on to those residual hurts, hangups, and issues because we refuse to ask for cleansing?
And if you haven't asked yet, ask yourself why? "Why haven't I asked for relief from all this baggage? Why haven't I asked to be healed from these hurts? Why haven't I asked to be cleansed from the effects of sin?" Maybe we're afraid of how the Lord will cleanse us. Maybe we don't want to give up that bitterness, unforgiveness, and defeatedness. Whatever the reason is, it's not a good one - and its keeping you from your cleansing. There is such a simple solution: James told us...
James 4:2 ...You do not have because you do not ask.
The leper implored Jesus for cleansing.
3) So first, he sees Jesus, then he implores Jesus. Now the third things the leper did was: He acknowledged that Jesus could make him clean. He had total faith in Jesus' ability to heal him. He had no doubts at all that, if Jesus was willing, he would be cleansed. Jesus said:
Matt. 21:22 "...All things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive."
That is the third step: believing. Unless you believe, you won't be expecting to receive. I find it very interesting that every leper who was healed by Jesus first believed that Jesus could heal him. If you want to be cleansed of the effects of sin: those residual hurts and repeating behaviors, you must have faith in Christ that He is able to heal you.
Matt. 8:3 And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
See Jesus. Implore Jesus. Believe Jesus. And you are healed when Jesus touches you.
Another great miracle. But Jesus orders him to tell no one, only to show himself to the priest, in accordance with the Law given in Leviticus 14.
It is interesting to me that Jesus said that his healing would be a testimony to them. That the cleansing of leprosy would be a witness. Do you realize that your witness to the world is largely dependent on your changed life? Even unbelievers in the world can tell the difference between someone who's genuinely come to Jesus and who hasn't. The Scripture says:
2Cor. 5:17 ...If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Think about it. When a car-crashing, heroin-shooting, wife-beating guy receives Christ and his life takes a complete 180-degree turn, and now he's loving his wife, rejecting the drugs and obeying the traffic laws, that's a testimony to the world - they can see that that person's life has changed. His healing is a testimony to them.
Is your life a testimony? I don't mean do you have a fish on your car or a great big Bible. What I mean is: have you made a 180-degree turnaround from the life you had before you became a Christian? Is your life evidence of the new creature that God made you?
Or are you suffering so badly from the effects of sin that even if people knew you were a Christian, they wouldn't want any part of it? If that's the case, be cleansed today: See Jesus for your cleansing. Ask Jesus for your cleansing. Believe Jesus for your cleansing. Your cleansing is a testimony to the world.
As we talked about last week, Jesus' ministry was to preach the kingdom of God. But the multitudes weren't just gathering to hear, they were also coming to be healed. It would have been so easy just to submerge Himself in that work. But He always made it a point to slip away to the wilderness and pray.
I can't tell you how many times people have told me, "I'm too busy to pray. I'm too busy to read the Word. I'm too busy to come to church." But you know what? We're too busy NOT to pray. We've too busy NOT to read the Word. We're too busy NOT to go to church.
The demands of His time and the demands on His life pushed Jesus to prayer, not from it. He knew that the more stressful, demanding, and busy our lives are, the more we need to fight for time with the Lord, with His Word, and with His people. If we only draw near to God and have fellowship with Him when we happen to be left alone, when it happens to be convenient, or when nothing else is happening, then our relationship with Him is stale and stagnant.
Have you been too busy for the things of God? Jacob was a busy man, too. Working for a wife, working for another wife, raising a dozen kids, tending the cattle, breeding the sheep, feeding the goats. Running this was, running that way. For years and years he was always busy.
But one night, he came to a point where he knew he couldn't make it on his own anymore. There was no way to keep up this pace, there was no way to continue in this lifestyle. All the busyness in the world hadn't made him too busy to get in trouble. All the busyness in the world hadn't made him too busy to need the Lord.
That night, Jacob wrestled with the Lord until daybreak. And when the sun came up, he refused to let go, saying, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And the Lord said:, "Okay...
Gen. 32:28 "...Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel..."
"Here's the blessing, Jake. You've been so busy: a heel-snatcher, a supplanter, for that is what Jacob means. But now you shall be known as Israel, 'goverened by God'." People, if you've been too busy for the things of God, wrestle with the Lord - all night if you have to. Say, "I won't let go until you have made me one who is governed by God."
Even Jesus stole away to the wilderness to pray, to seek the Lord. If He needed to do that, don't you think that you might, too?