Jesus’ Engagement

Today we pick up in Mark 1:40-45, looking at a life of compassionate stewardship. Jesus doesn’t get mad at the condition of the leper and call his legislature,  Herod, or Pontius Pilate. He realizes that true compassion doesn’t end with complaining, it begins with…

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ENGAGEMENT (Mark 1:41b-42) He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Engaging comes at a cost. The law in Leviticus 13 and 14 were clear that leprosy made someone unclean, while on their journey to the Promise Land, God’s law was inherently practical to avoid contagious disease from spreading through the camp, where hygiene could get sketchy. So it went further, if you touched someone with a skin disease you would be considered unclean. Fast forward to the 1st century and things had morphed from practical to punitive: throwing rocks at the diseased if they got too close, barring them from all social and religious practices, even talk about leprosy caused terror. Here we are lunchroom politics because engagement by Jesus meant unending everything the people took for granted, that these afflicted didn’t belong, that they had been cursed by God.  Stewardship is powerful in that it isn’t just about programs and projects, but about taking the nameless to us and realizing they have never been nameless to God. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” He allows this man with leprosy to do what moments before was unimaginable—to finally call home—back into the temple, back into the world. Instead of a rock, he was rocked by the simple touch of Christ, instead of ostracized he found open arms.

Max Lucado in his book “In the Eye of a Storm” talks about traveling from one speaking engagement to another. He had traveled from San Antonio to Boston and had spoken at a gathering in Boston. Then he was flying on to Edmonton, Canada to fulfill a speaking engagement there.

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When his plane landed in Minneapolis and he had to change airplanes, he was thinking about how tired and hungry he was, and how crowded the airplane had been, and how his back was aching, and his mind was hurting. Try as he might, he couldn’t even remember who was supposed to meet him at his destination in Canada.

As he was heading to the gate to catch his next airplane he saw a McDonald’s in the distance and thought, “That looks good. Maybe I’ll run over there and buy a hamburger and that will at least satisfy my hunger pains.” Then he writes, “I passed something better. I passed a telephone and decided to call home. I called and my wife answered the phone…” He continued, “I just talked with her. We talked about the weather in San Antonio vs. the weather in New England. We talked about what the girls did when they went to school that day and that one of them was going to have a friend over to spend the evening.” “We talked about earth shaking things like that,” he said. “And after I had finished talking with her I really felt good. Then she passed the receiver over to one of my daughters who told me about her day. When she finished she said, `I love you, Dad.’” And he said, “It felt good to be loved.” Then the phone was passed over to the next daughter and she talked to him for a while and she said, “I miss you, Dad.” And he said, “It felt good to be missed.” Then he said, “They passed the phone over to the little six month old baby, and I talked to my baby over the phone. I cooed and I talked baby talk, and the people passing by looked at me in strange ways. But it felt good to be cooed at. Then we hung up and I made my way on to the next gate.” He recalled, “I forgot how hungry I was. I forgot how tired I was because I had called home, and that made all the difference in the world. Maybe we all ought to call home more often. If you do, you will find the listening ear of God so anxious to talk to you, and He will make you feel good from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. And as you grow in your love you’ll find your fears disappear.”

Jesus shares the blessing of engagement- And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Check out the distinction, not just know about him, but actually engaged with him. That is why when someone experienced God in Scripture they often gave him a new name, they saw him in an entirely new way. Two things change: First, become more human, more aware of what we were crafted to be, more connected and compassionate. Second, our compassion does an amazing thing: It keeps us from just trying to complete a project and it allows us to be a projection of Christ. Instead of paralyzed by fear we become formidable for Christ.  Our stewardship of compassion begins to rehumanize those the world has dehumanized.  It causes us to protect the weak rather than sell their organs, just because someone may be disabled but they aren’t disposable, getting old doesn’t make you obsolete, having a disease which may eat at your flesh doesn’t mean it can eat away at your dignity in Christ. Adrian Rogers once said, “Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity,” but Jesus offers us a chance to engage: 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 

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