We have here the story of Christ’s cleansing a leper, which we had before, Matt. 8:2-4. It teaches us,
1. How to apply ourselves to Christ; come as this leper did, (1.) With great humility; this leper came beseeching him, and kneeling down to him (Mark 1:40); whether giving divine honour to him as God, or rather a less degree of respect as a great Prophet, it teaches us that those who would receive grace and mercy from Christ, must ascribe honour and glory to Christ, and approach to him with humility and reverence. (2.) With a firm belief of his power; Thou canst make me clean. Though Christ’s outward appearance was but mean, yet he had this faith in his power, which implies his belief that he was sent of God. He believes it with application, not only in general, Thou cast do every thing (as John 11:22), but, Thou cast make me clean. Note, What we believe of the power of Christ we must bring home to our particular case; Thou canst do this for me. (3.) With submission to the will of Christ; Lord, if thou wilt. Not as if he had any doubt of Christ’s readiness in general to help the distressed, but, with the modesty that became a poor petitioner, he refers his own particular case to him.
2. What to expect from Christ; that according to our faith it shall be to us. His address is not in the form of prayer, yet Christ answered it as a request. Note, Affectionate professions of faith in Christ, and resignations to him, are the most prevailing petitions for mercy from him, and shall speed accordingly. (1.) Christ was moved with compassion. This is added here, in Mark, to show that Christ’s power is employed by his pity for the relief of poor souls; that his reasons are fetched from within himself, and we have nothing in us to recommend us to his favour, but our misery makes us the objects of his mercy. And what he does for us he does with all possible tenderness. (2.) He put forth his hand, and touched him. He exerted his power, and directed it to this creature. In healing souls, Christ toucheth them, 1 Sam. 10:26. When the queen toucheth for the evil, she saith, I touch, God heals; but Christ toucheth and healeth too. (3.) He said, I will, be thou clean. Christ’s power was put forth in and by a word, to signify in what way Christ would ordinarily work spiritual cures; He sends his word and heals, Ps. 107:20; John 15:3; 17:17. The poor leper put an if upon the will of Christ; If thou wilt; but that doubt is soon put out of doubt; I will. Christ most readily wills favours to those that most readily refer themselves to his will. He was confident of Christ’s power; Thou canst make me clean; and Christ will show how much his power is drawn out into act by the faith of his people, and therefore speaks the word as one having authority, Be thou clean. And power accompanied this word, and the cure was perfect in an instant; Immediately his leprosy vanished, and there remained no more sign of it, Mark 1:42.
3. What to do when we have received mercy from Christ. We must with his favours receive his commands. When Christ had cured him, he strictly charged him; the word here is very significant, embrimesamenos—graviter interminatus—prohibiting with threats. I am apt to think that this refers not to the directions he gave him to conceal it (Mark 1:44), for those are mentioned by themselves; but that this was such a charge as he gave to the impotent man whom he cured, John 5:14; Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee; for the leprosy was ordinarily the punishment of some particular sinners, as in Miriam’s, Gehazi’s, and Uzziah’s, case; now, when Christ healed him, he warned him, he threatened him with the fatal consequence of it if he should return to sin again. He also appointed him, (1.) To show himself to the priest, that the priest by his own judgment of this leper might be a witness for Christ, that he was the Messiah, Matt. 11:5. (2.) Till he had done that, not to say any thing of it to any man: this is an instance of the humility of Christ and his self-denial, that he did not seek his own honour, did not strive or cry, Isa. 42:2. And it is an example to us, not to seek our own glory, Prov. 25:27. He must not proclaim it, because that would much increase the crowd that followed Christ, which he thought was too great already; not as if he were unwilling to do good to all, to as many as came; but he would do it with as little noise as might be, would have no offence given to the government, no disturbance of the public peace, not any thing done that looked like ostentation, or an affecting of popular applause. What to think of the leper’s publishing it, and blazing it abroad, I know not; the concealment of the good characters and good works of good men better become them than their friends; nor are we always bound by the modest commands of humble men. The leper ought to have observed his orders; yet, no doubt, it was with a good design that he proclaimed the cure, and it had no other ill effect than that it increased the multitudes which followed Christ, to that degree, that he could no more openly enter into the city; not upon the account of persecution (there was no danger of that yet,) but because the crowd was so great, that the streets would not hold them, which obliged him to go into desert places, to a mountain (Mark 3:13), to the sea-side, Mark 4:1. This shows how expedient it was for us, that Christ should go away, and send the Comforter, for his bodily presence could be but in one place at a time; and those that came to him from every quarter, could not get near him; but by his spiritual presence he is with his people wherever they are, and comes to them to every quarter.
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