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Asking for God's Help

Mark 1:40-42
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. (NIVUK)

Most people might agree that God probably could do anything.  However, the majority never ask Him.  Either they see their need as irrelevant to Him or that He is remote and therefore inaccessible.  Few believe that Jesus might be asked, or begged, to meet their need.  They simply do not believe that He would be willing to help them.  But the leper in this narrative had no such qualms.  Instead of keeping his distance and calling out 'Unclean, unclean!', to keep other people from coming close and being infected, the man came right up to Jesus, falling on both knees as a sign of reverence and submission before the Lord.  This outcast from society, barred from the temple and synagogue, friends and family, was desperate to be healed.  He broke through the religious and social boundaries to come straight to Jesus.

The leprous man had no doubt that Jesus could heal him but doubted whether the Lord would want to.  The religious establishment, who were supposed to represent God, did not want to know him.  Perhaps his problem was too offensive to Jesus.  So the man begged for Jesus to respond differently to the priests and theologians.  The next sentence poses a translation difficulty.  Most later copies of this gospel use the Greek for 'Jesus was moved with compassion', but the earliest texts say 'Jesus was indignant' or '… angry'.  The common theme is that Jesus had a significant emotional reaction to the request.  Was it compassion or anger, and if the latter, where was Jesus' anger directed?

Interestingly, the 'anger/indignation' word is used in Mark 1:34 as well as in John 11:33,38 where Jesus was moved with anger at the grave of Lazarus.  Righteous anger is right: it is an expression of God's wrath (Psalm 95:11).  There was much to move the Lord Jesus Christ in the leper's request: the fact of incurable disease is offensive to the creator of perfection; the attitude of those who represented God was offensive of Jesus; the assumption that Jesus might not be interested in the man was offensive to the Son of Man who had come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  This further evidence of the work of Satan in trapping people in helpless despair stirred the Creator to undo the work of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Jesus then touched the untouchable, declared His willingness to heal and then the man's skin became normal again.   
God is more than willing to make the outcast clean and the penitent will never be turned away.   Indeed, our helplessness stirs His passional response.  Although the world may laugh, crying out for help is the essential weakness that God requires in us, before He will act in strength.  That is why the desperate have more of God's blessings: they know they have nowhere else to go.  The polite circle of self-sufficiency, with which the Western world has been plagued, says that our salvation is in our own hands.  In most businesses, a divine solution to a problem is scorned as a lack of character or resolve or creative imagination.  Begging Jesus for help would be thought of as being despicably weak.   But the time will come when others will see how powerfully Jesus responds to honest helplessness; and our testimony of God's mercy will encourage others to do the same.

Powerful God. Thank You for being passionate about breaking through wrong boundaries which separate me from Your mercy. Forgive me for allowing my unworthiness to stop me seeking Your righteous help. Help me to cast off my self-sufficiency, confessing my weakness and need so that I may receive the help I need from You today. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams