The Compassion of Christ

The Compassion of Christ

Mark 1:40-45

“Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”


            The man did the unacceptable, and Jesus did the unthinkable.  As Jesus was traveling through Galilee, a leper violated the social and legal norms by approaching Jesus.  Leprosy was a term that was used to describe a number of different skin diseases.  However, it carried with it more than just the stigma of a physical disease, it was often associated with divine punishment and could only be cured by God (Num. 12:10).  Those who had leprosy were required to “wear torn cloths, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long a she has the infection, he remains unclean.  He must live alone; he must live outside the camp” (Lev. 13:45-46).  It was not simply regarded as an incurable disease; it was a sentence of isolation and rejection. To have leprosy not only destroyed the person’s health, it destroyed their life as their occupation, family, friends, standing in the community, and the freedom to worship in the temple were stripped away. Josephus compared the banishment of lepers to that of a corpse.  Thus, for this man to approach Jesus and to come in proximity was a violation of both the laws of the land and all social norms.  In a society governed by rules, his actions were unacceptable by every standard. Seeing Jesus, the man came to him, knelt, and begged, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  This desperate man was willing to risk the people's wrath if it would be a chance for healing.  However, even more remarkable was the faith of the leper.  He acknowledged that Jesus had the ability to save him; the only question was Jesus’ willingness to do so. 

            While the actions of the man were unacceptable to the social norms of the day, what Jesus did in response was even more shocking and unthinkable.  Moved by compassion, Jesus touched the man.  While the world viewed the man with contempt, Jesus regarded the individual with compassion, and by reaching out, He touched the Leper. By His actions, Jesus conveyed far more than just His words; Jesus, in essence, traded places with the leper.  Jesus takes upon Himself the physical illness and the social and spiritual separation that leprosy caused.  In this unthinkable touch, Jesus makes it clear to those watching that He identifies with the outcast and brings healing to those who have been destroyed by the effects of sin.  

Compassion is not just a feeling, it is an action. It is not just an emotional response to the crisis of another, it is a willingness to become involved by identifying with the suffering of the other and taking action to help alleviate their suffering.  The compassion that Christ felt for this man, is the same compassion that he manifests towards us. As we go through trials and struggles, we have one who is enthroned in heaven who deeply cares for us.  He has compassion for us in the fullest meaning of the world.  When we are going through trials, he fully identifies with us by taking upon himself the pain of our struggle in order to bring ultimate deliverance and salvation.  He enters our world to participate in our struggles and pain and then he is moved to act on our behalf.  He identifies with us so that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Whatever hardship, trial, or pain you are experiencing, you have a savior who is compassionate and loving and has both the desire and the ability to help and sustain us in the midst of our most difficult circumstances.  




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