Based on a series of sermons preached in PCC Prayer Meetings in 2021
“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.”Mark 1:41
In our previous study, we considered how we must love one another as Christ loves us if we are to be effective witnesses for Him. We noted that part of loving is to be kind. Love is kind. We are to be kind not only to the sheep and lambs already in the fold, but also to others who are not in the fold yet. We can’t tell, at first look, who is a sheep of Christ; therefore, we should show kindness to all who come into contact with us, especially when they come to seek the Lord with us.
But how should we show kindness as Christ did? In this final study, we want to consider the Lord’s kindness as displayed to the leper who sought healing from Him. This event occurred during our Lord’s second year of ministry, between AD 27 and 28.
The incident is recounted in Mark 1:40-45 and is familiar to most of us. The leper comes to the Lord and kneels down to beseech Him. The Lord has compassion on him, touches him and heals him, and then charges him not to tell anyone what happened. Whereupon, the leper, promptly does what he was advised not to.
But what can we learn from the Lord’s kindness? Three things!
First, notice how the Lord has compassion on the leper. The man is a complete stranger. He comes to the Lord, humbly pleading to be healed. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” he says (v. 40).
He is not demanding. His words demonstrate both humility and faith. He knows that the Lord can heal him if He is willing.
The Lord is “moved with compassion.” The word in the original speaks of Him having a yearning in His bowels. He feels a sense of deep pity for the man.
We are not told why. It could be the pitiful sight of him covered all over by a skin disease that makes others recoil upon a mere look. He is undoubtedly a helpless and needy soul. Or, it could be his humility and faith demonstrated in his actions and words. Or it could be a combination of things.
Whatever the case, the Lord’s kindness towards the leper is surely founded upon His compassion towards him. The Lord is compassionate. This compassion, we should note, is not merely for those who are believers. We know this to be the case because elsewhere, we are told that He had compassion on the multitude and healed them (Mt 14:14) or fed them (Mk 8:2), knowing full well that many of them did not believe Him.
If we are to imitate Christ, we must cultivate a heart of compassion for others, especially the lost. Let us not just notice the multitude who are lost passing us each day. Let us remind ourselves that even if they have all the riches of the world, they will, one day, lose everything and suffer eternally unless they find salvation in Christ.
Next time you are in a crowded place, don’t allow yourself to be flustered. Instead, think about where most people will go if they remain without Christ. Then pray that they may experience the Lord’s kindness as you have.
Secondly, the Lord demonstrates His compassion by stretching His hand and touching the leper. This is strictly not necessary. He could have healed him even without a word. And touching him would be frowned upon by Jews, as the leper would be considered unclean (Num 5:2). Indeed, an ordinary person who touches a leper would be considered unclean according to the ceremonial law. The Lord will not be unclean because His touch will cleanse the leper instantly. But still, He does not need to touch him. So why does He do it?
He does it because it is an act of kindness! God has made us body and soul. The leper has been isolated from society. People shun him, and no one wants to touch or even come near him. Even if there were people who cared for him, he would have felt like no one cared for him. By touching him, the Lord demonstrates that He genuinely cares for him as a person. He is not just a case. He is not just a patient. He is a fellow human being created in the image of God.
Many of us are not so tactile, and the pandemic has made us even more reluctant to have any physical contact. But let us remember the kindness of the Lord in this way. Unless you are—God forbid—a pervert, do not be shy or reticent about reaching out in kindness as the Lord did. Reach out, especially to those who are infirmed and lonely, and to the elderly. They will surely appreciate it.
The story is told of Fanny Cosby, the songwriter, of how a little boy who had lost his mother came up to her one day. She kissed him. After they parted, she wrote a song, “Rescue the Perishing.” Years later, someone told the story at a gathering before they sang the song, and a man sprang up from the gathering and said: “I am the boy she kissed that day! I was never able to get away from the impression made by that touching act until I became a Christian!”
Thirdly, the Lord also demonstrates His kindness to the leper by not prejudging him for the troubles he might bring. We get a sense that the Lord knows or, at least, suspects that this leper will give Him some trouble when we are explicitly told that “he straitly charged him” (v. 43) and warns him not to say anything to any man of what He has done for him.
Why does the Lord not want him to tell others about what happened? Perhaps He wants to avoid misunderstanding over what He has come to do before He can make it known clearly. Or perhaps, He wants to avoid precisely what happened when the man began to publish the miracle: for the people began to throng Him. He could no longer openly enter any city and had to minister in desert places (v. 45).
Does the Lord know that will happen? Probably! But it does not stop Him from helping the man. His kindness and compassion for the man triumph over His concerns.
Here’s another essential characteristic of genuine kindness we must learn from the Lord. We must not let a fear of consequences paralyse us and stifle our bowels of compassion and kindness. Of course, we can take precautions. But let us not be stifled from doing good. Learn from the Lord.
Learn from our fathers in the faith, such as Calvin, who sought to visit the sick in hospitals when no one was willing. The other leaders in Geneva held him back because they deemed him too valuable to the city. Nevertheless, he visited many homes and conducted many funerals.
Likewise, when the plague struck London in the 16th and 17th centuries, many clergymen fled, but Puritan ministers such as Thomas Gataker and William Gauge stayed on fearlessly to help the people. They were Christ-like by their example.
The Lord’s kindness to the leper was an actual act of compassion to an actual person in an actual moment in the first century. But the essence of that demonstration of kindness has been repeated frequently throughout the history of God’s people. If you have experienced salvation, you have experienced that kindness.
You were the leper. Amongst your sins were selfishness and hardness of heart. The Spirit convicted you of your need for cleansing. You were miserable and knew you deserved God’s wrath. You came to Christ. He touched you in the inner man and healed you in a way no one would or could. You were recreated unto good works to be His witness in this heartless and selfish world.
May you find the grace of His Spirit to be led by Him to imitate Christ in His kindness that other sheep and lambs He laid His life down for may be brought into the fold.
May you have the same compassion, the same willingness to reach out tangibly, and the same magnanimity to be kind without fearing consequences.
Christ laid down His life out of kindness and love for us to save us from our pride, selfishness and hardness of heart. Oh, may He be magnified by our lives as we resolve not only to thank Him for His kindness towards us, but to be imitators of His kindness? Amen.
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