Mark 1:40-45: You can pray for yourself.
“40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ 41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” NIV UK
Here are three question:
- Do you want to be healed? Some years ago I knew a lovely man who lived in the Morecambe area. I visited him and his wife regularly, and he was always happy for me to pray for him. However, he had a mental blockage when it came to praying for himself. He felt he couldn’t do it. Perhaps it seemed selfish? However, today’s passage surely lays such an idea to rest. Jesus clearly did not mind the leper praying for himself. He prayed earnestly for his own need, and Jesus did not rebuke him. Of course you can pray for your own healing. Away with any notion that you can’t. Obviously, you won’t want to become self-obsessed, but as someone said, whatever concerns the child concerns the Father. If you have health concerns; you can come to Jesus and kneel beside the leper. He will not turn you away. As with the story of Simon’s mother-in-law (1:30,31), so here there is a link between the ‘prayer’ (40) and Jesus’ response (41). Although Jesus may not always answer with immediate healing, He surely always answers with ‘’compassion’’ for the person in need.
- Do you want to be clean? The word ‘’clean’’ comes twice in the passage (40,41), and ‘’cleansing’’ is also found once in (44). So this is an important theme in a short section. Leprosy is a term used for a variety of skin diseases – not just the worst case scenario illness we tend to think about whenever leprosy is mentioned. What we can say, though, is that the big ‘L’ leprosy is a picture of sin. It deforms, and eventually, destroys human lives. It chews people up. It nibbles away at the edges of who God made them to be. Whereas it is not always Jesus’ will to heal our illness ‘’Immediately’’, it is always His will to cleanse from sin. How urgently, though, do you feel the desire to be holy; to be made clean in heart? Can you share David’s heartfelt prayer in Psalm 51? Does such a longing for purity bring you to your knees?
- Will you obey? When Jesus saves/heals you (and remember the Biblical concept of salvation includes healing) it is so that you may obey Him/obey His Word (44). You don’t then go off and raise the flag of independence. You come to Jesus on your knees, and that is, as it were, where you spend the rest of your days. Life begins at the feet of Jesus, and there it will continue. In asking why Jesus gave this ‘’strong warning’’ (43) Tom Wright makes the point that if the man were blind, it would be obvious that his eyes were now open; if he were deaf, it would be clear that he could now hear. However, if he happened to turn up in his community claiming to be free of leprosy, some people might be cagey. So it was important for him to go through the proper procedure to verify his healing. If he went through the official channels, he could then come away with a proper public clean bill of health. Let’s be clear, he didn’t need to keep the law of Moses in order to get clean, but so that he could be pronounced clean. When you were dealing with leprosy, it was really important for others to know that you were no longer a public health threat. ‘’But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’’