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I WILL – BE THOU CLEAN!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 1, 2015

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:40-42).


I love to read the Gospel of Mark. His Hebrew name was John. Mark was his Latin name, “Marcus” in Latin. John Mark was the spiritual son of the Apostle Peter. Peter called him, “Marcus my son” (I Peter 5:13). One of the early church fathers was Papias (70-163). Papias said that Mark got his Gospel from Peter. Papias said, “Mark, the [secretary] of Peter, wrote carefully down all that [Peter] recollected.” Justin Martyr (100-165) also said that Mark took down this Gospel from the words of Peter. Another church father, Eusebius (263-339) said that the early Christians “besought Mark that he would leave in writing for them the doctrine which they had received [from Peter].”

Mark is a Gospel of action because Peter was a man of action. This Gospel was written specifically for the Romans, who were known as men of action. The word “and” occurs 1,331 times in the Gospel of Mark. The words “straightway” or “immediately” also appear again and again in Mark’s Gospel. The word “and” always leads to further action. Notice that the five verses leading up to our text all begin with “and.” And all three of the verses in our text begin with “and.”

And there came a leper to him” (v. 40).

And Jesus, moved with compassion” (v. 41).

And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (v. 42).

The Romans believed in power and action. The Gospel of Mark has only 16 chapters, and they are packed with the power and action of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ and His work are not explained with long passages and quotations from the Old Testament. Much of this was left out by Mark as he shows us the power and the actions of Jesus, which appealed to Mark’s Roman audience.

Notice how much action is packed into the first chapter of Mark,

The ministry of John the Baptist.
The baptism of Jesus.
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
The early Galilean ministry of Jesus.
The call of Peter and Andrew.
The casting out of demons in Capernaum.
The healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.
The preaching tour of Jesus in Galilee.
And the healing of the leper in our text.

Christ is shown as a man of action and power. And His power and action can save you this very morning.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health and peace.
   (“O For a Thousand Tongues” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

Nine major events are all packed into the first chapter of Mark! Dr. McGee said, “There is probably more content in the first chapter of Mark than any other chapter in the Bible, with the exception of Genesis 1” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume IV, Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 161).

Now that brings us to our text, and the healing of the man with leprosy,

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him [pleading with Him], and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:40-42).

Let us learn three important facts from this passage.

I. First, the man had leprosy.

The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Leviticus describe the dreadful disease of leprosy. It describes many skin diseases, including modern leprosy (or Hansen’s disease). One commentator said that this man probably had true leprosy, or the cure would not have created such a sensation, as seen in verse forty-five. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “There is little doubt that most New Testament persons described as lepers did in fact have Hansen’s disease” (The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1988, p. 307).

The severe form of leprosy this man had produced patches of white skin and numbness. Swellings occurred in various areas of his body. And they became ulcerated, oozing fluid from the wounds. As the disease progressed his hands and feet would have been distorted and swollen. The disease may have already caused gangrene to set in, with parts of his body actually decaying. Tuberculous lesions would have already risen on his face, producing a horrible mask-like look – similar in some ways to the “Elephant Man” in Victorian England, who was so hideous that he had to wear a veil over his face. Much of the leper’s skin had become thickened and red. This was true leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. It is horrible! (See The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ibid.).

Dr Walter L. Wilson said that this disease is a type (or picture) of sin. It is incurable and defiling. In the Bible the leper must be “cleansed.” Because the disease is contagious the leper must live alone. He must wear a cloth over his mouth and cry “Unclean! Unclean!” He must be shut out of the camp or city.

All this is true of an unconverted person. He cannot be a member of the church. He cannot enter Heaven because of his disease of sin. (See Walter L. Wilson, M.D., A Dictionary of Bible Types, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999 reprint, p. 257). Leviticus 13:45, 46 says,

“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be” (Leviticus 13:45, 46).

The Scofield note on Leviticus 13:1 says, “Leprosy speaks of sin as (1) in the blood; (2) becoming overt in loathsome ways; (3) incurable by human means” (The Scofield Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1917, p. 141; note on Leviticus 13:1).

Leprosy is a type, or picture, of the total depravity of man. Depravity is in our blood, passed down to us from Adam. It starts out small, with a little rebellion, and in the end becomes disgusting and repulsive.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).

And the Bible says,

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:11-12).

John Wesley (1703-1791) was not a Calvinist, but he said of this passage, that unconverted people are “helpless, impotent, unable to profit either themselves or others... [all men are] under the guilt and power of [sin],” notes on Romans 3:12, 9 (John Wesley, M.A., Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, volume II, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, pp. 33, 34; notes on Romans 3:12, 9).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) said, “Man in sin...is governed and ruled and controlled by sin” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Assurance, Romans 5, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971, p. 306).

Dr. Isaac Watts put it like this in one of his hymns,

Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin, And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall Corrupts the race, and taints us all.

Behold, I fall before Thy face; My only refuge is Thy grace;
No outward forms can make me clean; The leprosy lies deep within.
   (Psalm 51, by Isaac Watts, D.D., 1674-1748).

Sin blinds the mind in darkness. It makes you think, “There’s too much to give up. If I become a real Christian, I will have to give up too many things.” Thus, you are kept in the slavery of sin, doomed without hope for all time and eternity. Or sin makes you think, “I am in church every Sunday. I’m all right.” Thus you go on in the leprosy of sin, without any hope at all. Or sin makes you think, “I must have a certain feeling to prove I’m saved.” But the Bible never tells us that we are saved by a feeling. We are saved by trusting Jesus Christ. Some have gone on for months, and some for years, looking for a feeling instead of trusting Jesus. What is that but a heart that is ruined by the leprosy of sin! Augustus Toplady said, in one of his hymns,

Astonished and distressed,
I turn my eyes within;
My heart with loads of sin oppressed,
The seat of every sin.

What crowds of evil thoughts,
What vile affections there!
Distrust, presumption, artful guile,
Pride, envy, slavish fear.
   (“The Heart” by Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778).

Again, Dr. Watts said,

“No outward forms can make me clean;
 The leprosy lies deep within.”

It will do you no good to say the words of a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” One young person told us, “I only said the prayer so I could go out and play!” Something like that isn’t going to save anyone! Others “come forward” at the end of a service to “dedicate” themselves. That does no good either. These are only false and vain “outward forms.”

“No outward forms can make me clean;
 The leprosy lies deep within.”

That was the case of this poor leper in our text. The man had leprosy. He knew that nothing he could do or say would make him clean.

II. Second, the man came to Jesus.

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mark 1:40).

This poor leper had undoubtedly heard about Jesus. John Wesley said he probably even heard Jesus preach. Wesley said, “Probably this leper, though he [could] not mix with the people, had heard our Lord at a distance” (ibid.). Mr. Wesley would have known about that, since so many thousands came to hear him preach from a distance – and were saved! Here is part of a letter written to Mr. Wesley in 1745,

Till I heard your brother [Charles] and you, I did not know myself. Then I found that I was an unbeliever, that none could help me but Christ. I cried unto him, and he heard me and spoke those words with power to my heart, “Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee.” (John Wesley, M.A., The Works of John Wesley, volume I, Baker Book House, 1979 reprint, page 527).

And that is exactly what Jesus did for this poor leper. And He will do the same for you when you humble yourself and trust Him, as the leper did.

III. Third, the man was made clean.

I must say a few words here about Pentecostal and Charismatic “healers.” When the main emphasis is put on physical healing, the power of the Gospel is obscured, and often left out entirely. We must not focus on the healing of a man’s body. Jesus died on the Cross to save us from the leprosy of sin, not to cure us from earaches or tonsillitis! Speaking of “healers” Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) said,

It has resulted in much shameless exhibitionism, a tendency to depend upon experience instead of upon Christ and often a lack of ability to distinguish the works of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit (A. W. Tozer, D.D., Keys to the Deeper Life, Zondervan Publishing House, n.d., pp. 41, 42).

Yes, I believe that God can heal our bodies. I firmly believe that He can! But what if we had to choose between the healing of our bodies and the healing of our sin-stained souls? To me, the choice would be easy. Our bodies will pass away soon enough. But our souls live on through an endless eternity. It’s easy to see which one is most important!

In this little story of the healed leper we see not only a physical, but also a spiritual healing. We can certainly paraphrase the teaching of Christ,

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world [including physical healing], and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

No, this man knew that his leprosy was a mark of something deeper. He didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. He said, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” He did not “seek for the meat that perishes” alone. “The leprosy lies deep within.” And that is why Jesus so quickly and wonderfully saved him.

“If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mark 1:40).

“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean” (Mark 1:41).

And immediately “he was cleansed” (Mark 1:42).

That shows the power of the Gospel. Jesus shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. Jesus rose from the dead to give you a new life. When you come to Jesus in simple faith, like this man, Jesus will save you “immediately,” instantly! To me, that is the greatest message of the Bible! “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” “I will; be thou clean” – and he was cleansed! That is the Gospel! That is the good news of salvation! That is your only hope! “Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean.” “I will; be thou clean.” Come to Jesus. Trust Him. It is easy to trust Jesus. He will make you clean in a moment! – just as He did to this man! There is no need to wait any longer! Trust Jesus and be clean! Father, I pray that someone will trust Jesus this morning, and be made clean by His Blood! Amen.  

And I know, Yes, I know,
   Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean,
And I know, Yes, I know,
   Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.
(“Yes, I Know!” by Anna W. Waterman, 1920).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 1:40-42.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Yes, I Know!” (by Anna W. Waterman, 1920).


THE OUTLINE OF

I WILL – BE THOU CLEAN!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:40-42).

(I Peter 5:13)

I.   First, the man had leprosy, Leviticus 13:45, 46; Romans 8:7; 3:11-12.

II.  Second, the man came to Jesus, Mark 1:40.

III. Third, the man was made clean, Mark 8:36; 1:40, 41, 42.