"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

6 Epiphany Proper 6B                            
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 1:40-45 Sermon                                             
February 15, 2009
 

WORD-OF MOUTH ADVERTISING

TEXT (vs. 43-45):  “
Jesus sent [the man cured of leprosy] away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
 

            When a manufacturer wants to introduce a new product on the market, one of the things they do beforehand is to do some consumer testing.  This can be any product—an allergy medication, weed killer, motor oil, or even a new candy bar for example.  This is a smart thing to do, because it gives people the opportunity to try a product and give some feedback before it ever hits the shelves.

            If the manufacturer gets some negative feedback in various areas, then they will attempt to correct the problem before it is sold to the public.  They want to be sure that any word-of-mouth about their product is good.

            When a product is actually sold, positive testimonials from customers are frequently used in advertising; and again these testimonials can be attached to about any product.  Many of these testimonials have come from the people who have tested the product before it has hit the market.

            All you need to do is look at a magazine ad, and you will often see some product or another praised by an assortment of unknown people like Mrs. R. C. from Seattle, or Mr. J. T. from Houston.

            This method of advertising is so much better than a manufacturer making claims as to how good their product is, because these words are from people who have actually used the product and have liked it.  This is viewed by the public as convincing proof that something works like it has been promised by the manufacturer.

            But the one form of advertising that is best of all, is what we know as word-of-mouth.  This form of advertising doesn’t cost the manufacturer anything, but is the most profitable for them.  When something works well for someone, they are naturally inclined to tell somebody else about it.  And if it works well for the next person, then they will tell somebody else, and so forth.  It’s the old snowball effect put into action.  Success or failure of a product or service is so often based upon the type of word-of-mouth advertising it receives.

            This is what we see happening in our Gospel lesson for today.  As our story begins, we find Jesus taking pity on a man who approaches him with leprosy.  He gets down on his knees and makes an appeal to Jesus to be cured.  He undoubtedly has heard the testimony of others about the healing miracles Jesus has been performing.  He might have even actually spoken to some of those who have been cured.  And so, with a faith that believed without a doubt that Jesus could cure him of his disease, he says to Jesus:  “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  The word-of-mouth advertising had worked; it brought this man to Jesus.

            Jesus of course was moved by this man’s plight.  Showing compassion on people was one thing Jesus did quite well.  It seemed like anytime someone was suffering and came to him for help, he obliged them—even the time when someone simply touched the hem of his garment.  When someone approached him in faith, they could be assured of his help.

            The man had been cured, and he was grateful.  All of the stories he had heard about Jesus were indeed true, and he was living proof of that.  Those who had known him would see that he had been cured, and of course he would be only to happy to tell them how that had happened.

            Leprosy, which we know today as Hansen’s disease is a bacterial type of infection that will ultimately cause irreparable damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.  The name “leprosy” comes from the Greek word “lepi” which means “scales of a fish.”  One of the main symptoms of the disease was the damage it did to a person’s skin.

            Today, leprosy can be successfully treated.  But even so, the disfiguring effects of it still remain.  However the way Jesus cured this man, all of the effects were gone as well.  As our text for today says, it happened immediately.  There was no recovery time.  He was made like he never had the disease in the first place.  So even by today’s standards, this was indeed a miracle.

            What happens now might seem just a little out of place, or out of character for Jesus.  He says in the first part of verse 44: See that you don't tell this to anyone.”  If we look just before this at the end of verse 43 here, it says that Jesus gave him a “strong warning.”  The Greek word used for “strong warning” is the word em-bri-mes-a-men-os” which literally means “snorting with indignation.”  So this command is stated in a very stern and serious manner, almost to the point of being angry.  The fact that this man is not to make this public knowledge cannot be mistaken, and Jesus couldn’t have been more serious about it.

            Now we need to understand why.  If we look at the second part of verse 44, we can begin to see part of what Jesus’ logic was.  He says, “But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."

            Jesus had done something he wasn’t supposed to do, at least according to Jewish law.  Jesus said to him, “be clean,” and not “be healed.”  The priest was the only one who could officially declare someone to be ceremonially clean, and yet Jesus did it.

            Jesus heals the leper, declares him clean and sends him to the priests as an act of confrontation.  In effect, Jesus is saying, “Look!  You would not declare him clean, so I have removed all trace of the disease.  Whether you declare him clean or not, I have already done so, and he is clean.  And now you will make him pay you for an offering!  This is indeed an offering to God - but it is a witness against you!”

            Jesus wanted to show the church officials that he was indeed the promised Saviour, the Messiah of the Old Testament.  He wanted this miracle to be a specific witness to these people, and not to the general public.  That’s why he gave this man such a stern warning not to make any announcement to the general public.

            But as things go, Jesus’ strategy backfired.  Verse 45 tells us, Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.”   And who can really blame the man?  After all, he had a debilitating disease.  He had been ostracized from the community.  He had been declared unclean for so many years.  And now the disease had been eradicated from his life.  Common sense almost dictates that this man would tell everybody he could.

            And that’s what he did.  The result of this is recorded in the last part of verse 45, As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

            The man meant well, but his well-intentioned judgment was mistaken.  He listened to his own heart instead of the Lord's command.  He disobeyed Jesus' command and inadvertently hindered the Lord's work.

            Jesus was indeed popular, but unfortunately he had become popular to many people for the wrong reasons.  People were frequently looking to him as being someone who could feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide them with a comfortable earthly existence.  Their perception of him often didn’t go any further than that.

            Very rarely did people look to Jesus for salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Even his most faithful disciples did not truly begin to understand all of this until after Jesus rose from the dead.  It is this confusion about the true nature of the Christ that caused Jesus to instruct people to keep it to themselves when he healed their bodies.

            I think this same thing happens today.  People want a Jesus who will give them earthly wealth and success.  And sadly there are those out there who preach about a Jesus who acts like the genie in Alladin’s magic lamp.  Or they talk about a Jesus who did nothing more than serve as a good moral example for us to follow.  Jesus just loved and accepted everybody, and that’s what we need to do to go to heaven. 

            But this is not the Jesus we see in the Bible.  Certainly he was a good teacher and a great moral example, but that is only incidental to his real ministry.  Jesus came into a world of sin to be the world’s Saviour.  He came to heal the disease of sin that has infected every human being since creation, and will continue to infect every human being in the future.  He came so that the disease of sin would not only be cured, but be completely eradicated from every believer’s soul. 

            When Jesus told the leper he had healed not to tell anybody, it was because people would be inclined to see only the superficial benefits, and neglect the true spiritual reason for his coming to earth.  Had the leper gone out and told people about their Saviour from sin, things would have been far different.  But instead, he just told them about this Jesus who had healed him, and nothing more.  And as a result, people began to seek him as the miracle worker, and not as the Saviour.

            Jesus' main goal was the forgiveness of sins—your sins—my sins—the sins of the entire world.  His method was a perfect life, followed by suffering and death on a cross.  In Mark chapter 1 verse 15 we see that his main message was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."  His mission was a rescue mission from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

            And so we come to him, sinners in need of his healing touch.  We come to him, not looking for some sort of magic lamp that will grant our earthly wishes, but for the heavenly blessings he promises.  We come to him like that leper, with the faith that he will not only heal us, but make us clean and fit for God’s eternal kingdom.  We come to him so he will take us and make us into a new creation in his holy image.

            So what has Jesus done in our lives?  How have we been blest?  Has he taken our hearts that have been calcified with the shell of sin and worked the miracle of faith?

            We need to learn a lesson from our Gospel lesson today.  Word-of-mouth advertising really does work.  We have many blessings that we can share.  Just as God has worked the miracle of faith in our lives, so he will work in the lives of others. 

            The command of Jesus we have is different than he gave the leper, because he has a different purpose for us.  In Mark chapter 16 verse 15 Jesus tells us:  “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  And in Psalm chapter 96 verse 2 God tells us: “Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”

            And so may we go forth and faithfully tell others about the true Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is the Christ who was crucified for our sins and rose on the third day.  The Jesus of the Bible is the one who saves us from our sins in spite of the fact that there is no goodness in us.  The Jesus of the Bible is the only one who saves us from our sins.  Apart from him, there is no other Saviour.  The Jesus of the Bible is about the pure grace of our eternal welfare, and not the glory of our earthly popularity and success.  And just remember, word-of-mouth advertising really does work.  It worked at the time of Jesus; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it will work just as well today.

WORD-OF MOUTH ADVERTISING

TEXT (vs. 43-45):“Jesus sent [the man cured of leprosy] away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

When a manufacturer wants to introduce a new product on the market, one of the things they do beforehand is to do some consumer testing.This can be any product—an allergy medication, weed killer, motor oil, or even a new candy bar for example.This is a smart thing to do, because it gives people the opportunity to try a product and give some feedback before it ever hits the shelves.

If the manufacturer gets some negative feedback in various areas, then they will attempt to correct the problem before it is sold to the public.They want to be sure that any word-of-mouth about their product is good.

When a product is actually sold, positive testimonials from customers are frequently used in advertising; and again these testimonials can be attached to about any product.Many of these testimonials have come from the people who have tested the product before it has hit the market.

All you need to do is look at a magazine ad, and you will often see some product or another praised by an assortment of unknown people like Mrs. R. C. from Seattle, or Mr. J. T. from Houston.

This method of advertising is so much better than a manufacturer making claims as to how good their product is, because these words are from people who have actually used the product and have liked it.This is viewed by the public as convincing proof that something works like it has been promised by the manufacturer.

But the one form of advertising that is best of all, is what we know as word-of-mouth.This form of advertising doesn’t cost the manufacturer anything, but is the most profitable for them.When something works well for someone, they are naturally inclined to tell somebody else about it.And if it works well for the next person, then they will tell somebody else, and so forth.It’s the old snowball effect put into action.Success or failure of a product or service is so often based upon the type of word-of-mouth advertising it receives.

This is what we see happening in our Gospel lesson for today.As our story begins, we find Jesus taking pity on a man who approaches him with leprosy.He gets down on his knees and makes an appeal to Jesus to be cured.He undoubtedly has heard the testimony of others about the healing miracles Jesus has been performing.He might have even actually spoken to some of those who have been cured.And so, with a faith that believed without a doubt that Jesus could cure him of his disease, he says to Jesus:“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”The word-of-mouth advertising had worked; it brought this man to Jesus.

Jesus of course was moved by this man’s plight.Showing compassion on people was one thing Jesus did quite well.It seemed like anytime someone was suffering and came to him for help, he obliged them—even the time when someone simply touched the hem of his garment.When someone approached him in faith, they could be assured of his help.

The man had been cured, and he was grateful.All of the stories he had heard about Jesus were indeed true, and he was living proof of that.Those who had known him would see that he had been cured, and of course he would be only to happy to tell them how that had happened.

Leprosy, which we know today as Hansen’s disease is a bacterial type of infection that will ultimately cause irreparable damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.The name “leprosy” comes from the Greek word “lepi” which means “scales of a fish.”One of the main symptoms of the disease was the damage it did to a person’s skin.

Today, leprosy can be successfully treated.But even so, the disfiguring effects of it still remain.However the way Jesus cured this man, all of the effects were gone as well.As our text for today says, it happened immediately.There was no recovery time.He was made like he never had the disease in the first place.So even by today’s standards, this was indeed a miracle.

What happens now might seem just a little out of place, or out of character for Jesus.He says in the first part of verse 44: See that you don't tell this to anyone.”If we look just before this at the end of verse 43 here, it says that Jesus gave him a “strong warning.”The Greek word used for “strong warning” is the word em-bri-mes-a-men-os” which literally means “snorting with indignation.”So this command is stated in a very stern and serious manner, almost to the point of being angry.The fact that this man is not to make this public knowledge cannot be mistaken, and Jesus couldn’t have been more serious about it.

Now we need to understand why.If we look at the second part of verse 44, we can begin to see part of what Jesus’ logic was.He says, “But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."

Jesus had done something he wasn’t supposed to do, at least according to Jewish law.Jesus said to him, “be clean,” and not “be healed.”The priest was the only one who could officially declare someone to be ceremonially clean, and yet Jesus did it.

Jesus heals the leper, declares him clean and sends him to the priests as an act of confrontation.In effect, Jesus is saying, “Look! You would not declare him clean, so I have removed all trace of the disease. Whether you declare him clean or not, I have already done so, and he is clean. And now you will make him pay you for an offering! This is indeed an offering to God - but it is a witness against you!”

Jesus wanted to show the church officials that he was indeed the promised Saviour, the Messiah of the Old Testament.He wanted this miracle to be a specific witness to these people, and not to the general public.That’s why he gave this man such a stern warning not to make any announcement to the general public.

But as things go, Jesus’ strategy backfired.Verse 45 tells us, Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.”And who can really blame the man?After all, he had a debilitating disease.He had been ostracized from the community.He had been declared unclean for so many years.And now the disease had been eradicated from his life.Common sense almost dictates that this man would tell everybody he could.

And that’s what he did.The result of this is recorded in the last part of verse 45, As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

The man meant well, but his well-intentioned judgment was mistaken. He listened to his own heart instead of the Lord's command. He disobeyed Jesus' command and inadvertently hindered the Lord's work.

Jesus was indeed popular, but unfortunately he had become popular to many people for the wrong reasons.People were frequently looking to him as being someone who could feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide them with a comfortable earthly existence.Their perception of him often didn’t go any further than that.

Very rarely did people look to Jesus for salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Even his most faithful disciples did not truly begin to understand all of this until after Jesus rose from the dead. It is this confusion about the true nature of the Christ that caused Jesus to instruct people to keep it to themselves when he healed their bodies.

I think this same thing happens today.People want a Jesus who will give them earthly wealth and success.And sadly there are those out there who preach about a Jesus who acts like the genie in Alladin’s magic lamp.Or they talk about a Jesus who did nothing more than serve as a good moral example for us to follow.Jesus just loved and accepted everybody, and that’s what we need to do to go to heaven.

But this is not the Jesus we see in the Bible.Certainly he was a good teacher and a great moral example, but that is only incidental to his real ministry.Jesus came into a world of sin to be the world’s Saviour.He came to heal the disease of sin that has infected every human being since creation, and will continue to infect every human being in the future.He came so that the disease of sin would not only be cured, but be completely eradicated from every believer’s soul.

When Jesus told the leper he had healed not to tell anybody, it was because people would be inclined to see only the superficial benefits, and neglect the true spiritual reason for his coming to earth.Had the leper gone out and told people about their Saviour from sin, things would have been far different.But instead, he just told them about this Jesus who had healed him, and nothing more.And as a result, people began to seek him as the miracle worker, and not as the Saviour.

Jesus' main goal was the forgiveness of sins—your sins—my sins—the sins of the entire world. His method was a perfect life, followed by suffering and death on a cross. In Mark chapter 1 verse 15 we see that his main message was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." His mission was a rescue mission from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

And so we come to him, sinners in need of his healing touch.We come to him, not looking for some sort of magic lamp that will grant our earthly wishes, but for the heavenly blessings he promises.We come to him like that leper, with the faith that he will not only heal us, but make us clean and fit for God’s eternal kingdom.We come to him so he will take us and make us into a new creation in his holy image.

So what has Jesus done in our lives?How have we been blest?Has he taken our hearts that have been calcified with the shell of sin and worked the miracle of faith?

We need to learn a lesson from our Gospel lesson today.Word-of-mouth advertising really does work.We have many blessings that we can share.Just as God has worked the miracle of faith in our lives, so he will work in the lives of others.

The command of Jesus we have is different than he gave the leper, because he has a different purpose for us.In Mark chapter 16 verse 15 Jesus tells us: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”And in Psalm chapter 96 verse 2 God tells us: “Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”

And so may we go forth and faithfully tell others about the true Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is the Christ who was crucified for our sins and rose on the third day. The Jesus of the Bible is the one who saves us from our sins in spite of the fact that there is no goodness in us. The Jesus of the Bible is the only one who saves us from our sins.Apart from him, there is no other Saviour. The Jesus of the Bible is about the pure grace of our eternal welfare, and not the glory of our earthly popularity and success.And just remember, word-of-mouth advertising really does work.It worked at the time of Jesus; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it will work just as well today.









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