Suffering and Seeking

Dave Baxter, Speaker

Mark 1:40-45 | February 3 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
February 3
Suffering and Seeking | Mark 1:40-45
Dave Baxter, Speaker

Open up your Bibles, if you have them with you, to Mark chapter 1. If you don’t have a Bible with you, I would encourage you to take one from the pew, and if you don’t have your own copy of a Bible, we would love for you to take that as a gift from us to you. We’ll be looking at Mark chapter 1, verses 40 to 45 this morning. I hope you have all enjoyed this beautiful weekend that we’ve been enjoying. I must admit that I’ve been personally thankful for the beautiful weather outside, though professionally a little bit disappointed because my introduction this morning was kind of banking on a gray and gloomy, typical February weekend, not this glorious ___. I walked into my office to print my notes this morning and the sun was just lavishing on me and the birds were whistling in my ears and I almost heard, I’m sure I almost heard, zippity doo dah being sung somewhere [laughter] around me. It couldn’t be a prettier weekend. And yet, and yet, it’s not a typical February weekend, at not in Charlotte, is it? And I wonder if we were to take a poll this morning asking what is your favorite month of the year if we would get any takers on February. Sorry if your birthday falls in February. I wonder, I’m almost tempted to see, to just do a show of hands, if we’d get a single vote. I know that if we did then I would get somebody, probably a teenager somewhere, wanting to blow my whole theory out of the water, voting for February. Personally I would vote February thirteenth on my list of favorite months. I know that there’s 12, so… February in my opinion is the worst month of the year. It’s a really messy month around Charlotte for the most part, cold, dark, wet. We’re a long way, unfortunately, from Christmas and all the joy and happiness that comes with that cold but significant holiday, and still a long way, it feels like, from ever reaching spring, this weekend excepted.

But it’s the month that we’re now in, and it’s the month that we have to choose how we’re going to live in this month. And it’s interesting, I was thinking about that in my Bible reading plan that I started in January, and it started out this year with a reading in genesis chapter 1 and then also in Mark chapter 1 that we’re looking at this morning, and I was struck reading those two chapters in parallel with one another, what a distinction there was. Coming to Mark, chapter 1 where we see demon possessions and sicknesses and disease and leprosy, and couldn’t help but think what a different world than the world of Genesis 1. We’re a long way from the world of Genesis 1, and still Mark 1 feels like we’re still a long way from the world of Revelation 21 as well, the new heavens and the new earth.

And yet, this world that we’re seeing here in Mark chapter 1 is the world that we live in. It’s the world that we live in now and the world that we must decide how will we live in. And it’s why the story that we’re looking at this morning is so important, because it speaks to the experiences that we all have living life in this world, raising questions like is God there? Does God care about what we’re experiencing? The suffering that we endure as humans in this life. Why doesn’t He do something about it?

The world of Mark chapter 1 is a long way from the world of Genesis 1, but they begin in a similar way, with words of a beginning. “In the beginning” it says in Genesis 1. Mark says this is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Mark is telling us about the real world that we all live in, but he’s also saying that something real has changed in this world, something significant has shifted in history, and it has everything to do with the arrival of this man, Jesus Christ.

We’re going to look at a picture this morning, just a brief little snippet, of what a difference the arrival of this man, Jesus Christ, makes in the world that we live in today. So look with me if you will at Mark chapter 1, versus 40 through 45: “And a leper came to Him, imploring Him and kneeling, said to Him: ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will. Be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean, and Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once and said to him ‘See that you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded for a proof to them.’ But he went out and began to talk freely about it and to spread the news so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places and people were coming to Him from every quarter.”

You might not know this, that just this past week was world leprosy day, January 27. I found this out talking to Mike Johnson, who’s one of our elders here and is also an infectious disease doctor and sits on the board of the American Leprosy Mission. Mike does a lot of work, he’s spent a lot of time with people around the world dealing with leprosy, interacting with people like this man in this story. You know that leprosy is still a common disease around the world today though we don’t see it much in our own country. The most common form, known as Hansen’s Disease after the man who diagnosed its cause, it’s not really fundamentally a skin problem, decomposition, it’s something deeper than that. The grotesque disfiguration that we associate with leprosy is really rooted in a compromised ability to feel, a numbness, nerve problems, and this failure to feel pain leads to a failure to notice injuries and other things, that leads to significant deformities and deterioration of the body.

And the leprosy that we’re seeing referred to here probably could have referred to a number of skin-related diseases like this, which Hansen’s Disease is a big part. It’s interesting to note that only in the last 25 years or so have we actually learned how to cure leprosy through medicine. It’s been a significant problem worldwide for a long, long time.

And in Jesus’ day this was an untreatable, an uncurable prognosis, and so this man’s hope of restoration to a life that was lost to leprosy was certainly quite dim. This disease was destroying this man’s life, and not just his body, but his whole life. Leprosy, today as well but certainly then, was more than a dreaded sickness. It was a sentence of social alienation. The fear of contamination, the disgust, not knowing how to treat it, led to social removal, isolation.

In fact, I was fascinated to discover from Mike and did some reading on the internet as well that even here in the United States we had what was called a leprosarium, a hospital, a colony if you will, for persons dealing with leprosy in Louisiana, that was only closed down in the 90s, where people were committed to be isolated, cared for, but isolated by this disease.

You see it referred to in the Levitical code. There’s actually two whole chapters in Leviticus dealing with how to deal with people who were affected by leprosy, Leviticus chapter 13 and chapter 14. Leviticus 13:45 and 46 says this: “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose and he shall cover his upper lip and go around crying out before him, ‘unclean, unclean’ and he shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone and his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

And so in a brief read-over in our Bible reading plan, we might miss the total utter shock that it would have been for the community surrounding this man to see this interaction that’s taking shape before us on this page. There is something majorly wrong with this picture. This man shouldn’t be coming to Jesus. He really shouldn’t be coming to anybody. He’s unclean. Unless he’s already been cleansed, he should be outside the camp. He should be crying “unclean, keep away from me” not “if you are willing, You can make me clean.” And Jesus should be running the other way, and yet he came to Him, Mark tells us.

There was some reason why this particular man hope. He had perhaps heard of the miracle working, the power that went out from his Nazarene man, the healings that he had done, confident that Jesus was able to provide the healing that he needed, and even perhaps seeing in the way that He treated and related to broken and needy people, hoping that perhaps this Jesus would have mercy on him and bring healing to him, that Jesus would exhort His power to bring healing in his life. And so there he is, running to Jesus, and breaking all the norms, and throwing out this question, phrased as a statement, but it was really a question, isn’t it? “If you will, you can make me clean.”

And I wonder if we can imagine this morning just how much was riding on that moment, to just put ourselves, situate ourselves there for a second, as that man, or even as somebody just looking on. Wow, this is unusual. If you will, you can make me clean. How much was riding, for that man, on that moment. What would Jesus do? Would he respond? How would He heal? What if Jesus said no? Certainly we might assume this man was in a desperate place, perhaps his last hope.

Most of us aren’t like Mike Johnson and probably don’t personally know anybody affected by leprosy. Leprosy is a long way from touching most of us here in a tangible way in Matthews, North Carolina in February of 2019, but suffering isn’t. Suffering touches all of us. It may be a bad diagnosis, it may be chronic pain or an estranged relationship, disability, ongoing financial struggles, depression, abuse, perhaps a sick child or a sick parent. But they affect us in similar ways: Loneliness, isolation from our community, fear and anxiety, physical pain, mental distress, hopelessness, maybe even some bitterness or envy or resentment.

But what we shouldn’t miss as we look at this man’s response and consider our own is that suffering does not leave us unaffected. It could be a headache or a heart attack or a heartbreak or a major setback, but suffering does not leave us unaffected. Suffering sends us seeking – Seeking relief, seeking comfort, seeking answers, seeking encouragement and hope, crying out “fix it, would somebody please just fix it” or “somebody make me at least believe that it will be fixed” or perhaps “at least numb me up enough so that I don’t feel it.”

And I wonder where we run when we go seeking. Where does suffering send you? To the medicine cabinet perhaps, or to the refrigerator, to a friend, or a spouse. Do you run to the office? Or to the lake house to success? Perhaps in the classroom, to social media? Do you run looking for answers in philosophy or hope in politics?

The desire for relief when we are experiencing suffering isn’t wrong in itself, it’s a normal prompt. In fact, suffering, we could say, should actually send us seeking. We don’t know all the places that this man in this story before us has tried before, but where we pick up in his story is instructive for us at this point because he shows us where suffering should ultimately send us.

Christianity, unlike some other religions, doesn’t, it doesn’t teach us that we should pretend that suffering isn’t there. Nor does it teach us that we should just try to go on suffering in some kind of stoic silence. It certainly doesn’t teach us that we ought to seek out pain for pain’s sake because there is something inherently noble about hurting, manifesting some kind of martyr’s complex.

This interaction with this man and Jesus reminds us that Christianity teaches that it’s not wrong to desire or even to seek relief. Jesus doesn’t chastise the man for coming for help. And there’s certainly morally right immediately needs, for relieving some of the symptoms of suffering that we experience in this life.

But Christianity teaches us that ultimately, ultimately speaking, our suffering, whether it’s what we experience ourselves or what we see others experiencing around us, ought to send us to Jesus. Our suffering ought to send us to Jesus. Which leaves us with a question that this interaction helps to give some answer for, is what would Jesus do when we come? What would Jesus do?

We already know what He does for this man, of course, we’ve read the passage. But let’s look at Jesus’ response and see that Jesus is sympathetic to sufferers. It’s interesting, isn’t it, what Jesus does not do here. He doesn’t say “yuck! Would you just please get away! Maybe you haven’t read Leviticus 13. Why don’t you stand way over there while I read it to you. You didn’t even yell ‘unclean,’ man, you didn’t give me a chance.'”

No. What does He do? He sees this disfigured, broken man before Him and He’s moved not with revulsion, but with pity, compassion. The Greek word describes like a visceral, gut-level, stomach churning kind of reaction. Some manuscripts even use another word to describe anger, not to the man but to the suffering that he’s experiencing. This is not just like an “aww, that’s just too bad, click the next link, or roll the sports highlights, wasn’t that a sad story.” This is a stomach turning, gut wrenching, this is not right, stop you in your tracks kind of response from Jesus and sometimes we just need to know that.

We need to know that our suffering is seen, that it matters, that He really does notice your suffering and it matters to Him. We don’t just see that just here in the gospels, we’ve already it in our Old Testament reading this morning, but again I was just reading through my Bible plan and came through Exodus just this past week and Exodus chapter 3 it says this. You know the story. God sends Moses to the suffering Israelites in Egypt and he says “Then the Lord said ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and I’ve heard their cry because of their task masters. I know their sufferings.”

Later in verse 16: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, has appeared to me,” Moses says, “saying I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.”

And this is the God we see revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Not some disconnected, disinterested, disengaged deity. Jesus looks at the man, He sees him and His heart breaks, and His response doesn’t stop with just a strong kind of gut feeling, but it follows through with a touch, a firm touch. He reaches out His hand, places it on the man, and touches him, and now things are getting really weird with this scene playing out in front of us, because you just didn’t do that. According to the religious ceremonial laws of the Jewish community, Jesus was not supposed to touch this man. You touch someone who’s unclean, and the result is they don’t become clean, you become unclean yourself. That’s why the Pharisees, the most zealous religious purists of the day, had constructed elaborate systems to keep themselves and those affected by leprosy separated, to control this threat of contamination and uncleanliness.

And so here Jesus is breaking all of these norms, reaching out and touching the man right on his leprous skin. And you can imagine the horror of the crowd. What is Jesus doing? What is He doing?

And the truth is He didn’t have to. Jesus didn’t have to touch this man to heal him. He’s healed many others already and will again without ever having physical contact. This wasn’t some kind of magical recipe, “well, I gotta do this if I want to heal him.” No, that’s not the reason. Why here does He touch this man? We might wonder how long has it been since this man had been touched, experienced human touch.

Thankfully, most of us here have no idea how needy we are of human touch because we get it all the time. There may be some young moms in the room who think “I get more than enough touching, some time out would be helpful, please.”

Kent Hughes is one of the, a commentator, who writes about this, relates a story of a man he came across who part of his suffering was just isolation and loneliness and this man would actually go and get a haircut every single week. That would be bad news for somebody like me, but perhaps this man had a fuller head of hair. Would go and get a haircut every single week simply, he told Kent, so he could feel human touch.

And we know that medically speaking, human touch is significant for human development, significant developmental problems, even to the point of the potential of death, can occur when babies are deprived of human touch, even if everything else is provided for them.

And we wonder how many years has it been since this man felt a human hand upon his skin? Imagine what that would have been like.

See, the reality her is we’re looking at this story is that Jesus did not need to touch that man, but that man needed Jesus to touch him. And you get the sense here that Jesus couldn’t help Himself, which is actually part of what’s so powerful about this account, what’s so instructive for us about this interaction is that this was a real, instinctual, immediate response. This was not some photo-op, political stunt staged by Jesus to improve His followers or increase His ratings in the polls. Jesus is just responding to what He encounters in this kneeling man before Him and the basic human needs He sees, and Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In Him all the fullness of the deity dwells, and so His compassion here was not some human edition tacked on to the divine heart, it wasn’t the enfleshment of human weakness. This was the enfleshment of the divine life and the divine heart worked out in human experience, and it tells us what God is like.

This is what T. F. Torrance says, not is relation to this but it’s, it applies: “There is, in fact, no God behind the back of Jesus. No act of God other than the act of Jesus. No God but the God that we see and meet in Him. Jesus Christ is the open heart of God, the very love and life of God poured out to redeem humankind, the mighty hand and power of God stretched out to heal and save sinners. All things are in God’s hands, but the hands of God and the hands of Jesus, in life and in death, are the same.”

I kind of wish I had written that. That’s good. It reminds us we ask questions about suffering, suffering whether we experience it ourselves or see it in others, suffering raises questions. What is the relationship between God and our pain? And Jesus is showing us here that whatever else we might say about the relationship between God and our pain, our hurt, our suffering, whatever questions we might not be able to tie up with a neat bow as we look into scripture, we can be sure about this: That God cares about our hurt. The God revealed to us is Jesus Christ cares about your suffering.

Whatever else we might say about God and the problem of pain, we cannot say that He was not there, that He is not there, or that He does not care, because there He is, down in it with us.

You know, it’s not an uncommon thing, you might have heard somebody say this, or you might have actually said it yourself at some point. “You know, if I were God,” and then you fill in whatever you, what magnanimous thing you would do if you were God, but it actually raises another interesting question, if I were God.

You know, we were born into suffering. We actually cannot avoid it. But what if we weren’t? What if we were not thrust into suffering by default? What if entering into suffering had to be a choice? Would you get down in it? If you could totally avoid it yourself, would you get close to suffering knowing that getting close to suffering meant suffering for yourself, if you could stay removed? Because God did. We’ll say it again: Jesus Christ is the open heart of God, the very love and life of God poured out to redeem humankind, the mighty hand and the power of God stretched out to heal and to save sinners. So we have to say, of all the other things we could say, of all the other questions we could ask, when it comes to our suffering, we have to say God cares.

And also that He can. Because Jesus said to him “I will. Be clean” an immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean. “I will. Be clean” Jesus says. It’s a pronouncement not like that of the priest who could only look and see what had already been done and make a pronouncement: “I see that you have been cleaned, I see that you have been made clean.” But that is not this pronouncement. Jesus is not saying what has already happened, Jesus is saying what is going to happen because of what He is going to do, and immediately, Mark tells us, the leprosy left him and he was made clean. Not eventually, not over time, ensures that this was no ordinary medicinal natural healing… This was a miracle.

And I don’t know about you, when you hear those kinds of things as you read them, I start wondering what, maybe, what did this look like? Had to be noticeable. And I can’t help but imagine like a Disney scene, and I know this wasn’t what it looked like, but you know Cinderella is there in her rags and then the bippity bop, bippity boop, wave of the wand and the magic pixie dust twirls around and the beautiful dress emerges and the smudges disappear.

Probably not with the sparkles, but you can be sure that it was clear, something significant had happened. This man was unclean. This man’s skin was covered with leprosy and in an instant he’s clean. Gone.

And Jesus sends the man to those priests who could declare but not make someone clean so that he could be restored to his life and his community.

And so we could stop here if we wanted to be little cynical this morning and say “well, that’s great, it sure worked out for that guy. Happy for him, but what about the rest of us? Twenty centuries later we still have leprosy in the world. People are still suffering from pain, hardship, isolation. What does it mean for those people, and for us? What does this interaction mean for us? What does it have to do with us?

Jesus is still able to fix the temporary struggles that we face, and sometimes He does that. He does not despise our coming. He doesn’t despise our asking for healing from our temporary ailments and struggles. Jesus is always able, and He is always listening to us. He doesn’t despise your asking, but He clearly does not always say “yes,” at least not to our physical suffering.

And the real problem, of course, is that even when Jesus does deliver us from some temporary problem, inevitably another temporary problem springs up in its place. ‘Cause we don’t know, we don’t hear from this man again, we don’t have the rest of his story recorded for us, but we can be sure of this, that though even this man was temporarily cured, relieved of his leprosy, that eventually somewhere down the line, some days after this, there was a funeral for that man, and what do we do with that?

Well, let’s press on into this interaction because something strange happens here that gives us some kind of clue as to how we relate that to where we are today. Look at this strange command Jesus gives in verse 43. So Jesus has healed him, this stupendous miracle has occurred, and now He says “see that you go and say nothing to anyone.” Don’t tell anybody. Literally, the Greek says “see to no one nothing you say.” Sounds a little bit like Yoda. [laughter] And we would probably say today “Jesus, you, you’re great, but you kinda blew the PR opportunity here, Jesus. Have you not heard of the potential of social media? Perhaps you should consider hiring a social media manager to help you run your campaign. You need to get this kind of thing out, Jesus. You should be broadcasting every single time, every baby that you hold, every midwestern farmer’s hand that you shake, every veterans’ group that you get to… You need to make sure that people know about this, Jesus.” This is strange.

Why wouldn’t He want anybody to know? We’re seeing here one instance of what some scholars refer to as the Messianic secret, which sounds a little bit like the title of a Dan Brown book, but it is here in Mark’s Gospel, not without exception, but basically the first half of Mark’s Gospel, until we reach the point of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ and we see this final turn towards Jerusalem where Jesus makes it clear to His disciples “this is who I am and what I have come to do,” that there is this kind of masking. Jesus regularly instructing people that he has healed and even demons not to speak of who He is or what He has done.

It’s a strange practice, and we might ask why. There are several suggestions. But we get a sense if we look back in Mark’s Gospel, just in chapter 1 to verse 14. It says “now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God and saying that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” This very introduction into Jesus’ public ministry begins this way. Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God is at hand.

And then later after healing many people in verse 38, Jesus says in response to His disciples’ concern “hey, Jesus, there’s a lot of people coming, we’ve some more healing to do today,” Jesus says “okay, let us go to the next town so that I may preach there also for this, that is why I came out, to preach.”

And Jesus is clearly moved by those who need temporary physical, social, or even psychological healing, but there is a priority, a clear priority, to His mission that Jesus could not afford and we could not afford for Jesus to be distracted from or lose sight of.

So Mark Dever says this about these instances in Mark: “His purpose was to shield Himself from the attention of the crowds long enough to teach the disciples what the Messiah had really come to do.”

And we need that help as well. We can lose track of that as well, because human physical, psychological, emotional, social suffering… Our suffering is so painfully pressing in on all of us that we have a tendency to focus on that, perhaps only on that to the exclusion of all other needs. To see and seek a solution for that problem, and that problem only. Jesus knew this. Jesus knew what He could do, and the threat that become to what He must do. This highlights for us the consequences of the disobedience of this man, even when it’s well-intentioned. We might be tempted to dismiss the significance that Jesus sternly charges him, “don’t go and tell other people about this, just go present yourself and be restored,” and the man actually does the opposite, goes and begins to blabber about all that Jesus has done for us, for him, and we might be tempted to dismiss the significance of that or significance of that or even to celebrate it. We can almost hardly blame the man. Surely Jesus wasn’t that serious about not telling people. Perhaps He was just being modest. At least we couldn’t think it would really be a problem. All the man wanted to do was celebrate what had happened, or maybe even point people in the same direction, or even at least give credit where credit is due.

But what is the result? Mark tells us the result is that He could no longer openly enter a town, but now was out in desolate places. People were coming to Him from every quarter, that is that He could no longer go in and preach the kingdom of God was at hand, repent and believe and the Good News because He was swarmed with understandable demands for temporary physical healing. It reminds us of the importance of understanding not just what Jesus wants to get done, but how He wants to get it done, and we need to seek that and understand it.

But it also reminds us about the fundamental work that Jesus came to do and the fundamental need of this particular man. It’s the fundamental need of us all. It reminds us that this man is not merely a man struggle with leprosy. This man is struggling with a deeper disease as well. It’s a universal disease. Leprosy actually was more than just a sickness and source of social isolazation. Leprosy was as symptom and also a symbol of a much deeper disease.

So Kent Hughes again says this: “Realizing then, that Christ’s miracles were parables, we must also note that leprosy was especially symbolic of sin. And the healing of it especially a parable of deliverance for sin. Though the leper was not worse or guiltier than his fellow countrymen, he was nevertheless a parable of sin, an outward visible sign of an innermost spiritual condition. The nature of leprosy with its insidious beginnings, its slow progress, its destructive power, and the ultimate power it brings makes it a powerful symbol of our moral depravity.”

It is unfortunate that over the course of history leprosy has often been causally connected to sin. That is to say that those who have leprosy must have sinned deeply, that’s why they have leprosy, and that should be flatly rejected. That is not what the Bible teaches. But that does not mean that leprosy itself as a disease cannot serve for us as a parable to instruct us about a disease that we all have, as it does here, to show us something about our sin, and our deepest need.

And so if we’re listening, Mark is showing us not just what Jesus is really like, but what sin is really like. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that sin is any want of conformity unto or any transgression of the law of God.

But the truth is we sin, we break God’s law, because we are first sinful, because we have a pervasive condition, something like a disease, a heartfelt, a heart attitude of rebellion against God, a commitment to do life on our own terms and for our own ends without any reference to go. That could actually look quite moral and still be a commitment to do life on our terms.

But leprosy, like leprosy, our sinfulness desensitizes us as it fleshes itself out in our lives. It disfigures and distorts our character and isolates us from each other, because it ultimately isolates us from God Himself.

So as it relates to sin, every person in this room is unclean. And in reporting this interaction, Mark is warning us to see that, he’s wanting to point us deeper in our understanding of ourselves and to our need for Jesus as well.

Because the truth is this: That God did not need to leave heaven to relieve this man of his leprosy. You might think of Naamaan in the Old Testament, and many other situations besides. God doesn’t need to leave heaven to heal physical diseases.

There is really only one disease that God could not heal from heaven, and that is sin, because there’s only one thing that God could not do from heaven, and that is die.

And so because His heart is always moved by the admission of need and the plea for help, Jesus reaches out and He touches this man and He heals him.

But Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is ultimately there in that town with His feet in the dirt and a human hand in the first place to reach out and touch this man with because He’s there for some much deeper purpose, to address a more fundamental sickness. To deal not with skin disease, but with our sin disease. In order to do that, God had to become vulnerable. Jesus had to be disfigured, He had to be cut off and isolated, He even had to be made unclean. And finally He had to die so that we could live.

And so in this surprising interaction then, we see a suffering man seeking Jesus out of his suffering, but the more astounding thing is that we also see God seeking suffering men. And that is something that He is still doing today, on February 3, 2019. In Christ, God reaches out and He touches us. He firmly embraces us in our desperate condition, openly and without reservation He puts His hand right on the very deepest places of guilt and hurt and shame and isolation, in order that we might become clean and be restored. He made Him, God made Him, Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the very righteousness of God, that is perfectly and completely and wholly clean. There is no deformity, there is no grotesque wound from sin that God will leave unhealed or uncleansed if we come to Christ in repentance and faith. To reconcile us to Himself and also to reconcile us to one another.

You know, the resurrection affirms for us the fact that Jesus died, went into the tomb, and then got out, is God’s stamp of approval that what Jesus did was sufficient, the resurrection affirms for us that Jesus is able to heal, that Jesus is able to clean, and the cross reminds us that this particular kind of healing is not one for which we must ever ask “are you willing?”

The cross is a forever affirmation that Jesus is willing to heal us of our deepest need.

So come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore, Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power. He is able, He is able, and He is willing, doubt no more.

So our invitation this morning is to come. Our invitation, this story is an invitation for us to come, to come with our suffering. Jesus does not despite your coming. He sees your suffering and He sympathizes with it. Jesus is able to heal and to restore. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and many times He will heal us. But He will not always say “yes” because comfort in this life is simply not His ultimate mission.

So come with your suffering, but also come with your sin.

That may be for some of us in this room for the very first time, to come to Jesus with your sin. Though we can never come too much, we can never exhaust the healing heart or the willing ability of our Savior to heal us from our sin. This is healing work that He is always willing and always able to do.

Most of all this morning we just, we want to see Jesus. That is what I need on a February morning. I trust that for many of you that is what you need, to see Jesus, to see Jesus, that we would seek Jesus, that we would understand that suffering can be a gift to us as it prompts us to seek Jesus, to cause us to see Jesus with greater clarity, to cause us to seek Jesus with greater earnestness, and to cause us to stick with Jesus, even when our temporary needs and wants and desires go unmet, to stick with Jesus, because in Jesus, and in Jesus alone, God is seeking us.

We read earlier Exodus 3, verse 7, but the next verse can be very helpful for us as well. Exodus 3:7 and 8: Then the Lord said “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and I’ve heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I’ve come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians. I have come down to deliver them and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

“I have come down to deliver you.” And Isaiah tells us how: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our inequities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed.”

And so we may praise God this morning for Jesus Christ, the hand of God reaching out to save and heal suffering sinners like us.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for what You have done for us in Your Son Jesus Christ. This reminder of the Gospel, that You intend to heal all that troubles us as we come to You in Christ, and for those who trust You in Christ You most certainly will. And yet are reminded this morning of our deepest need, and that at that point You are seeking us. Thank You for showing us Jesus. I pray, Father, that all of us in this room, wherever we are, whether it’s for the first time, whether it’s at a place of deep personal suffering and pain, whether it’s again for our own sin, that we would seek Jesus. Call us to Jesus. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.