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LESSON 11 - JESUS THE CHAMPION OF CHOICE AND LIBERATION 
(MARK 1:40-45)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: Is sickness the result of sin?  Do we deserve to be
well? This week we consider through the story of the leper the
connection between sin and sickness and why Jesus healed. Let's get
into it!

I. THE LEPER

     A. Turn with me to Mark 1:40. Read. What do you know about
     leprosy? (It is a "wasting" skin disease which causes your
     body parts to fall off (to put it scientifically).

          1. I have a friend who has a fear that he will get brain
          cancer.  The disease that I am most concerned about is
          arteriosclerosis.  I knew that my father's paternal side
          of the family was not "good news" in the heart attack
          department.  The other day I was looking at some old
          death certificates for my father's maternal side of the
          family and my  mother's side of the family and saw
          "arteriosclerosis" written on those death certificates!

          2. What disease do you fear the most?

          3. How does it compare with leprosy?

               a. What is the worst part about leprosy?

     B. Why does our friend ask to be made "clean" rather than ask
     to be healed? (The worst part of leprosy was your separation
     from the rest of humanity, and the fact that you must
     continually call attention to the fact that you were unclean.
     (Leviticus 13:42-46)  The fact that he asked to be made
     "clean" shows that he thought first about the non-medical
     impact of his disease.)

     C. Does the leper doubt that Jesus can heal him? (No. He does
     not question the power of Jesus to heal. Instead, he asks
     about his willingness to heal a leper. Jamieson, Fausset and
     Brown in their commentary on the parallel version of this
     story in Matthew 8:2 say that this was "probably the first
     case" in which Jesus healed a leper and therefore this leper
     must have had a very strong faith.)

II. THE HEALING

     A. Read Mark 1:41-42. How did Jesus heal the leper? (He
     touched him and said, "Be clean!")

          1. Was it necessary for Jesus to touch the leper to heal
          him? (No. In the story of the healing of the ten lepers
          (Luke 17:12-14), the lepers called out at a distance to
          Jesus and He called back.  He did not touch them or even
          get close to them.)

          2. Was there any reason not to touch this leper? (Yes. It
          would make Jesus unclean.)

          3. So why did Jesus touch the leper?
 
               a. How important is it that your family touch
               you and that you touch them?  Can you imagine an
               existence where no one touches you and you touch no
               one?

               b. Do you think Jesus touched this leper because one
               of his great desires in life was to be touched?
               (Yes!  He could not be touched because he was not
               clean.  His first request was to be made clean. It
               was no accident that Jesus touched him. Jesus knew
               very well the requirement of Leviticus 13 that
               lepers be separated.  We can be certain of Jesus'
               knowledge because (in Mark 1:44) Jesus commanded
               the inspection by a priest that is required in
               Leviticus 13.)

               c. What does that fact that Jesus touched this leper
               tell us about our Lord? (I love it that our Lord
               knows us so well.  The normal "guy" would have been
               worried sick about "catching" leprosy.  The twin
               issues of sin and sickness were shouting out for
               attention in this situation. But our Lord first
               focussed on touching this leper who probably had
               not been touched for years.)

     B. Read Mark 1:43-45. Was it in Jesus' best interest to heal
     this leper?

          1. Why did Jesus tell the leper not to tell anyone? (In
          McGee's reference work, 4 Through the Bible 166, he
          relates a humorous irony about this. Jesus told the leper
          to tell no one and he told everyone.  Jesus tells us to
          tell everyone and we tell no one! We see strong evidence
          from this instruction to the leper that Jesus' did not
          intend His miracles to be the centerpiece of what He was
          doing.  The crowds that came to Him for healing were
          disrupting His ability to share the gospel.  So it was
          not in Jesus' best interest to heal this leper.)

          2. So why did Jesus heal this leper? (v.41: He was
          "filled with compassion."  Sometimes I have second
          thoughts about our clinical, almost mathematical,
          explanation about why someone was not healed.  We say
          they were not healed to help save someone else.  This
          gives the impression that God is "playing cards" and is
          trading one life to get a couple more in the kingdom.  If
          nothing else, this story shows us that God's compassion
          overrules the "optimum" plan for spreading the gospel.
          If God is going to "err" on any side, you can be sure it
          is on the side of showing compassion towards you.)

 
III. WHICH MISCONCEPTION?

     A. Our lesson asks (Monday) "what popular misconception did
     Jesus dispel when He healed the leper?"  What is your answer?

          1. Our lesson (Monday) says "It was commonly believed
          that leprosy was God's punishment for sin."  This,
          apparently, is the misconception referred to by the
          lesson.

               a. Is this a misconception?  Were the Jews just "off
               on a toot of their own" to believe that there was
               any connection between sin and leprosy?

               b. Someone turn to Numbers 12:10-12.  How did Miriam
               become leprous? (Numbers 12:1-2, she was "talking
               against Moses.")

                    (1) What kind of lesson do you draw from this
                    story?  Would your conclusion that there is a
                    link between Miriam's sin and her leprosy be a
                    "misconception?"

                    (2) Was the leper just an innocent victim of
                    leprosy who did not deserve to have this dread
                    disease?

                    (3) I believe that the number one cause of
                    death in this country is heart disease.  As
                    mentioned above, I expect to be a "victim" of
                    this disease someday. Do you know anyone who
                    is an "innocent" victim of heart disease? (No.
                    I was eating "M&M's" just before I started
                    writing this section. Sit down in a mall
                    sometime and observe the stream of overweight,
                    under-exercised humanity (like me) and you
                    will not wonder that heart disease is the
                    number one killer.)

          2. Is any human ever an innocent victim of disease?  Is
          it a misconception that we get sick because we sin?
          (Genesis 2:16-17; Leviticus 26:14-33; Romans 5:12-14. We
          have all sinned.  We all deserve death. It is no wonder
          and no "misconception" that we die from disease.  The
          wonder is that God came down to "touch" us in our unclean
          state.  The wonder is that one sinful human can look at
          another sinful and sick human and say "he deserved that
          (and we don't)."  The wonder is that we protest our
          innocence. We all deserve death. Let's look more closely
          at the God who is moved by compassion to touch the
          untouchable.)
 

IV. THE SEARCHING GOD

     A. Turn with me to Luke 15:8-10. Read. Why does this woman
     light a lamp? (Not enough light. It is probably dark outside.)
 
          1. Is the coin going to go anywhere in the night?

          2. Is the coin going to be less valuable in the morning?
 
     B. Then why not wait until daylight to find this coin? (The
     woman is intensely interested in recovering her coin. She
     wants it back now.)

     C. How much effort does the woman go through to find her coin?
     (Lights a lamp. Sweeps and searches carefully.)

          1. What do you think is the point of this story?

          2. Does this represent God's attitude towards us? (v.10
          says, "Yes!")

          3. Does this represent your attitude towards other
          sinners?

               a. Are we so anxious to bring others to Christ that
               we are unwilling to wait until the "optimum" time
               (daylight) to find and save sinners?

               b. Is our compassion for those who are headed
               towards eternal death so great that we take steps
               to save them even though (like Jesus healing the
               leper) they might interfere with the optimum
               strategy for spreading the gospel?

               c. Or do we make coldly logical plans to spread the
               gospel? (I'm not against logic. But I worry about
               our (my) enthusiasm.)

     D. What kind of current event would you compare to v.9? (It is
     football season.  I like to think of the end zone victory
     celebration when a touchdown in made.  Can you see God
     spiritually "spiking the ball" into the ground when someone
     turns to Him? "High fives" among the angelic host?)

     E. Friend, we all deserve death.  We all deserve sickness. It
     is only Christ's amazing compassion upon us that saves us from
     what we deserve.  His compassionate love discerns our needs
     and goes to meet them. (For example, touching the leper.) Pray
     that God's Spirit will awaken your heart to your true
     condition and give you a burning, compassionate desire to save
     others!

V. NEXT WEEK: CHRIST THE GREAT CONNECTOR. Study!