Manuscript for Jesus Makes the Unclean Clean

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DATE: 3/10-11/18
SERIES: Mark 1-3
SERMON: Jesus Makes the Unclean Clean
TEXT: Mark 1:21-45 (ESV)

 

Welcome

It’s good to be with all of you at Gateway Church this weekend. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

 

SERIES introduction

And we are continuing our journey through the gospel of Mark today. So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Mark chapter one. We’ll be looking at verses twenty-one through forty-five.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

 

Re-announce and read the text

Here are the words found in Mark chapter one. Beginning in verse twenty-one.

“And they (Jesus and His disciples) went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they (the crowd in the synagogue) were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 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.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and 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, for a proof to them.” 45 But he (the healed man) went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:21-45 ESV)

 

Sermon Introduction

So, a lot of verses to get through today. But really we’re looking at three short stories. Three stories that relate pretty well to the world we live in.  

The world we live in has an aversion to religion. People are skeptical of religion. People will say things like “I’m a spiritual person, but not a religious person” and really it’s because they haven’t had a real encounter with the authority of Jesus Christ.

But there’s an interest in spiritual things. Movies, TV shows, and books have a high level of curiosity in the spiritual world. Regardless if that spiritual power is good — like angels — or if the spiritual power is evil — like the demonic. And in our verses we encounter a story that could be placed in a plot line coming right out of Hollywood.

And one other way we can relate to these stories — in addition to our curiosity with the supernatural — is our constant striving to defeat illnesses. Whether it’s cancer or AIDs.  STDs, the common cold, or allergies — we — as a world society — strive really hard to find cures to defeat the illnesses that are plaguing and killing us. We want to be free from disease — we want to be cleansed of illnesses.

An aversion to religion. An interest in the supernatural. And our desire to be cleansed of illnesses. Seemingly three unrelated topics that Mark interweaves together.  

 

Proposition

And what ties these three topics together is this:  Jesus has greater authority than religion, the demonic, and illnesses. Jesus has greater authority than religion, the demonic, and illnesses.  

And this truth should both challenge and encourage us. It challenges us by making us examine our assumptions about religion, the demonic, and our efforts to cure diseases — while comforting us as we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ authority.

Let’s first look at how Jesus has greater authority than religion. Let’s begin in verse twenty-one.

 

MAIN POINT 1

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” And now skip down to verse thirty-five. “35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 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.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” (Mark 1:21-22, 35-39 ESV)

Here’s what we learn: The teaching of Jesus has greater authority than the teaching of religion. The teaching of Jesus has greater authority than the teaching of religion.

So Jesus — along with Peter, Andrew, James, and John — the first four of His disciples — they go to Capernaum — a city of about ten thousand people. And on the Sabbath — the sacred day of worship for the Jews — Jesus goes to a synagogue.  

Now a synagogue was a place where the Old Testament Law was read on the Sabbath — the Old Testament Law includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Then someone would explain what was read — in some ways like what I’m doing right now — so there was a reading and then an explanation, which explains why the word “synagogue” means “House of Instruction.”

And in our verses we see Jesus’ teaching compared with the teaching of the scribes. Now scribes were important teachers for first century Jews. The scribes could trace their teaching role back hundreds of years — they were also called Rabbis. And the word — Rabbi — means “honored one.” So these scribes — these teachers — were very important people for the Jews.

But notice the difference between their teaching and Jesus’ teaching — what’s the difference?

In verse twenty-two we see that the crowd is astonished at Jesus’ teaching because “He taught with authority” and — as if he’s throwing a jab — Mark writes, “not like the scribes.”  

So Jesus’ teaching has authority and the scribes’ teaching lacks authority. Jesus’ teaching has power to change people and apparently the scribes’ teaching lacks power. And notice how the crowd responds — they’re astonished — they’re amazed at how different Jesus’ teaching is compared to the teaching they were used to.

But we can’t miss an important detail in our story. Though Jesus was able to attract a large crowd with His teaching — did you notice that He leaves the crowd? He goes out to the wilderness — to a desolate place. And He went out secretly — early in the morning — to pray. He went out to be alone with His Heavenly Father.  

And Peter — still called Simon at this point — finds Jesus — and what’s Peter’s concern? What’s he worried about?

The crowd — the large crowd of people Jesus has attracted because of His authority over religion because His teaching was different than the scribes’ teaching. And the crowd’s trying to find Jesus. They want to experience this new, powerful, authoritative teaching that’s unlike anything they’ve ever witnessed with the scribes. They want to be astonished again.

So Jesus has attracted quite the crowd. And what does He decide to do?

He decides to leave them. It’s time to move on. “These people have experienced my authority — the great difference between the truth I’m proclaiming to this world and the religious teaching of the scribes — and I must take my preaching and teaching ministry to other towns — to other people who are caught up in religion, but who need to experience My authority.”  

 

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 1

The teaching of Jesus is profoundly different than the teaching of religion — and this is important for people who would call themselves a Christian and even for you — if you’re still trying to figure out what you believe.

How is Jesus’ teaching different? First — and I think this is pretty obvious by now — the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of religion are not the same. And here’s what I want you to know. You haven’t experienced the true teaching of Jesus — the truth of who He is — unless you’ve been astonished by Him. Here’s a man who broke nearly all of the religious expectations of His day. Jesus hung out with prostitutes. He tells rich people to sell everything they have and give all the profit to the poor. He makes time for people — no matter their social status — and deeply loves and enjoys being with them.  

But He’s also the person who said many things you don’t want to hear. He talked about sexual sin, and greed, and jealousy, and pride, and all sorts of things that make it difficult to put Him in a nice little box. You see — the real Jesus — what’s so astonishing about Him — is how unbelievably consistent He is with what it means to love God and love other people. He doesn’t let anyone off the hook.  

And at some point His teaching has to offend you because His teaching is so radically selfless — and we’re so keen on being selfish—  but ultimately — what astonishes us isn’t just what He taught, but that He perfectly did everything He tells us to do.

Religious leaders don’t do that. Religious leaders are concerned about doing things that will build a large crowd — but not Jesus. When the crowd got big He left them to go pray. And then He moved on to other towns to teach. Religious leaders want to build a big crowd — religious churches full of religious people can become consumed with “how large is our crowd — what was our attendance last week” — but Jesus — well He wanted to spread His Good News to as many people as possible — so He left the crowd to go to others who needed to hear the gospel.  

So be careful in confusing the teaching of Jesus with the teaching of religion. Religion doesn’t astonish you — but Jesus does.

When was the last time you were astonished by Jesus? Have you read the gospels lately — because in them you’ll find Jesus saying and doing things that are astonishing.  

For instance, we should be astonished at His teaching on forgiveness because — yes — we’re to forgive other people. But where religion says “forgive others in order to be forgiven by God” Jesus teaches us that through faith in Him we’re eternally forgiven and are free to forgive others.  

Yes, we’re to love our neighbors. But where religion says “that’s what you do:  love others so God will love you” — what’s astonishing about Jesus is that He did love us — His neighbors — as Himself even when it cost Him His life. And in response to His love — we’re free to love others with no strings attached.  

You see, the teaching of Jesus is profoundly different than the teaching of religion. And it’s astonishing to both the Christian and non-Christian alike because Jesus actually did what He taught us to do.

Now our second point may be difficult to believe if you’re not a Christian — or aren’t sure about the validity of the Bible — and that’s OK — if that’s you. But let’s see how Jesus has authority over demons.  

Let’s begin in verse twenty-one again.

 

MAIN POINT 2

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit (that’s a demon). And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they (the crowd) were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” And now skip down to verse thirty-two. “32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:21-28, 32-34 ESV)

Here’s what we learn: The power of Jesus has greater authority than the power of demons. The power of Jesus has greater authority than the power of demons.

Now — again — I get that this may be a bit unbelievable for you. But — as I said earlier — just about everyone has an interest in the spiritual world these days. But there’s a lot going on in this story and — for time’s sake — I can’t address everything. But I do want to point out two important things from these verses.

First, did you notice that the guy with the demons was in the synagogue? He was in the equivalent of the church. Demons were in the church!  

Now why I point this out isn’t just to say “we’ve probably got demons in our midst” — as concerning as that should be — what I want you to notice is how the demons were apparently quiet — and well behaved — until Jesus arrived with His power and authority.  

The guy with demons could very well have been a regular attender — or a life group leader — playing in the band — or directing you to a parking spot — and — because religious teaching has no authority — the demons weren’t threatened — so they stuck around keeping their influence over this man and — more than likely — having some influence on the church too. But when Jesus shows up with His authority — well — the demons have to respond.  

Which brings me to my second point — how do these demons respond to Jesus? Are they astonished at Jesus’ teaching like the people are? No! The demons are fearful. The demons call out: “We know who You are — the Holy One of God. Have You come to destroy us?” Now the only kind of person you, I — and apparently demons — are afraid of — is someone who can destroy us.  

You see — unlike the people in the crowd — the demons know exactly who Jesus is. And they aren’t astonished by Him — they’re frightened by Him. They recognize who He is. Maybe they could see His holiness, or His authority, or His power — but whatever it was they saw — they were scared.

And really — this holy fear of God — is something that’s been lacking for some time — especially in the US. Now hear me out — if you’re a believer in Christ — you have no reason to fear eternal punishment from God. He loves you because He loves His Son who died for you.  

But — and this is key — if we would pause to ponder the holiness, authority, and power that Christ has — we would fear Him. A fear that would drive us to repentance. A fear that would drive us away from pride. A fear that would cause us to cry out to Him for forgiveness. A fear that would radically change our priorities in life as we see His words in our Bible and realize how far we’ve missed the mark that Jesus — with all of His holiness, power, and authority — has given to us.

And a right fear of God demolishes our fear of man. It destroys our fear of death. It crushes our fear of uncertainty. “Don’t fear someone who can only destroy your body and then do nothing more,” the Bible says. “Instead we’re to fear God who can both destroy our bodies and send us to Hell for all eternity.”

And this proper fear of God would make His love all the more richer. It would make His grace all the more sweeter. His forgiveness all the more deeper. And His teaching all the more astounding.  

And if you’re here today and you wouldn’t be quick to call yourself a Christian — this is why you both struggle with Christians — in general — and the Christian faith — in particular. You struggle with Christians because you rightly see us not fearing God in a way that makes us significantly different than everyone else. Our actions and our words don’t align with what Jesus has commanded us to do and who we’re to be. And this rightly frustrates you.

But — and this is really important — just as you see Christians not rightly fearing God — you’re not doing any better. In fact, the main reason why you’ve rejected Jesus is because you don’t fear Him. Because there’s no reason to submit to someone you don’t fear.

As pastor John MacArthur said, Jesus’ authority “terrifies them (the demons). And it should terrify you, as well. It should terrify sinners the way it terrifies demons. The difference is, sinners don’t understand the reality of their doom…[but] demons do. It’s not enough to be amazed by Jesus. The amazed people and the terrified demons will spend forever in the same Lake of Fire…He wants your fear. He wants you to fear Him as judge and then run to Him as Savior.”

 

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 2

Amazement and fear go together. Amazement at such a wonderful Savior. And fear of such a holy Judge. The demons understand this — but do we?  

One final point. Let’s begin in verse twenty-nine.

 

MAIN POINT 3

“And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” And skip down to verse forty with me. There we read, “40 And a leper came to him (that’s Jesus), imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and 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, for a proof to them.” 45 But he (the healed leper) went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:29-34, 40-45 ESV)

Here’s what we learn: The compassion of Jesus has greater authority than the cruelty of illness. The compassion of Jesus has greater authority than the cruelty of illness.

After Jesus astonishes the crowd in the synagogue with His teaching — His four disciples take Him to Peter’s house. Peter’s apparently married and his mother-in-law is sick with a fever. And — to be clear — this isn’t demonic activity — this is a regular old fever. Mark’s pretty specific when it comes to demonic activity and normal illnesses — so if this fever was caused by some sort of spirit — Mark would’ve let us know.

But notice Jesus’ authority over the fever. He simply takes the woman by the hand, lifts her up, and the fever is gone. Now that’s some kind of authority and power. And notice how it’s a complete healing as the woman immediately starts serving Jesus and the disciples.  

Now if you’ve ever had a fever, you know how draining it can be — especially the older you get — even with our modern medicine — fevers are draining. And it takes some time — right — to feel better even when you’re officially no longer sick.

But not in this case. Jesus heals her and she immediately gets back to serving the guests in her home. That’s some authority.

Then later that evening we see people from the town bring all of the sick to Jesus to be healed. And verse thirty-four is a good place to see how Mark differentiates between the demonic and non-demonic illnesses. For people with both were brought to Jesus for healing — they brought people who had demons and people who had illnesses. And Jesus heals them all. He makes them all clean regardless of what was ailing them.

Which leads us to our final story — Jesus and the man with leprosy.  

Leprosy is a skin disease and it was a death sentence in Jesus’ day. According to a first century historian, someone with leprosy was considered a walking corpse — so curing someone with the leprosy was the equivalent of raising them from the dead — because there was no cure.

And if someone discovered they had the disease, they would immediately become an outcast of society. They would have to yell “Unclean, unclean, unclean” so people would know not to get near them because — to touch a leper — was to become unclean yourself. So lepers were kicked out of the towns and villages — forced to live in desolate places — away from all the clean people.  

To make things worse, the disease was considered to be punishment from God because of a sin you committed — so not only was a person a physical outcast — they were a spiritual outcast as people would wonder what sin you must’ve done to deserve such a punishment.

So when this leper comes to Jesus — he’s breaking all kinds of rules. He comes into the city, which was a big no, no. The leper approaches Jesus and begs to be healed — putting Jesus — and everyone around Him — at risk of getting the disease — of becoming unclean. And don’t miss that — the leper puts Jesus at risk of becoming unclean.  

And what does Jesus do? Jesus doesn’t say, “Get away from me.” He doesn’t even just say, “Be clean.” What does He do? He reaches out to the man, touches him, and then says, “Be clean.”  

Now remember — to touch a leper was to make yourself unclean — but Jesus — in touching the leper — makes the unclean man clean. He heals him. He raises him from the dead.

But why did Jesus reach out and touch him? Verse forty-one says Jesus “was moved with pity.” He had compassion. And Jesus’ compassion — His pity, His love, His great affections for this man — compelled Him to reach out with His hand, touch him — and say, “Be clean.”  

And throughout the gospels we see Jesus being moved with great compassion to heal people who are sick. Jesus said He came to our world not to call those who think they’re healthy, but came for those who know they’re sick and need someone who can heal their soul — they need someone to make them clean.

But who are the lepers among us today? Not just the physically ill, but people who are viewed as being unworthy, unclean, an outcast of society? Who needs to experience the presence of God through your touch? Who is Jesus telling you to reach out to? Who does Jesus desire you to go to and with deep compassion say, “Jesus loves you. Be made well.”  

 

SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 3

You see, the compassion of Jesus has greater authority than the cruelty of illness. Whether it’s physical illness, spiritual illness, emotional illness, mental illness or whatever. And Jesus wants to use your hands to be the means by which His compassionate touch reaches people who are sick — an outcast — who are considered to be unclean.

 

CONCLUSION

And I know this is hard — to reach out to the lepers of our society. But there’s Good News for those of us who feel like outcasts and for those of us who’ve been unloving towards them.  

After Jesus touches and cleanses the man, He tells him to go to the temple, show himself to the priest, so that he will be officially declared clean. And Jesus tells him to “not tell anyone about what has happened to him.” And what does the guy do? He goes and tells everyone.

And what happens — did you see what happens? Do you see the gospel in our story? We catch a preview of what Jesus came to do right here in this story and it’s beautiful.   

In verse forty-five we read, “But he (the leper) went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:45 ESV)

Do you see the gospel? Do you remember where the man had to live as a leper? He had to live in the desolate places outside the city. And in a moment of great courage, he broke all the rules and went into the city to ask Jesus to heal him.  

And now that he’s been made clean, he’s now the one in the city among the people. And Jesus — who was in the city with the people — now finds Himself where? Outside the city — out in the desolate places.

Do you see what happened? Jesus has exchanged places with the leper. And that’s exactly what happened on the cross. Jesus exchanged places with all of us spiritual lepers when He freely gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  

Jesus was an insider of God’s eternal city. We were outsiders — living out in the wilderness and desolate places — unwelcome in God’s city. But because of His great compassion for us — Jesus left God’s city and came to our desolate world to exchange places with us, so we might be welcomed into God’s Heavenly city.  

And Jesus made this possible by becoming the ultimate outcast — the ultimate leper — when He was brutally beaten, mocked, and unjustly murdered as a sinner outside of the city of Jerusalem.  

And though misunderstood — leprosy was believed to be a punishment from God — yet on the cross — Jesus bore the punishment from God for our sins, all so that — through faith in Christ and His sacrifice on the cross — we might be lepers no more, cleansed of our sins, made holy by God, all so we are now welcomed citizens in God’s Heavenly city.

You see Jesus’ authority is a good thing. It’s an amazing thing. It’s greater than the teaching of religion. It’s greater than the power of demons. And His compassion is greater than the cruelty that we experience due to illness — His compassion is even greater than our sin that’s separated us from God.

And Jesus is reaching out to you right now and He is saying, “Be clean. Receive — in faith — the forgiveness of your sins that I am offering to you right now. Be clean. Let me exchange places with you. Let me be the outcast — so you can be welcomed into My Father’s Heavenly city.” Let’s pray.

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help all of us to receive Your Word to us today. Remind us that Christ has authority over all things. Over religion. Over the demonic. Over illnesses. And help us to remember Your gospel and to have confidence in it. Your Good News that Christ exchanged places with us. He became the outcast, so we can become the ultimate insider — people who will spend eternity in Your eternal city. Help us to be astonished by this teaching, so we show others the compassion of Jesus so they might respond to His invitation and be made clean. In His name we pray. Amen.