Loving the Unloved

by Roger Barrier

Jesus healed in many ways, but in the case of the leper, Jesus reached out and touched him. The very essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable.



Mark 1:40-45


●SLIDE: Mark 1:40: A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

●SLIDE: Mark 1:41: Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

●SLIDE: Mark 1:42: Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

●SLIDE: Luke 5:12: While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

The reputation of the healing Jesus Christ filtered down through grapevine to the huts and hovels where huddled the lepers of His day.

The news of Jesus sparked hope in the heart of one poor leper-filled wretch. So, he broke through all the rules and regulations and thrust his tainted and unwelcome presence into the shrinking crowd.

There he was – horrible white face, tightened, glistening skin, frowsy rag over his mouth and the hunted look of a wild beast in his eyes.

Crowd shrinks back, crying, “Leper, Leper, Get back, Leper!”

Soon, on his knees: With the piteous, raspy cry of a leper ready to die. “If you will, you can make me clean.”

I read these three short verses and my heart yearns to get a handle on what really happened that day. Tragedy to joy—rejection to acceptance—isolation to inclusion—uncertainly to certainty—fear to security—death to life—hateful religious leaders to the compassionate Christ.


Dr. Luke records that he was “full of leprosy”. Advanced case.

Leprosy was living death. No other disease reduced a human being for no many years to so hideous a wreck.”

Three kinds of leprosy:

·SLIDE #: 1. Nodular leprosy

Pain in joints and discolored patches. Pink, then brown modules. Skin becomes thick. Nodules collect in folds of the skin. Appearance so changes that a man can come to look like a lion or satyr. Nodules ulcerate with foul discharge – eyebrows and hair fall out – wheezing, rasping voice. Hands and feet always ulcerate. Body becomes mass of ulcerated sores. Eyelids rot off—can’t close eyes. Lasts approximately nine years. Ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimate death.

·SLIDE #: 2. Anesthetic leprosy

Nerve trunks affected – loss of sensation (no pain where pain should be), muscles gone, tendons contract until hands become like claws – chronic ulceration of hands and feet. Fingers and toes drop off – twenty to thirty years – progressive death of body.

·SLIDE #11: 3. Mixture of both (most common)

How bad is leprosy? Leprosy is really bad.

●SLIDE: What is it like to be full of leprosy?

Initial shock: life as he knows it has come to an end.

“You have cancer.” felt burning flush of fear on your cheeks—everything changed.

Fear of the future: You don’t have a future—no one ever gets out of leprosy alive.

●SLIDE: He lost:


Lost job and means of support (forever dependent on relatives to bring food and care packages.

Lost dreams of future (Bronwyn lost dreams)

Lost marriage

Lost children

Lost aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents

Lost his religion: Could not go to church in this condition

Lost his feelings—gone numb—only pain

As terrible as leprosy was in itself, it had serious social implications—These people were alone.

Rabbi: “I throw stones at lepers to keep them away.”

“I refuse to even buy an egg in the street through which a leper has passed by.”

Yell, “Unclean, unclean!”

Imagine the horror of a life—ostracized; no love, no friends, no value and no way out until he met Jesus. Jesus loved him. He was healed and he was so excited that he ran to tell everyone what had happened!

●SLIDE: Who are the lepers of today?

There are still many lepers in the world. Leprosy flourishes in India, in China, in Malaysia, and worst of all, in Africa.

Leprosy eradicated in America. Last Leprosarium, in Louisiana closed three years ago.

Let’s go a little deeper—more reflective answer..

Cafeteria girl: “Take a moment to say a kind word to her. She is the kind of person most people pass by.”

Could you imagine a girl like that would have some hurts in her life.

Lepers can be any one who is feeling rejected, isolated, lonely,

Numb: hurt so much you stopped hurting.

Some have people all around you and you are still isolated.

Some are quite cynical because of all the times you’ve reached out and were rejected.

Who are the lepers of today:

Homeless; jobless; Divorced; Aids; Cancer victims; Abused children; Battered wives; Mentally ill.

We are all lepers at one time or another—some more than others.

●SLIDE: Most lepers in Jesus’ day were known by their skin sores, and swellings and raspy voices.

●SLIDE: Most lepers like that today aren’t like that at all—but look behind the façade, they are all there.

Joyce Landorf: Balcony People.

●SLIDE: For many of us our pain is our leprosy.


Religious leaders: Throw stones! Unclean! “Stay away from church, you will contaminate us.” “Get back to where you belong!”

●SLIDE: Mark 1:41: Filled with compassion,

I wish we had an English equivalent of “compassion.”

●SLIDE: Σπλαγχνισθεις (SPLAGCHNISTHEIS)describes an intense internal, emotional response, like “all His insides gushed forth with feeling.” Sound it out carefully.

Organs move around inside. Little animals within.

Put your hand on where you have a you stomach ache.—not intestines. Pain of upset stomach moved down into intestines. Stomach didn’t drop.

Like Montezuma’s revenge: Zelmon?

“Heart is in my throat.”

Breath in and air mixes with blood in the heart and speak and same air comes out. Since speaking and thinking are so closely associated, they thought that the heart was the “brain“ of the body.

Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Greeks believed that the movement of the dark purple spleen impaired with running. Olympic athletes were encouraged to get spleen removed to run faster. Of course there is no evidence of a spleenless athlete ever winning. They all died of infection.

You should hear the remedies they recommended for when a woman’s uterus moved up to her esogaphus—that is a real kick—but that will have to wait for another time.

“Moved with compassion” is a feeling word. It goes to the very depths of our being—comes forth in a practical manifestation.


MacDonald’s: homeless man sitting in parking lot leaning against building, blankets, backpack. Big ugly ulcer on his heal.

“May I buy you breakfast?”

Gave him as twenty.

“Do you know how hard it is to get a drink of clean water in this town?

No, I never thought about it.

Tried to get on my way as he droned on and on. Decided to listen.

“He’s crazy. No wonder he is here.”

Later looked up to see him quite coherently ordering breakfast.

He is not crazy. He is lonely. He wanted a companion. He wanted to know someone cared.

Compassion only occurs when the emotional stir inside produces some outward manifestation of care and concern.

I had compassion. I was not filled with compassion. Probably taken him home.

If all we do is have the feeling then we might as well put our hands on our intestines and call it our stomachs—it is misguided and worthless.

Compassion motivates us to action.

It is easy in our culture to lose the feeling of compassion. You can snuff it out if you want to. But, you really don’t want to.

●SLIDE: I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger. (Thank you.)

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to you chapel to pray for my release.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance (What good did that do?)

I was sick and I heard you thank God for your health. (But, I needed you.)

I was homeless and you preached to me of the shelter of the love of God. (I wish you had taken me home.)

I was lonely and you left me alone to go pray for me. (Why didn’t you stay?)

You seem so holy, so close to God; but, I’m still hungry, lonely, cold and in pain.

·SLIDE #: The very essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable.

·SLIDE #: Mark 1:41: Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Jesus used a variety of healing tools: sometimes He made clay from dirt to place on eyelids, to many He spoke and cure was perfected.

But to this leper, He reached out and touched him. Oh, that touch spoke volumes!

It is safe to say that no man had touched this leper in years.

There are lepers around us who haven’t been touched in years.

My impression is that down through the years the Christian church has not been very good at touching lepers. We have hurt way too many lepers.

Discover Magazine: Soft tissue found in dinosaur bone shocks Paleontology.

●SLIDE: Mary Schweitzer: evangelical Christian who entered the field of paleontology to study the greatness of God in creation found t-rex bones in Montana. 65 million-year-old bones contained soft tissue—impossible in fossilized bones.

Look at sheath of one femur and said, “This is a female and she was pregnant.” Like birds grow calcium sheath to provide extra calcium for making the shell, this dinosaur had the soft tissue sheath surrounding the bone. Impossible!

Put her at the center of a fire storm. Scientific community fighting to challenge the data—change all the rules of fossils and opens the door for unbelievable discoveries. Many excited castigating her. That is the history of the scientific community when someone challenges the status quo.

Other side of the fire storm has come from Christian creationists who declare that this is proof for a young earth—all created less than 10,000 years ago.

Discover is a humanistic magazine. Sad to tell you the next part.

Some Christian creationists are pressuring her to come clean and to join their side against the scientific community to hold them accountable for misleading the people.

She has received scores of letters and emails—some of them threatening and menacing.

The religious attacks wound her more than the scientific ones.

●SLIDE: “It rips my heart out. These people are claiming to represent the Christ I love. They are not doing a very good job. No wonder so many of my colleagues are atheists.”

She told one Christian antagonist,

●SLIDE: “You know, if the only picture of Christ I had was your attitude toward me, I’d run.”

What she needs is compassion and support. What she has become is an object of tug-of-war. She is more emotionally isolated than ever before.

●SLIDE: The world longs for us to be more real than right.

●SLIDE: Too many of us Christians long to be more right than real.

Sorry for you who have been hurt by misguided Christians.

Sorry for you who have been hurt by the church.

Felt scorned and ostracized by the very people who were supposed to love you!

We will try to do better.

●SLIDE: Many go to Maui

●SLIDE: very few get to Molokai –the leper colony island.

Early in the nineteenth century Joseph Damien went to the South Sea Islands and worked there until he was thirty-three. Then one day he heard about the leper island of Molokai and that there the lepers were abandoned to their terrible fate without comfort and without help.

So Joseph Damien went. For sixteen years he lived among them. He built them a church; he built them better houses; he built them a better water supply; he loved them, cared for them, and when they died, he buried them.

Then one day he spilled some boiling water on his foot and felt no pain. Damien realized that he had contracted leprosy. From that day forward, he ceased referring to the lepers as “My brothers.” Now he said, “My fellow lepers.”

He was perfectly contented. He said that even if he could be cured by leaving the island he would never leave his lepers. So he worked on with death slowly eating away at his body, but with his soul unconquered.

At last the end drew near. Two priests and sisters of charity knelt beside him. “When you are in heaven, Father,” said one of the priests, “will you, like Elijah, leave me your mantle?” Joseph Damien smiled. “What would you do with my mantle? He said. “It is full of leprosy.”

And so in 1889 the man who loved the lepers died.

Damien was like Jesus Christ. He cared for the men for whom no one else cared.

The leper saw in Jesus one who wanted him when everyone else would have run away with loathing.

●SLIDE: When Jesus touched the leper, his touch, rather than contaminating Jesus, cured the leper.


Leprosy is a picture of sin.

●SLIDE: Come to Jesus—he is willing—He became a leper for us.


Imagine with me a woman ostracized from society, filled with guilt and shame. She has internal scars, lived a life of accusations, name calling, prejudices and rejections.

The kind of love she needed was not the kind of love she received.

She was treated as an object of no real value, received no love, had no friends and saw no way out until she met Jesus.

Then Jesus accepted her, looked beyond her externals, was filled with compassion for her, forgave her—then reached out and touched her.

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