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The Healing Heart of Jesus

April 15, 2012 Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Authority/Power of Christ Passage: Mark 1:29–1:45

The message of the Book of Mark can be summarized for us in one sentence. Mark 10:45 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And the book reflects this theme. The first part of the book covers Christ’s service and the second (smaller portion) covers Christ’s sacrifice.

There are also smaller sections of the book that emphasize different characteristics of Jesus and His ministry. The first, which we’re in right now, is the theme of the authority of Jesus. We’ve already begun to see this in the way His listeners were shocked by the way he was teaching with authority; the way he was able to silence and command demons; even in the way the disciples responded to His call. What we need to see is that Jesus is different than any other religious leader. He ministers with authority; as if He was the author of those He’s ministering to.

Today we’ll see this continue in the display of Jesus authority over sickness. It will helpful to keep these overarching themes in mind each week because it will give us the proper context and a more robust feel for what our smaller text is speaking to us.

Let’s read together Mark 1:29-45. 

We have 3 separate accounts of Jesus performing healings-and there’s some things going on here as well. We’re going to start by examining THE HEALING HEART OF JESUS (title) and then we’re going to look at the twist in the plot of this short story and how it impacts our understanding of Jesus. By observing Jesus in these accounts I think we see His heart to heal in these responses.

Jesus Responds with Compassion
We can see and feel the compassion of Jesus in each of these accounts in different ways. We see Jesus gentle approach with Peter’s mother-in-law, leaning toward her and taking her hand as he helps her up. When Jesus is faced with the crowd and all the sick and demon possessed are brought to Him he doesn’t turn them away but takes the time (and we can assume exhausts himself) healing them because of His compassion. And when Jesus looked upon the leper we’re clearly told that Jesus was “moved with pity” (ESV). (NIV-Filled with deep concern, NKJ-moved with compassion). Jesus didn’t just feel bad for this guy; He wasn’t just experiencing sympathy. Jesus had a gut-wrenching compassion for the leper. There was an association that was made; Jesus felt the agony of this man and had pity on Him. Jesus was full of compassion for those who were sick and in need.

Jesus Responds with His Touch
This is significant; for the Son of God to touch anyone, let alone the diseased and unclean. There was no need for Jesus to touch anyone. He was able to heal them without contact; He did it many times. But it was a natural reaction for Jesus to take the woman’s hand. He wanted to touch the leper. Some might think that Jesus life was pre-meditated; that He had a list and knew exactly what was coming. This thinking often results in us relating to Jesus in the same way, as if He only does for us if and because it’s on the list. But Jesus is real and personal. He meets us on our level and in our moment of need. He’s not a robotic God; He’s a compassionate God who reacts, naturally to our needs with His touch.

When he touched the leper is was a genuine, natural and spontaneous touch. He didn’t do it because He had to; He did it because He wanted to, He was compelled to. We cannot underestimate how significant this was for the leper. The life of a leper was devastating. Lev. 13:45- “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” And on top of this the religious leaders had added to this law and made the restrictions even tighter.

The lepers life was isolation; humiliation, loneliness and hopelessness. Imagine this life-only death to look forward to. Maybe he had a wife and children. From Luke we know this man had lived this way a for years. No touch from his wife, cuddle from his kids; no high five from a friend; he couldn’t even brush up against someone. His life was restricted to being an outcast of society and only interacting with other miserable lepers. His life was a living Hell.

And Jesus knew it and had compassion. He knew this man’s pain and loneliness and He touched Him. Imagine how it that must have felt to the leper. That moment must have lasted a lifetime; the touch of a warm soft hand; a touch that said, I care, I accept you, you’re not alone; a human touch from the very Son of God. The compassionate heart of Jesus compelled Him to reach out and take hold of the one whose disease and rotting flesh kept everyone else away.

Jesus Responds with His Word
And of course Jesus healed them. Jesus delights to heal. With His Word He healed the woman with a simple fever and the man covered in leprosy. And the healings were immediate; instantaneous restoration. Jesus authority and the power of His Word are irresistible. When He says it, it happens.

So we see Jesus heart to heal in His compassion, through His touch and by His Word. But something rather unexpected happens (at least to the disciples) right in the middle of this passage. So let’s back up for a minute and look a little closer at 2 verses.

A Desolate Place: 1st, in verse 35. This is the morning after the whole town was gathered and Jesus healed many. “And rising early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” This is significant for two reasons: This is a picture for us of the humanity of Jesus. This is the Son of God; the image of the invisible God; He was fully God and fully man. But He chose to live as a man in the flesh, He did not see equality God as a thing to be grasped but He humbled Himself taking the form of a Servant. He gave up His power-His power and strength and direction came from the Father through the Holy Spirit as He prayed.

And in His humility, Jesus is our example. He was weak and need strength. He must have been drained, maybe even weary from the night before but rather than trust in his own strength or be distracted by His own popularity with the crowds He stole away to the wilderness, to a desolate place, where he would receive strength and direction from the Father in the midst of weakness, distraction and temptation. If Jesus needed to pray, we certainly need to pray.

And it seems that during Jesus time in prayer He did receive renewed strength and direction from the Father. But the disciples didn’t get the memo. These guys are frantic.

They finally find Jesus and almost rebuke Him; “Everyone is looking for you!” “What are you doing out here? You healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the whole town heard and came out and he healed the sick and cast out demons all evening. The word about you is out Jesus. We have some real momentum going now, don’t blow it”

And why not, right? Isn’t this what ministry is all about; gathering the crowds, performing miracles, growing, the name of Jesus spreading? There’s a revival in town-at least it seems. Here’s the twist that probably threw the disciples for a loop. Look at verse 38-“And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” What are we to make of this? What about the healing heart of Jesus? Does this mean that He’s not compassionate, that He doesn’t want to heal?

Not at all. This doesn’t diminish the compassionate heart of our Savior. On the contrary, I think we’ll see that it deeps our understanding of His heart and desire to heal. Understanding this verse will help us avoid the same mistake that the crowds in Capernaum made and many Christians make today and expand our awareness of how great a Savior and Healer Jesus really is. And it will help us trust Him.

Jesus knew what the crowds were after. They came because of His miracles, which is understandable and to be expected. Healing the sick was a big part of Jesus ministry but it wasn’t the objective; preaching the good news of the gospel of grace was. It appears that the crowds in Capernaum were all about Jesus for the wrong reasons and Jesus knew it. He had preached to them and they only wanted healing so Jesus moved on.

I like the way Kent Hughes explains this passage:
“The healing heart of Jesus was not as interested in physical healing as in spiritual healing. He refused to let his disciples or the people “own” him as their healer in Capernaum, but went out into the country preaching the gospel of belief and repentance. Jesus did heal people and still heals people today…But physical healings are temporal at best. What Jesus emphasized was the healing of the spirit of men in salvation and then healing from bitterness, hatred, lust, anger, gossip and the like. Ultimately, the healing of the human spirit is eternal! That is where Jesus heart was!”

The demonstration of His power is never disconnected from our need for spiritual healing and His desire to give it to us. He came to heal the souls of men; to be our ransom. Even after we believe in Christ, sin remains, the battle between spirit and flesh rages and we are continually in need of spiritual healing, healing that comes through the gospel of grace.

Whenever we see the miracles of Jesus we have to realize that there is always a deeper purpose and meaning. Take the leper for example. Throughout scripture, leprosy is used as a symbol of sinfulness and the healing of it represents deliverance from sin. The leper was no more sinful than a well man but he is an outward and visible sign (a parable) of every person’s innermost spiritual corruption. It was once believed that leprosy was a flesh eating disease that caused disfigurement over time. But we know now that leprosy destroys the nerves in the body’s extremities and often ears, eyes and nose. The body’s warning system against pain is numbed to potential dangers that it would normally avoid.

I remember, after one trip to the dentist, leaving with a numb mouth and being amused at how hard I could bite my lip and tongue without really feeling a thing. I had fun with that for a while…until I realized that my mouth was full of blood. Suddenly the fun was over.

Can you imagine having leprosy 2000 years ago? No pain in your hands and feet, legs and arms, parts of your face. You cut yourself working in the field, burn yourself making a fire, scratch yourself itching bug bites; your immune system low, no running water, no inside plumbing, no antiseptic. Infection set’s in and your skin and flesh begins to rot; rodents would chew on your rotting flesh as you slept and you wouldn’t know it.

This is a picture of our sinfulness. This is the effect that sin has on us. The disease has made us numb. We sometimes see the symptoms and the consequences and we try to fix those but without getting to nerve, the root of the problem, we will never be cured.

Jesus wants us to see past the physical. The sinless, pure, Son of God…deeply moved with gut-wrenching compassion…bending over this filthy, smelly, social outcast who can’t feel his own destruction coming… touching his dirty rags and open sores…taking hold of this man who has no hope and healing him. Oh Church, this leper is us. We are all spiritual lepers. But unlike the leper, we don’t see the sores, so we often don’t realize the pervasiveness of our sinful condition. We’re numb and blind.

But the Savior; the Savior has looked on us with compassion; compassion that motivated Him to stoop down low, to come and live in flesh and then to bear our filthy sin and die for us. He didn’t just touch you, the leper, He became the leper; he became the disease and then He destroyed it. He became unclean so that you could cry out “I am clean, I am clean!” The heart of the healer is to heal what ails us most; our sick and dying souls; our sinful hearts.