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The Master's Touch

Mark 1:40-45: "A leper came to [Jesus] begging him, and kneeling he said to him,
'If you will, you can make me clean.'
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,
'I do choose. Be made clean!'
Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, 'See that you say nothing
to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded,
as a testimony to them.'
But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer
go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter
r."

Have you ever felt left out?
It's a terrible thing to be left out -- to be excluded.
Children can traumatize another child saying: "We don't want to play with you anymore.
We don't want you to be our friend."

It's one of the saddest thins that children can say to another child.
But exclusion like this doesn't stop in childhood...

Have you ever experienced being left out?
Maybe because of your failures in life.
Maybe because you weren't in their clique.
Or maybe because you were the wrong race.
Or maybe you weren't as successful or rich enough, or good enough to count.

If you take your most painful experience of being excluded, and multiply it by one hundred,
you're not even close to what had happened to the leper in our story this morning.

The Leper's Story

We don't know the details of this leper's life.
The experience of every leper in the time of Jesus was the same.
Leprosy was a white, flaking skin disease. from the synagogue and worship
Leprosy was dreaded in Jesus' day like cancer is today.
It was a living death sentence.
It was highly contagious.

When it was a mild condition, it involved red or white blotches on the skin.
It was serious when it involved the disintegration of toes, ankles and feet,
or fingers, wrists and hands.
But both forms were feared.

The leper was ostracized from the synagogue and from their worship.
The leper was separated from his mother, father, brother, sister, and from all
his family and friends.
Lepers lived in colonies with other lepers.

Some lepers would cover their face and body with rags,
and let their hair grow.
No one was permitted to come within 12 feet of them.
If anyone came close, the had to cry out, "Unclean!"
They were untouchable and could not have any hope of a cure.

No one would touch them..
No one wanted to catch their disease.
They existed in a world of despair, desperation, and death.
They were -- untouchable.

Now this leper hears that there's a prophet in the area has healed many.
For a moment he thinks -- maybe He could heal me!
But then reality hits him, "But there's no way I'll ever even find this healer.
And if I do, I can't get close to him.
And even if I did, he'd back away from me because he's a holy man and I'm unclean.
So even if I seek him out, in the end I'll just be more discouraged, more hated, more hopeless."

But he decides to at least try to see what He's like.
So, he finds Him and he stays far away back from Jesus, and he watches and wait
for just the right moment.
He waits as the crowd thins out, and he sees his opportunity
Then, he gets as close as he can to Jesus, and falls on his knees begging
and pleading, and crying, "If you will, you can make me clean." (1:40)

The leper was really saying: "If you will, you can make me clean -- not just well physically,
but clean.
You can make me clean so I can be restored to my family and friends back,
and clean so I can come back to the temple and worship God.
That's what need.
Not just healing.
I need to be clean.
And you're my only hope.
You can help me, if you're willing
."

He is looking to Jesus as his only hope to be clean.
This is an agonizing cry for help.
Mark writes, "Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him,
and said to him, "I will. Be made clean
!" (1:41).
That is astounding!

First, we're told that Jesus was "moved with pity."
Jesus felt this leper's pain.
Jesus could have healed him with just a word from a distance.
But He walks right up to the leper, and touches him..

Jesus touched the leper
"Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him." (1:41)
Jesus didn't have to do this.
He could have healed this leper with just a word.
But Jesus touched the leper.
He touched the untouchable.
He touched the man who hadn't been touched for months, probably years.
And, in so doing, He touched more than the leper's skin.
He touched his hurting heart.

Can you try to imagine how it must have felt for this leper to be touched by Jesus.
Remember, when Jesus touched him, Jesus made Himself ceremonially unclean.
According to Jewish law, Jesus would not have been permitted to enter the temple until
a certain amount of time had passed and he had made appropriate cleansing sacrifices.

The Pharisees believed that ritual cleanness was next to godliness.
So, you can see how amazing Jesus' touching this leper really was.

Jesus healed this leper.
With a simple phrase, "I will, be clean," -- "the leprosy left him, and he was made clean."
(1:41-42)
In one wonderful, dramatic moment this leper was completely cured of his leprosy.

Notice, there was no fire from heaven, or glorious descriptions, or shrieks of joy.
Nothing that we might associate with the "faith healers" on television.
The gospel writers simply tell the story as it happened.

This leper was healed -- he was clean!
Jesus' told him to go and show himself to the priest.
He was clean so why should he go see a priest and do what the Jewish ritual law commands?

The Jews of Jesus' day knew the Old Testament law.
Leviticus 13 contains the procedures for determining if someone has leprosy,
and is ceremonially unclean and must be removed from the community.
The diagnosis of leprosy is the responsibility of the priest, not of the local doctor.

Leviticus 14 explains that the priest determines whether someone has been
healed of leprosy.
When the priest makes this determination, there is a ritual of cleansing and restoration.
So, only with the priest's okay will the leper healed by Jesus be returned to fellowship
with other people and with God in the temple.

So, when Jesus tells this cleansed leper to go to the priest, He is showing His concern
for this man that that he be fully restored into his community, and that can only happen
if the local priest acknowledges that the man is healed and helps the man go
,through his ritual cleansing.
This is a rite of reconciliation between the man and his former life, his friends, his family.
It's a sign of healing, new life, and restoration.

Jesus gave this man more than physical healing.
This man needed to be healed of a dreaded disease.
But Jesus touches the man's heart -- He touches his soul!
And he instructs the man to do what will bring healing to his broken relationships as well.

Jesus wishes to do the same for us.
He will save us from our sins, and give us life eternal, and He will heal all our hurts.
Jesus will make us whole, in body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
He will heal our hearts and heal our families.
He will enable us to grow to be the people he has created us to be.
And much, much more.

Why are you here today?
What it is that you need to bring to Jesus?
Whatever it is -- give it to Jesus!
He is compassionate and powerful.
Nothing is impossible for him.

Jesus will reach deep into your heart and touch the deepest and most secret place with His grace.
He wants to cleanse you just as He cleansed the leper.
He wants take away your shame, your fear, and your false pride.
He wants to remake you in His own image, until you think, and feel, and act like Him.

"The Master's Hand"

" 'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bidden, good folk, he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar. Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three",
But, No,
From the room far back a grey haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the loosened strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it up with its' bow.
"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
All battered and scarred with sin,,
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Master's Hand."

Sermon by Dr.Harold L. White