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The Spiritual Sickness of Sin

One of the effects of sin and The Curse is sickness and disease.  God created the earth and it was very good.  However, because of man’s rebellion it went from very good to death and decay.  Now today we are going to see the problem of Leprosy in Luke 5:12-16.  Though the term used in those days is not the technical terms that we use in medicine today, the descriptions of the disease are very clear.  It was contagious and thus those who had it were quarantined outside of the city.  What started as a small spot on the skin would eventually cover their whole body.  From what we know today, leprosy does not actually cause flesh to rot.  Rather, starting in the extremities and on the skins surface it destroys the nervous system and our sense of touch.  The lack of pain and feeling is what leads to injury and destruction of the flesh.

The late Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneer in treating leprosy, said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.”  He later co-authored a book with Phillip Yancey, “The Gift of Pain.”  It is a sad irony that those who suffer in this way should lose physical pain and yet gain even greater inner pain.  Let’s look at this passage.

Leprosy Is A Picture

In verse 12 we are told that Jesus was in a certain city when a man who is full of leprosy falls down before him and begs, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  We often wonder why God allows things to be.  I don’t want to make the mistake of being so quick to say Jesus even heals leprosy, that I miss the fact that this leper is a human being who has been through much grief.  Even his statement to the Lord evokes pity and compassion.  Why was he a leper?  For whatever reasons, we do know that God didn’t create the world with lepers in it.  We are the ones that brought sin, sickness, and death into the world.  One thing is true leprosy is one of those diseases that gives us a very horrible picture.

Leprosy first is a picture of incurable disease.  Regardless of the name of the disease and the century that one lives in, mankind will always face diseases he cannot “fix.”  People in these situations end up spending all their money and their emotional capital on treatments and experiments that leave them poor, broken and without hope.  Often they are quarantined or in a bed isolated from others and under a death sentence.  They have become a danger to themselves and others and they feel all alone.  Regardless of whether or not we find a solution for leprosy, there is always something else, whether it be AIDS or Cancer, etc… 

Leprosy is also a picture of the reality of sin.  Because the inner effects cannot be seen, we can tend to think that there are none.  One of the reasons why God allows sickness, disease, and death is because it gives us a material picture of what sin does spiritually.  Just as leprosy destroys by first desensitizing the God-given nervous system in our bodies, so sin desensitizes the individual’s God-given conscience.  We come to think that our sin is no big deal.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Over a series of being desensitized we come to no longer feel the bite of conscience and spiritually injure ourselves and others, even to the point of spiritual death.  The hideous images of what leprosy can do in the natural should point us to the hideous things that sin does in our heart.  The contagion of sin can only truly be appreciated in the face of the bacterial and viral onslaught in our own day and age.  These things always start small, only a small spot.  Yet they spread and destroy the whole body if not brought in check.

If you think I am stretching it use disease as a metaphor for sin then look at 1 Corinthians 5:6.  Here Paul told the Corinthians, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  He uses yeast as a picture of what sin does within an individual and a group.  If you put up with just a little bit it is going to affect the rest.  So you need to deal with it before it gets hideous and horrible.

The Solution For Both Is Jesus

Whether we are talking about a physical problem or a spiritual one, the solution for both is Jesus.  The leper had come to believe that Jesus could heal him, because Jesus had been healing others.  Why not me?  Even though he has the most horrible and fearful physical curse of his day, the man breaks the law and social custom to beg Jesus for health.  Somehow we need to get to that same spot in our own life where we are on our face before Jesus begging for spiritual health.  The good news is that God is looking for you.  In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save the lost.”  Later he gave his disciples a Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”  This aspect of Christianity is coming into more and more ill repute: calling people to turn to Jesus.  Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice.”  In all of these we see two things.  We need to find Jesus, and graciously he is calling and looking for us.  If your heart truly wants healing, you will find Jesus and He will find you.  Now clearly spiritual healing is far more important than physical healing.  And, even if we are physically healed, all will eventually grow old and die.  No matter how hard we pray for “healing” of old age, God is going to let us grow old and die.  Yet, he has promised The First Resurrection to those who believe.

The second thing we find with this leper is that he humbled himself.  He is not supposed to interact with people.  He is breaking the law and he knows it.  Yet, he has his face in the dirt begging Jesus for a miracle.  Now it is not as important that his face is in the dirt than that his heart was that humble.  Until we are spiritually humbled to the point that we cease worrying about what we look like, we may never reach the humility needed to receive salvation from Jesus.  We have to see ourselves and others as completely unable to fix the problem.  Jesus is my only hope!  This cry is the cry of the humbled and thus humble.  When we get to the place where we are humble enough we are free to ask him to do what we cannot do for ourselves.

Notice the word “clean.”  We must want to be clean.  It seems obvious that a sick person wants to be well, but it is not always the case.  Have you ever encountered a person with emphysema who needs to carry an oxygen tank around with them and yet still wants to smoke?  Often getting well requires us to give up things that bring on the problem.  Am I asking Jesus to clean the surface but not deal with the root of the problem?  Jesus heal my lungs so I can smoke them to death again!  Is this what we want?  “To want to be clean” is not wanting only our problems fixed, but rather, wanting the root of those problems and sin cleaned away.  The leper speaks of his skin being cleaned, but the same word is used of moral and spiritual cleansing in our hearts and life.

We must also believe in Christ’s ability or power to heal us.  He would have never approached Jesus if he didn’t believe that Jesus could actually heal him.  Now many look at Jesus, the Bible, and His Church as antiquated relics of a bygone era that never had any real power.  Now I would challenge you to recognize that no matter how ancient this culture was, these people understood the devastation of disease for which even today we do not have a cure.  We can only mitigate the effects and speed of progression.  It is quite patronizing to the point of idiocy to think that they couldn’t recognize and be amazed that one day a man who had been blind from birth could all the sudden see.  One day a man whose skin was obviously covered with leprosy was suddenly completely clear skinned.  This is something that takes real power.  This is the kind of thing that Jesus did frequently.

The man also cries out to Jesus.  It is one thing to want healing and salvation.  It is quite another to step out and ask.  Many people get to the tipping point of calling upon Jesus and yet hold back.  If you have been holding back from calling out to Jesus for salvation, don’t hold back any longer.  You must cry out to him for mercy in order to receive it.

What Jesus Shows Us About God

Now let’s look at the response of Jesus.  Now in Hebrews 1:1-3 we are told that Jesus is the “brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.”  The point is this: if you have seen Jesus then you have seen God the Father..  God who is invisible makes himself visible in Jesus.  Thus in this situation Jesus helps us to see the Truth about God’s heart for the hurting, both physically and spiritually.  The actions, thinking, and words of Jesus are exactly the actions, thinking, and words of God the Father.

First we see that God wants to touch the sick.  Though quarantines were involved to protect people from the sick, God can touch the sick.  He cannot be affected by sickness or sin and so he has no fear to touch them.  I mentioned Dr. Paul Brand earlier.  He tells a story of when he first went to India to work with lepers there.  He didn’t speak the language and had patted a leper to let them know that he would help them.  The person broke out in tears.  Why?  His Indian helper explained that the man had not been touched by anyone for many years.  Something so simple as human touch can convey a world of care, compassion, love, and help.  In Jesus God touches us.

God is also full of compassion.  Jesus couples his touch with the words, “I am willing.”  This is such a tender picture of God’s compassion toward mankind.  There is a part of us that might rebel and say that he hasn’t done that for everyone.  But the point is that the physical often is what brings us to see our need of the spiritual.  Even in the midst of our sinfulness and fallenness, God is compassionate toward the lost and works to bring them to himself so that he might heal them.

We also see that God is full of power to do what we need Him to do.  Jesus could heal the body, but also could heal the sin-sick soul.  Physical healing is never an answer in and of itself.  Even in perfect health, these bodies will grow old, decay and die.  Short of the Second Coming, we will have to face death.  It would be a tragedy to only be physically healed and yet not ask for our sins to be forgiven and covered; to not ask that our hearts be set free from sin’s grip.

Lastly, Jesus sends the man to go to the temple and be a witness to the priests and his community that God is still moving in power.  Has God touched your sin-sick soul?  Has he touched you and made you clean, and whole spiritually?  I testify to you today that he can take your life no matter how ruined, destroyed, and damaged it is and heal it if you will only cry out to him like I did.He

Spiritual Sickness audio