He sat in front of me with urgency in his eyes and tear streaks on his cheeks. He spoke about his gut-level desire to make a difference in the lives of children. His emotion moved me because he was a guy's kind of guy. He was muscular. He was young. He was good looking. He was athletic. He was tough. He had worked in the prison system. Now he lived under the conviction that God wanted him to make a difference by healing the hurt in the lives of children before they became wounded.
Everywhere he looked, he saw how prevalent the hurt was in the lives of kids. He knew first-hand what the hurt became when it was fully grown: violence, alienation, isolation, depression, addiction, and incarceration. He was almost begging heaven as he spoke these words:
I want to make a difference in the lives of these kids. I want them to know that Jesus can help them! What am I supposed to do? ... WHAT can I do?
As Jesus' followers, most of us have said, prayed, moaned, and cried that last sentence in many different forms:
God, please help me heal the hurt!
Lord, I want my life to make a difference in the lives of broken people!
Dear Jesus, I want to have a kingdom impact on our messed-up world!
Father, I want broken people to know that someone cares!
Please, Almighty God, I want to touch other people with grace like Jesus did!
When we read Mark's story of Jesus and see the man with leprosy crying to Jesus for help, something is stirred deep within us (Mark 1:35-45). Jesus heals the man. But, the Lord does far more than heal the physical problems in this desperate man; he works to restore the man. In the process, the man causes problems for Jesus because he doesn't obey the Lord. Despite the messiness of caring for this man — something we know from caring for people in our world — Jesus is compassionate, gracious, and ultimately effective in his mission despite the man.
"This is what I want to do... I want to be able to show love to folks that don't know love or have given up on being loved. I want to touch those who feel they are untouchable. But I don't know how? I'm not even sure I'm worthy of wanting to do this, much less how I can be used by God to do this? It's just such a mystery. What can I do in such a huge world of need?"
The emotion we feel in reading Mark's account of Jesus' gracious compassion and powerful touch moves us. We want to be able to bless others as Jesus blessed this man marooned at the outskirts of humanity:
A leper walked right up to Jesus, dropped to his knees, and begged Him for help.
Leper:If You want to, You can make me clean.
Jesus was powerfully moved. He reached out and actually touched the leper.
Jesus:I do want to. Be clean.
And at that very moment, the disease left him; the leper was cleansed and made whole once again (Mark 1:40-42 TV)[ONE]
How do we enter into this world of grace?
How do we touch those who need to be touched?
How do we demonstrate love to those who desperately need to be loved?
Today is our first look at Jesus' powerful and compassionate interaction with a man having leprosy. Each look at these interactions will be focused both on what Jesus did and also on how we can follow his example in doing something like Jesus to bless others in need. Because...
Our world is broken.
Anger simmers beneath the pervasive hurt.
Hope is a dying ember quickly turning to ash for untold numbers of people.
Despair reigns in the hearts of people who feel pushed aside and left behind because of their visible wounds and their perceived deficiencies.
Each broken heart needs the personal touch of Jesus. Each heart caught in the grip of despair needs the touch of a friend who makes the loving touch of Jesus real to them.
So today, we're going to look at this interaction between Jesus and a desperate man. As we do, we are choosing to recognize that Mark didn't give us this story just to tell us something about Jesus; he also wanted those of us who claim to follow Jesus to adopt his lifestyle.[TWO] Mark wants us to realize that as Jesus' followers, we're called to live our lives to ransom people from their bondage to hopelessness, sin, and despair (Mark 10:45).
But how do we do that?
How do we dare step into the role that Jesus plays in the life of this man who had leprosy?
Should we even hope to play a role similar to Jesus?
Mark's answer for us is to take a look at Jesus and follow his lead.[THREE] Our look at Jesus in this story is to move us to follow him and enter into intentional and focused pray with the Father. This prayer helps us discover our life's purpose so we can live with a clear sense of passionate mission. Mark wants us to know that purpose will lead us into the path of the wounded and broken if we will listen to their cries and let them stir our hearts with deep feel. That emotion should stir us to look for the God-provided moment to touch them in their brokenness. This touch of grace becomes our way of offering them hope and to raise back up into a life with Jesus' people. Their response to this new life is simple: they should appreciate all that Jesus has done by obeying his call and following him. Not everything goes according to plan, but because our heart's desire is to help as Jesus helped, God empowers us to be effective as we serve those who need his grace.
So let's go back and read our Jesus story one more time. Let's take a few moments and look for what the Lord is asking us to do in the life of someone he places in our path. Then let's go out and look for the God-opportunity to bless someone who needs the grace of Jesus from us.
[TWO] Mark's is the embodiment of the Christ hymn sung in early churches and used by Paul to remind the Philippians of Jesus' lifestyle example (Philippians 2:5-11). The call in Mark to follow Jesus is to adopt the attitude of Jesus and then be willing to live his life in our world, even if that life ends on the cross (Mark 8:34-38). Mark's outline even emphasizes this as the lifestyle that goes with following Jesus as a disciple:
Part One: Jesus the Son of God with Power (Chapters 1:1-8:21).Part Two: Jesus the Son of God that we must follow even if it means a cross (Chapters 8:22-10:52).Part Three: Jesus the Son of God who gives his life as a ransom (Chapters 11:1-16:8).
[THREE] This post is the first part of a series focused on learning to touch the broken and impact their lives in ways similar to Jesus' ministry to the man with leprosy (Mark 1:35-45). Here are the six parts in the series and links back to those posts:RETURN]