The Leper Who Talked & the People Who Don't: How Disobedience Affects God's Purposes

Gospel According to Mark, Volume 1

Christ instructed the leper not to tell anyone about His healing, but instead He told everyone. We've been told to tell everyone about Christ, but we do not. Discover how our disobedience affects God's purposes.

Todd WagnerMay 7, 2000Mark 1:40-45

We're working our way through the gospel of Mark, just one of the four places in the Scripture that you can go and study this person, Jesus Christ, who we've talked a lot about. Really, it's the purpose of our church to call all people to be fully devoted followers of this Jesus, this one who we think is worth our very best, the one who we want to be fully devoted to.

It only makes sense to study him and to find out what his life was like so we can emulate it, and more than that, that we can live as he lived, not as self-willed individuals, and understand this, the secret to the ministry of Jesus Christ, who though he was fully God, in order to identify with you and me, humbled himself and, the Scripture says, "…did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…"

He walked as you and I walk. He was tempted as you and I were tempted, and he was enabled to be holy, as you and I can be enabled to be holy by yielding himself to the power of God through specifically this Holy Spirit. Jesus was continually a vessel for God to work in and through so that he might be the man who was blameless, without blemish…the undefiled Lamb of God who would come to take away the sins of the world.

You and I have that same opportunity, not to be sinless, because we've already made that mistake, but to be folks who are continually offering ourselves up as "…a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." We study this one, that we might be like him, walk like him, and honor him with our full devotion. Last week, if you were here, my good friend James Skinner talked a lot about James, chapter 2, and he talked, in there, the idea of how we should not show favoritism.

As you can imagine, Jesus is the perfect example of one who did not show favoritism. He made a great point and told you that the word for favoritism in the Scriptures literally means to receive the face. I was watching one of those news magazine shows this week, and they did a little story about the lady who was on the cover of the Sports IllustratedSwimsuit issue this last year and how they were wondering if it was true that pretty women get certain favors.

What do you think they found out? Yeah, they do. What they did is they took this woman and dressed her like she normally would and sent her into a deli and then had her reach in her pockets looking for some cash to get one of those good $14 New York sandwiches. When she realized she didn't have it, she stumbled, and she was doing this, and there was a man who quickly rushed to her aid to offer to buy that pastrami and sauerkraut or whatever it was. Models probably don't eat that, but you know, whatever she ordered.

They sent the same girl back in there a little bit later dressed up this time with a wig on and some kind of awkward glasses. They stained her teeth kind of a coffee yellow (Can you relate?) and had her go in there in the same place. The same guy was in there, and she was just a little bit short of some cash, and guess what? They didn't give her the sandwich this time. They had her struggle to get into a store with some bags one time, and boy, when she was dressed like the cover of Sports Illustrated, in she went.

When she was dressed like more of us look than her, she stood there, and people walked by her on film, one after another. They had her standing there on a street corner looking at a map, and when she was looking like the cover of Sports Illustrated, guess what? Lots of guys, about seven in three minutes, offered to help her find direction. "Here's where you are, and here's my apartment. Let me show you how to get there," is what they all said.

Then the next day, when she goes out dressed, you know, like the female me, she was lost for a while on the corner, and not a whole lot of progress was made getting her where she wanted to be. You can imagine that Jesus wasn't like that, and favoritism, which means to receive the face… If we're people who are like Christ, and if you don't know him for who he is, today is a perfect place to show you how he saw, how he felt, how he prayed, and how he acted.

There are probably not many more people who are as repulsive as a person who is afflicted with the disease that we call leprosy. It's called Hansen's disease, and biblically… I'll just make this case if you want to be technical… Every time you see leprosy, especially in the Old Testament, it's not always what you think of when you think of modern-day leprosy, which is called Hansen's disease.

It's really any of a series of skin disorders or rashes, most of them of the contagious variety, and so leprosy was kind of a class word more than a specific disease, although sometimes when you see leprosy it was in fact what we consider modern-day leprosy. I believe that the man we see here was, in fact, of the class of a modern-day leper…not somebody who you would receive based on his face; somebody who, in fact, would be a little bit awkward for you to welcome into your company.

Let me tell you a little bit about lepers. The Jewish people understood leprosy to be about as serious a problem as you could have because it was a sign of impurity, and really to protect people from the spread of contagious diseases whenever there was a series of rashes that were defined very specifically in God's law in Leviticus 13, if you're into reading about skin rashes, God had a specific plan in order to protect disease from spreading through his covenant community.

They were to be separated and because they were separated and considered unclean, they could not participate in social activities, and they couldn't participate in temple worship. They were outcasts. In fact, to be near one of these folks was like to touch a corpse, so many people considered lepers like walking dead men because they were literally sentenced to die. There was not any cure that was known to them at the time, except for the intervening work of God. If God didn't intervene, they were walking dead.

If, in fact, a leper came into the community (because they were set outside the camp; there was a house that they were put in, an area that they would dwell in together, and maybe only a mother who was willing to go and herself receive that dreaded disease would go and minister to them on an intermittent basis, but they were literally left out to die unless God miraculously intervened)… Then upon that case, I'll show you there was a specific way that God would validate their cleanliness and admit them back into the covenant community.

If you walked into Jerusalem or into one of the cities of Israel as a leper, you were given 40 lashes, which is as severe a punishment as they allowed to be given. In fact, whenever you hear "40 lashes" in the Scriptures, know that you were only given 39 because they felt like, if you gave a man more than 40, it would kill him, and so to be sure that you wouldn't go over, because lashing was only to punish you and not to kill you, they would stop at 39, back usually in shreds.

That's what Christ received many times during his mock trials and during the heretical series of judgments that he was put through on his weekend that led to the cross, but this leper could not come. If they came and a Jew saw them, they'd throw rocks at him until they just drove him back out of the camp. Somehow, this one broke through, and he made his way all the way to Jesus. He got right in, and he didn't tackle him. He just wanted to be touched. Let's read the story.

Mark, chapter 1, verse 40: "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He [Jesus] sternly warned him and immediately sent him away…" Now what's the stern warning there? Well, you're about to find out. It's something that confuses a lot of people, and I hope to clear it up this morning a little bit.

"…and He 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, as a testimony to them.' But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere."

Now in this last piece, if you're not confused by the compassion of Christ and the fact that he would receive those who even we wouldn't receive, you're confused often by the fact that Jesus, upon doing a great work in somebody's life, told them to keep their, you know, trap shut. Why is that? You saw it already in Mark, chapter 1, verse 25, where he said, "Be quiet. Don't tell anybody who I am."

What I want to do is just walk you through some reasons why this thing called the messianic secret (what scholars call it) or the silence motif was there…give you some things that we can use as purposes of application in our own lives and also to help you understand why Jesus was like this. You need to know that there was a time that Christ slowly began to tell more of who he was.

I like this statement, "At this stage in his ministry," one guy wrote. "…the crowds can only marvel at what he does. They are like those who witnessed the explosion of the first atomic bomb. The great explosion of power fills them with awe, but they do not fully realize that the explosion will change everything for the world—in this case…" Meaning, what they've seen in Christ. "…for good and not for the worst."

These people are watching Jesus like the folks who watched that atomic explosion, and they go, "Man, that is unbelievable!" but they don't fully have their arms around it. Jesus didn't just want to fill them with awe and have them be marveled at the explosion of power that was on the scene.

He was trying to communicate to them, "Something is now in the world, which is going to dramatically change the world, so don't just stand back and look at the mushroom cloud of miracles. I want you to see the reason this power is among you, and it is to bring about healing in the world and not destruction."

It says in the Scriptures that Jesus came, not to bring judgment into the world, but he came to bring, if you will, an opportunity for folks to know him. Now you need to know that this same Jesus, the Bible teaches, is going to come one day, not then to offer an opportunity for reconciliation but to be an instrument of justice, and we don't know when that day is, but surely it's grown closer than it was yesterday.

I will remind you, wherever you sit out there today, there's a great statement by one of the guys who has long influenced men who think about issues like we talk about here on Sunday mornings. He said, "God has promised forgiveness to your repentance…" In other words, to your change of thinking, God has offered forgiveness, "…but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination."

You know, I don't know how much longer you have. I don't know how much longer we all have, but I do know this. "There will be a day," it says, "when God will not be available to the cries of men." There will be a day when this opportunity for recompense and reconciliation and forgiveness from him will not be. In fact, it will be so awful on the day… It's called the day of the Lord.

It says, "A man will run away from a lion, only to escape and find himself confronted with a bear."It says, "Men will run home to escape the beast only to lay their hand against the wall to find rest and be bitten by an asp, a poisonous snake." It says, "Men will beg for mountains to fall on them in order to escape the pain of the day, but the mountains won't fall, but they will endure the coming of the Lord's wrath, and then on that day, when they do face finally the eternal judgment from God, there will never be an end." "Today is the day of salvation," the Scripture says.

Hey, if you have a disease that's out there that's contagious…that is terminal in your life…called sin, think about dealing with it now. This is what the reason for the messianic secret or the silence motif is. Let me just walk you through a few, okay?

First, Jesus was not looking to build a reputation but to fulfill a calling. Too many itinerant teachers of the day were, or are even today, in the business of building their own reputations and seeking fame for the financial bonanza that came with it, but Christ wasn't here to make a fortune. Again, last week, James did a great job with telling you that this man was buried in a borrowed grave. This man had to borrow the donkey that he road in on to proclaim himself King.

He wasn't here to make a fortune. He was here to offer you an opportunity to know the Lord, so he was not looking to build a reputation but to fulfill his calling. He came to do what? The Bible makes it very clear: to seek and save the lost. We believe that we are left here, in part, to do the same.

Another reason that the silence motif, or early on in the life of Christ that this messianic secret that Jesus kind of kept wraps on for a while, is there is because he doesn't trust faith based on spectacles or on great miraculous works. He knows those who seek a sign will soon be seeking something else. They'll need a bigger explosion in order to draw them in. They'll need some other great sign in order to keep them entertained.

Jesus was not here to be some sideshow or some carnival freak show. He was here in order to tell people about their need for a Savior and his provision for it, and he knew that, if people responded to him based on how he tickled their ears or did things that impressed them, they would only stay with him as long as he kept ticking their ears or giving them what they asked for.

He is no genie in a lamp to rub, and he wanted them to know that, so he wasn't here to impress them. What one man observed very well was that God's power is not revealed solely through miracles. Sometimes, God's power is revealed through the absence of miracles. Now what's that mean? Well, the greatness of God's power on the Christ, for one… There was no miracle there. When Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane, "Hey, Lord, if there's any way that this can pass, let it pass." It didn't pass.

The miracle is that his Son was willing to go and take that cross and to die a sinner's death, though he himself was righteous, and to do it with complete faith that God would somehow make that work and make that right. There are some folks in this room who are dealing with diseases, and God may not choose to heal you, and I'm not going to be able to explain to you why he won't heal you and why he may heal others.

I do know that, the way you endure pain and even impending death, with the hope that he will raise this body of death one day and make you alive again in Christ, even in that lack of a miracle, there is a miracle that is existent. It's our hope and joy amidst even the most awful of circumstances. I look out, and I see some of you guys have been ravaged by relationships.

I see some people here who I know who have just been frankly wronged by spouses. I've wept with you and prayed with you about stuff, and the way you continue to honor the Lord and to do all you can and do as much as you are able to be at peace, that is a miracle. You know, I wish the Lord would bring healing in that relationship, but not all of you get that.

The fact that you continue on in your faithfulness and hope, when people say, "Why don't you strike out in anger? Why don't you begin to deal with hate and get your due and vindicate yourself?" No. You continue to be governed by love, love that sometimes helps people feel the weight of their decisions, but always governed by love. It's a marvel to the world. Even in the absence of a miracle of reconciliation, there's a miracle of your love for them.

Let me give you a third reason. He didn't want publicity. He wanted to preach about the kingdom of God, and as I said before, not to perform sideshows. He wanted to make disciples. He wanted to train them in private, and he wanted to cultivate a relationship with the Father. These are the three things that he wanted to do, and he knew that, if everybody started talking about what he did, he wasn't going to be able to do these things.

Watch them again…three things there. He wanted to preach about the kingdom of God, not constantly be harangued and harassed, "Hey, could you do this for me?" He wanted to make disciples, which means he did not want to become this celebrity that, everywhere he went, the paparazzi of the day and the hangers-on of the day were going to need to be around him. He wanted to pull away with his disciples.

Notice this. Most of us would want to drag as many people as we could into a room that we could fill up and preach to. Now there were times that Christ taught publicly, but his pattern for ministry, his pattern for changing the world was…what? Building into a few. If you're out there today and you go, "Man, how can God use me? I don't have the platform that (you can name any number of people) even Wagner has."

Let me just tell you something. You're probably better positioned than I am to do what Christ did…to make disciples, to take one, to take two and begin to build into them and to pull away to a quiet and a lonely place and to involve them in your world and start to have on your heart the things of God and then to share that with the hearts of those who you are near. Jesus didn't want, everywhere he went, to make a scene, so he wanted to be alone with his disciples at times.

He knew, if he turned into some sideshow, that wasn't going to be possible. He wanted to cultivate a relationship with the Father. How do you do that? You cultivate a relationship with the Father by going to the secret place, the quiet place, and getting alone. Boy, those of you who have had any sort of celebrity or been around those who do know that it's the hardest thing to get, and people pay exorbitant amounts of money and go to no small end to be alone.

Let me give you a few things here. In Mark 3, verses 9 and 10, it says, "And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd [specifically, control] Him…" When you get around a crowd and you're somebody that everybody's seeking, they all want to be near you, and they all want to control you. They will, with their crowd, with their very presence. This is what happens as a result of the disobedience of this leper who did go, it says, and told everybody, even though Christ said, "Don't do it."

It affected him. I'm going to show you that, because of the disobedience of people who Christ told to be quiet, it impugned his purposes. In Mark 1:45, it says, "…Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas…" That wasn't his desire. His desire was to be in and among the people, but he became such a miracle-maker that folks everywhere he went crowded him and needed him.

You know, I have a chance every now and then to speak to the guys who feel this way in today's society…athletes. You know, as I was preparing for this week, I thought, "You know, the next time a do a chapel for the Broncos or for the Cowboys or for whoever it is, this will be a message." I can say, "You know what? Christ can relate to you. You guys are constantly harangued and being used and being sucked in directions. Let me tell you. Jesus can relate to being a stud.

He can relate to having autograph seekers around him. He can relate to your need to have some privacy, but let me tell you what he used that privacy for…not so that he could indulge in sin and not have it written about in the Dallas Morning News but so he could cultivate a heart of righteousness, that he might live boldly in public." That'll preach. It may not make them happy, but we're going to hear it.

Here we go. The fourth reason… Mark 6:32-33: "They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. The people saw them going, and many recognized them…" This is the third example of what happens when folks are disobedient. "…and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them." That is a place specifically when Jesus was just told that his good friend, his cousin, John the Baptist, was just beheaded.

The disciples came back reporting about success in ministry, and Jesus said, "Man, let's get out of here. Let's just go get alone," and folks heard that they were going to get alone, and when they got there, it says there was a multiple of people waiting for them at their little seaside resort. The great thing about that story is Jesus wasn't disgusted. Jesus fed them, and he looked out, and he saw and felt compassion upon them and gave them their need, and then he sent them on their way and spent some time alone with his boys, but they were tired.

In Mark 7:24, this same book we're reading, Tyre, which is 40 miles northwest of Capernaum… Now this illustration isn't as good today as it was even 15 years ago in Dallas because you have to almost go more than 40 miles today to get outside of Dallas, but if you can think of what it was like then, when there were cities and then great distances between another city, Capernaum is really where Jesus… It's up in the northern part of the nation of Israel by the Sea of Galilee.

Up in the wilderness in Tyre, 40 miles northwest of there, is where he would sometimes try and slide away. Up there in McKinney, up towards Sherman, just getting away up there in that, you know, great expansive land that's soon to be filled in with another series of houses. To walk 40 miles to get away, but because people kept talking about things that he said don't talk about, look what happened.

It says, "Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice." Even in the deserted places, they were no longer deserted. Jesus did not want publicly. He was looking to cultivate an opportunity to declare the truth about who he was, to make disciples, and to build a deeper intimacy with the Father.

There was going to be a progressive revelation and a progressive removal of the veil of who he was, God in the flesh, but, "Let's not just get this big mushroom cloud out there and have folks run and tell folks to come and look at it. Let me tell you what caused this explosion and how it's going to change the world."

There's a fifth reason. It establishes that he's not an insurrectionist. He tries to escape the crowds that gather around him, not rally them to make him king. He is a servant who God alone will make King, not his own efforts, works, or politicking. You're going to get asked this question. Why did Jesus tell people not to tell folks? You need to know these answers. It's because he wasn't an insurrectionist. He wasn't looking to overthrow Rome and Caesar.

There'll be a day when he'll do that, when God in his sovereignty says, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Worship him," and every knee on this earth will bow, but he wasn't looking to rally a bunch of folks who would go to battle for him. He knew, if folks heard that he was doing some things, it was going to get in the way, and people were going to make him king. He wasn't looking to be a political king. He was looking to declare himself the King of righteousness and justice and love and to offer an opportunity for lepers to be healed, sinners to be forgiven.

Sixth is to notify leadership the Messiah… If you know anything about the Scriptures, when you see the word Messiah, he is a series of things. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is the Everlasting Father. What's that mean? Messiah is Everlasting Father. That means he's eternal, and he's also, Isaiah 9 says, Mighty God. He said, "I want you to go tell the leadership of this nation, those who worship me and tell you about who I am, that Mighty God is on the scene.

You go tell them all the fullness of Deity now exists in bodily form. You go tell those who influence the thinking of the people that God has come, Immanuel. God is with you. I am here!" How's he going to do that? It's interesting. The very first time in Matthew, which is the gospel specifically written to folks of the Jewish nation… In Matthew 5-7 there is a message there that we commonly call the Sermon on the Mount.

In that Sermon on the Mount, Christ is teaching with authority, and like in Mark, chapter 1, people said, "Man, this guy teaches with such power and authority…not like the rabbis teach, but with his own inherent authority." How can Christ do that? Because he's God himself. The people asked, "Why do you have the ability to teach this way?" The very first miracle in Matthew, chapter 8, that Jesus does is the healing of a leper.

Why is that significant? Because the Jewish people believed that it was as easy to raise somebody from the dead as it was to heal a leper. The Jewish people believed that when you got leprosy you were a walking dead man unless…what? Unless God intervened. It shouldn't surprise you, when God is letting folks know that he's on the scene, the very first thing he does is heal a leper, and he's says, "Go tell the priest."

You need to hear this, especially the men in this body. Jesus has no problem… God has no problem letting multitudes suffer from the decisions of leadership. He lets entire nations move into judgment because the leadership of that nation is making decisions which are godless and rebellious. That doesn't mean that individuals within that citizenship can't be saved, but as a rule, God's hand of blessing, or specifically his outpouring of wrath, is unleashed often on individuals who are underneath godless leadership.

It'll happen here. You watch it. In this church, if your leadership gets godless, that's why you'd better pray as we continue to pray daily and often about the naming of elders. Those men who are trustees took 36 hours away from their work this week. They met with me from Tuesday all the way through Wednesday night. We took a little retreat. We got away again. We continued to pray and evaluate how we're doing.

We're praying about who the men are who God is showing to be faithful leaders, servant leaders here who we can bring along, but I'll tell you what. I am scared to death about naming elders because nothing will ruin this church faster that that if they're not God's men. Nothing will help us more if they are, and we're praying that that happens sooner than later. Until then, we humbly as a group of men continue to seek God's face and serve him as best we can.

God doesn't have a hard time letting leadership influence consequences to people, and why do I say, "Men"? Listen. It's because each of you are head of your household, and I want to tell you something. If you want to be a godless leader of your household, that's fine, but your kids will not escape it. It doesn't mean individually they won't come to know him, but they will live under a reign of terror and godlessness. They will not experience the harmony in the home that God intends.

There are too many folks who sit here in this body who have a hard time understanding that God is there and loves them because their dad gave no example of what a loving father, compassionate servant leader, looks like, so they have a hard time getting their arms around the fact that there's a loving Father in heaven, and their kids struggle in countless ways, finding life and hope, they think, in things which are no gods at all…promiscuity and indulgence in chemical dependency and just hopelessness.

God will let your kids experience the negative aspects of your leadership, men, or he will allow them to experience the blessing of your seeking the Lord. In his grace, he sometimes busts through, and often busts through, a godless father in order to bring grace to either that dad, the wife, or the child, but know this: there will not be the harmony in the home he intends if you're not the man that he wants you to be. If you're clueless about how to do that, I'd love to talk to you.

I'd love for you to know what it means to go back and ask kids for forgiveness and say, "I've blown it as a daddy, and I'm going to change by the power of Christ. I've found forgiveness, and I need your forgiveness just like he's offered it to me." If you're a man who loves God but don't know how to lead a family, let us know. We'd love to come alongside you.

God wants the nation's leadership who influences people, like you as a man influence your family, to know the Messiah is on the scene. He wants them to know they can be sure that Jesus is who he claims to be and that Jesus is not committed to abolishing the law but to fulfilling it. That's why there's a silence motif in Scripture.

Now what's the very first thing Jesus did when he came alongside this leper? Look at the Scriptures. Go back to Mark, chapter 1, and look closely with me. "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.'"

I want to just note this. It's not inappropriate to pray, like we did a couple of weeks ago when we heard Kelli has MS, "Lord, if you're willing, we pray you'd take away that MS." Some people would come up and say, "That's a cowardly way to pray. If you had any faith, you'd just claim God's healing and know that he is willing." Well, I will tell you something. I know that he is able, but I do not know that he is willing.

I don't know that God's going to heal everybody who is sick. In fact, I know that most of us are going to die, and sooner or later, he's going to stop healing you of something. Don't tell me that's a cowardly loophole way to pray, "Lord, if you're willing…." I want to tell you something, I pray fervently, and I am absolutely convinced that God can heal anybody from anything that he wants to, even death. Now I'm not one to commonly pray at your funeral, "Lord, if you willing, bring him back from the dead."

I know that he'll do that one day, and I don't usually like to have that happen at the memorial service, okay? It'd be kind of nice if it did once just to stir us, but I have not been found to pray that way. Usually, when you're dead and we go ahead and have you embalmed or whatever we're doing to you, spread your ashes somewhere, we kind of quit praying for healing at that point because we know a different kind of healing is coming, but I believe he could do that if he wanted to.

I believe he can heal you from whatever your problem is today, and I pray fervently that he does that, but I'm going to always say, "God, I don't know your will. I mean, I'm going to tell you what I as a man think is good, that this child would not suffer from leukemia and that you'd stop it right now," and he doesn't always do it. I can't explain it to you, but I do know that, if you abide in him and walk with him, there will be a miracle in the presence of the absence of that miracle.

There will be joy in transformation, and there will be a sense of hope that is a marvel to godless nurses and doctors and neighbors that find you going through some of the darkest things you can go through and still finding a sense of trust in God, and that's a miracle. The New Testament promise is not that God will protect us from pain. The New Testament promise is that God will be there in whatever pain we experience. "If you are willing" is an appropriate way to pray from physical healing.

The first thing that Jesus did when this leper came is what? He touched him. I want to read to you this little section right here. "The miracles of Christ early on in his ministry…" Listen to this. This is great insight, and boy, it hits us right where we need to be as a body. The miracles in Mark 1 "…reveal that Jesus is not somebody who is aloof, inaccessible, or detached. Our culture does not touch, and many people live in isolation from others. We seal ourselves off from one other with our privacy fences and retreat to the inner sanctum of the family room.

The church is sometimes in danger of doing the same by retreating to its members-only, fully equipped Family Life Center, which becomes a safe cocoon from contact with the harsh realities of the disease-ridden, sin-sick world." Hey, one of the questions I get most and you probably do too is, "Are you guys ever going to build a church?" Hey, man, we're six months old. Give us a chance."

Someday, probably we will have a facility if that's what the Lord wants, if that's the best way for us to do effective ministry. I want to go on the record right now as saying, "I hope that we don't have there a weight room in our Family Live Center, so that we can all go there and work out with Christian music being piped over." You get your little tail out there and work out where lost folks work out. What a great place to be sharing with somebody about Christ.

I love being out there exercising with folks who have a completely different worldview that I do and engage them. All you have to do is spot somebody with about 325 pounds over their neck, and then don't help them up one time until they repent, and you have it all covered right there. It's probably not the best tactic, but it would work. I don't want us to retreat to our own little safe cocoons in place.

I want to read here. "We want others quarantined from us so that they will not infect us. But those who bear the name of Christ need to minister in the name of their Lord to those who are untouchables in our society." It's what James was preaching on last week, and wouldn't you imagine that Jesus is the perfect example of what we want to be as a body? "The church needs to minister in a nonjudgmental way," the guy writes. "The attitude toward leprosy in biblical times is no different from our attitude toward certain diseases today.

Some people are afflicted from illnesses that we assume they have contracted because of some sin. Many pronounce them guilty for supposedly having committed worse sins than their own and treat their disease as a curse that sets them adrift from the community and from God's grace. What does it accomplish to declare piously that they are receiving in their bodies the just penalty of their sin (Rom. 1:27) and to stigmatize and ostracize those who already despair? It can only drive people further into despair.

Obviously, our behavior has consequences for our health. We cannot defy the laws of science and health or the laws of God without repercussions. Abuse of alcohol can…" Let's be honest. "…can lead to cirrhosis of the liver; smoking can lead to emphysema. The same people who would hardly assess the suffering from these diseases as divinely appointed judgment for sin, however, will declare that those infected with the AIDS virus because of sexual promiscuity are suffering God's punishment.

There is more than one account of those suffering from AIDS, however they contacted the disease, who are turned away from church after church. We do not want the one with the unclean spirit disturbing our worship, or the leper with his hidden sin and thus a public disease defiling our company. Even when we do minister to the suffering, a self-righteous attitude can erode our compassion.

A doctor who treated AIDS patients confessed that when he began his treatment of a patient, he had the attitude that this disease was different from other diseases; like the Pharisee in Jesus' parable…" Who thought that he was better than the other man. "…he thanked God that he was not like him. He writes: 'I did not consider that this stigmatized man had repented and had been forgiven while I was yet still in my sins. In my heart, I approved of his suffering and inevitable death.'"

This guy said that God slowly did a work on him, and he realized that, though, maybe the wages of this man's sins were obviously apparent in his life… Let me just say something. There are some people who are dying of AIDS because they are homosexuals. There are some people who are dying of lung cancer because they stuck a cancer stick in their mouth for 30 years. There are some folks who are going to die early from cirrhosis of the liver because they've been drinking too much.

All right. But I'm destined to death because I'm a sinner who lives apart from God, and unless his grace intervenes in my life like it needs to intervene in theirs, I'm in trouble, so maybe we can come alongside of them who have tasted the consequences of their sin, which I think is not always an instrument of his judgment but sometimes is an instrument of his grace, almost saying, "Hey Dumbo! Look, this isn't going the way you wanted it to. There's still time to turn."

"If Jesus is the model for the church's ministry, we see that he never condemns the afflicted. He never tells people that they are sinners or that they are possessed by unclean spirits," this man wrote, and I disagree with that. We need to be feeling free about telling folks that they're sinners. He may not come right out and say, "You're a sinner," but he says, "Your sins are forgiven." You figure out what that means.

I want to offer people stuff. "Hey, look, your sins can be forgiven, but here's how. You need to acknowledge that whether it's because you've been drinking, not just a beer but what clearly is a sin, which is drunkenness in the Scriptures, that you've been not honoring your body as a temple of God because you've been thinking thoughts that aren't Christlike, you've been doing deeds that aren't, or you've been admitting deeds that are…

Hey, you need a Savior just like I do, and it's available to you. Come, and let me touch you with the love of Jesus Christ. Let me tell you that his grace is available to you, but let me be honest and tell you, if you don't deal with that, there's going to be disease one day that affects you that is far worse than anything that you're experiencing now, but come." We need to be a high-touch church.

See, most of us won't have a lot to do probably with people who are seriously dealing with AIDS. Not as an attitudinal problem, but maybe just in real life, most of us are not going to have a lot of friends who die with AIDS…more than used to, but probably, that's not going to be it. You're going to be dealing with neighbors who are dying with anger problems, dying with selfishness, and they are a mess to touch.

It just messes up your life when you get involved in their lives, but guess what? That's the Savior's life we need to model. Touch them. Build a relationship of love. Get in there, and be their friend, and take them to Jesus. Tell them that there's hope. If we're not touching folks, I mean really in their lives, whatever else we're doing, we're not doing what he left us here to do.

Let me just give you a couple of quick points out of this deal right here. The disobedience of the leper caused God's program problems. How many of you are disgusted by that leper? He made God have a hard time finding some time to be able to just teach without doing a sideshow of miracles. He made it hard for God, to have a problem making disciples. He made it hard with his other buddies who testified about the works. He made it hard for Jesus to be alone with the Father. How many of y'all are disgusted by his sin? Raise your hand. All right.

You ought to be. Disobedience always causes God's kingdom problems…always…just like the disobedience of the leper caused problems, and the disobedience of the living today does the same. Now watch this. Are you ready? Jesus told the leper to be quiet, and he told everybody. He tells us, folks, to tell everybody, and who've you told this week? How many people… If God in his grace would've allowed everybody who you shared the gospel with this week to trust in him, how many people would be eternally secure because of what you've said?

Do you think maybe the kingdom of God's purposes have been thwarted again? Hey, disobedience always does that, and things have changed. He doesn't say, "Be silent" anymore. He says, "You go declare it from the mountaintop!" I will tell you, if there's one thing, one place that I could get every single one of you to go, it would be to Outbreak. It would be to that class that takes just eight short weeks.

I'm telling you, we will encourage you where you are with your gifts, with your temperament. If you're a relational person, we'll show you to do it relationally. If you're an apologetically bent person, we'll show you how to use that. Whatever your method of sharing and building relationships with people is, we'll train you and help you be successful in that.

Have you been disobedient this week? Have you been disobedient this last year? Are you anxious to tell folks about Christ and how he touched you, a leper, and made you a cleansed leper? When we don't, gang, disobedience affects the purposes of God. We have to be a people who touches and gets involved.

Hey, let go of your unnecessary concern. Be assured that he is willing. In this area, specifically where sin is an issue, he says, "I'm going to come alongside of you, and I'm going to say, 'Look, you don't have to ask if I'm willing to heal you from the disease that is called sin.'"

Two verses, 1 Timothy 2:3-4: "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." All men. You don't have to wonder today if he's willing to heal you from sin. He's willing, and wherever you are, just say, "God, I am a sinner. I am a leper. I know that I am unclean. I know that I have not lived a sinless and perfect and holy life, as you have, and I am separate from you because of that. I need you to touch me." He's willing.

Second Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." It's his desire that everybody would come to repentance. Not only do we need to get rid of that uncertainty and unnecessary concern that he wants to heal us, we also need to get a grip on our needy condition. Every single one of us needs to be aware, if you've never been before, that you need to be cleansed. Be absolutely assured of that.

James told a great story last week about the woman who wrote the story, Just as I Am, who was offended when somebody said, "You have some leprosy. I know you have a beautiful voice and great talents, but you have a sin problem just like I did, and if it's not met with completely and fully like Christ wants it to be met with, it's not going to be pretty long."

I love the statement of a guy who was one time approached by a young man who said, "You talked about the burden that the sinner feels, the weight of sin that the sinner feels. What is it? Twenty pounds? Eighty pounds? Is it a ton? I feel no weight of sin in my life."

I love the response that the guy said. "Well, let me just ask you a question. If you put 2,000 pounds of weight on a corpse, does he feel it?" The kid said, "Well, of course not. He's dead." The preacher said, "The spirit, too, is indeed dead which feels no load of sin or is indifferent to burden and flippant about its presence in his life."

A buddy of mine was at lunch with a young man who is in high school we're trying to minister to right now, and the kid was just feeling some of the stings of his foolishness and the things he was participating in, but he wasn't ready to repent and change yet. There wasn't any weight of sin in his life.

The problem is not that sin doesn't weigh something. The problem is our hardened hearts that don't feel the weight of sin. Hey, look around you at the hurt in your family, at the devastation in the wake of your life and feel the weight of rebellion and know that God wants to take it off. Get rid of that guilt. Bring your life. All it takes is you coming to this Jesus who is different than everybody else.

That leper said to him, "Are you willing?" and he said, "I'm willing, and not only am I willing, but I'm able." He's different than everybody else ever in the history of the nation of Israel. There are people who consistently were brought lepers to. Moses interceded for his sister, Miriam. Moses couldn't bring healing, but Jesus can.

Elijah the prophet couldn't bring healing. He told them, "Go wash yourself in the Jordan," but Jesus can. The king of Israel, when the Syrian came to him and said, "Heal me from leprosy," the king ripped his shirt and said, "Am I a god that I can heal of leprosy?" No, but Jesus is. Boy, I can't deal with your sin problem, but Jesus can, and all you have to do is believe. Let's pray.

Father, I pray that we would be folks who do believe and who do come to you in humility and we would be individuals who just acknowledge that there is uncleanliness in our lives, and I pray for those this morning who have never done that, who have never had the chance to just say, "You know what? I need a Savior."

I pray this morning that they would be reminded again that this Jesus, who singularly was marked as one who was from God by his resurrection from the dead, that they would turn to him, and they would come full of absolute assurance that you are willing to heal from sin. That is why you came, and that is why you were crucified and why you were raised. I pray for those of us who know it, that we would not be disobedient, as this leper was, and that we would not thwart the purposes of God, that we would believe in the gospel of God and not be ashamed of it.

I pray we would be bold in telling people about it, and if we don't know how to do it, we would find ourselves in a place where we could be trained. I pray that we as leaders would evaluate who you are and begin to walk in humility with you so that those who are underneath our care instead would suffer no longer and that we would be, in fact, a leadership that called people to God, who saw the signs of the resurrection and then lived a life that was full of love and justice and walked in humility before you. Father, help us to believe.

About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 1'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 1:1 through Mark 2:17.