Sermon – Epiphany 6, year B
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from the God who heals us. Amen.
What words would you use to describe Jesus? Seminary professor, David Lose, suggests that St. Mark gives us some descriptive words for Jesus in today’s gospel lesson. I believe these descriptive words can be models for us as well, as we seek to lead a Christian life.
The first word is compassion. The man with leprosy came to Jesus and Jesus was moved with pity for him. Jesus felt compassion for him.
In the ancient world, people often believed that disease was God’s punishment. Notice Jesus doesn’t ask the man what he has done or hasn’t done to deserve this terrible disease. Jesus doesn’t ask him what plans he has for his life once he is healed. Jesus doesn’t tell him to keep away from everyone and stop spreading his germs.
Jesus sees him and feels compassion for him. Jesus’s heart is touched.
What touches your heart? What moves you to pity? When I hear stories of children from the school across the street who are hungry, I am touched.
When I hear that there are older people who are lonely, I feel compassion. I know you are touched by these stories, too. I know that you are generous in your gifts to the food bank. I know you are supportive of the ministry of our deacons who visit the shut-ins. I know that many of you help others and share your compassion in quiet ways.
When we hear that there are children in other countries that need supplies for school and refugees who need health kits, we feel compassion. I know you are planning to give generously to help these causes during the season of lent. Alms-giving is one of the disciplines of lent and God is pleased that you have chosen to give alms to the poor through these gifts to Lutheran World Relief.
Jesus was filled with compassion for the man with leprosy. We follow in his footsteps when we show compassion to others.
The second descriptive word for Jesus is touch. He reaches out and touches the man with leprosy. We all realize that no one was supposed to touch someone with leprosy. Not only was it highly contagious, but people with the disease were considered ritually unclean. If you even accidentally touched one of them, you became ritually unclean.
Jesus could have healed the man without touching him. He could have healed him with a word. He could have waved his hand. He could have sent him to wash in the river like Elisha told Naaman to do in our first reading.
Jesus could have done many things, but he chose to touch the leper. There are few things as comforting and healing as the human touch. Ask anyone who lives alone. Ask anyone who lives in a nursing home. The human touch is powerful. We share our strength with a person when we share a touch.
Little children crawl into our laps to be held when they want comfort. Bring a new baby into the room and everyone wants to hold and touch the child. We hug our family and friends to show our affection and care.
Touching is an intimate gesture. Do you remember when you first started dating? Remember how it felt the first time that special person reached for your hand? The electricity of that touch? Touching is powerful.
God came to earth as a human being in Jesus. When the human Jesus touches us, God touches us. This is the kind of God we have – a God who touches us. A God who touches us today – in, with, and under the bread and wine we share. A God who touches us and becomes one of us and heals us, too.
Jesus has given us the gift of healing touch. I know you have many ways you can share that gift with others this week.
The next descriptive word for Jesus is willingness. The man with leprosy knew Jesus could heal him. He said to Jesus, “if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus did choose. He had a choice. He was willing to heal the man. He doesn’t act disgusted at the sight of the skin condition. He affirms the man’s value as a child of God. He shows him that God is gracious and merciful.
We also must be willing to help, showing compassion for those who are suffering and touching the untouchable.
The final word that describes Jesus in today’s lesson is sacrifice. There is a cost to showing compassion, and being willing to touch others with healing. Loving others always costs something. Spouses know this, parents and grandparents know this. We must give of ourselves when we love someone.
After he healed the leper, Jesus told him to keep quiet about it. “But the man went out and began to proclaim it freely, and spread the word, so Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country.”
Before the healing, the leper was restricted in where he could go. After the healing, the leper went wherever he wanted. Jesus was restricted in where he could go. Healing this leper cost Jesus some freedom. I am sure Jesus would have been more comfortable staying at a friend’s house in town rather than camping out in the country.
Jesus gave up the possibility for freedom of movement and privacy when he healed the man. It costs us too, when we help others. It can cost us time, our talents, the things we treasure. Yet, out of love and compassion, we too are willing to make sacrifices to help others.
We live in a world full of fear, hoarding, and selfishness. We live in a world where there is plenty of food, but where millions go hungry. We live in a world that is filled with diseases that can be cured, but millions have no access to medicines.
We are in this world, but not of the world. We can act out of faith. We can choose to show compassion and touch the untouchable. We can help feed the hungry and heal the sick.
We can do these things because Jesus has compassion for us. Jesus touches us. Jesus heals us. Jesus willingly gives his own life for us. Jesus loves us that much. Amen.