Jesus and a Desperate Man

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Note on sermon preached  8 August 2010 on Luke 5 v 12-16

One of the features of the gospel  of Luke is the dazzling array of ordinary people that encounter Jesus, and his interaction with them. Here we encounter a man who had lost all hope in life, until he met Jesus

1. A Dreadful Picture

One of the most horrific sights of the world in the day of Jesus was a leper who, as in this case, had full leprosy.

The commentator William Hendrickson writes:

“As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty sores and ulcers due to poor blood supply. The skin, especially round the eyes and ears begins to bunch with deep furrows between the swelling so that face of the afflicted individual begins to resemble that of a lion. Fingers drop off or are absorbed into tumours. Toes are affected similarly. Eyebrows and eyelashes drop out. By this time one can see that the person is a leper. By a touch of the finger one can feel that he is a leper. One can even smell that he is a leper for he emits a very unpleasant odour. Moreover in view of the fact that disease attacks the larynx his voice acquires a grating quality, His throat becomes hoarse and you can not only smell feel and see the leper, you can hear it in his voice. “

Excluded from all human contact, other than other lepers, excluded from worship, from family life, society and comfort, those who had this terrible disease were known as the living dead.

This particular disease is not common in our society now. But there are others which carry pain in exclusion almost to the same degree. Or it may be that someone’s health is perfect, but there are other areas of someone’s life that bring them to desperation – finance, relationship problems, concern over loved ones. Whatever the particular circumstances, this part of God’s word shows us that there is no one whose situation is so desperate that they are outside of the ability of God to rescue them.

But above all this desperate picture is a picture of the man or woman outside of Christ, who is carrying the horrific burden of rebellion against god around with them.

2. A Desperate Plea

What do you do when you are in desperate situation. This man provides the model response. Oblivous to ridicule, embarrassment and shame, he pours himself   out at the feet of Jesus. Note that he bows at his feet in surrender and submission. And his cry is in fact a statement of faith.”If you are willing, you can make me clean”

Have you ever reached that state of desperation before God where you know that unless God intervenes you are undone, and there is no hope for you? It is when we reach that stage that we are candidates for God’s mercy to reach us.

3. A Dynamic Provision

Whenever a person cries out to God in desperation and submission the answer is always the same: ”I am willing”. The fact is that there is no part of our life where we can become so far away that God can not reach us. This applies even to those areas where we are in a desperate state through our own fault.

The way in Jesus responds to our need will vary from case to case; in this case there is total, instantaneous and miraculous healing. In other cases God may delay a work of restoration, as in the case of Job, and in others he may provide supernatural grace to stand in the trial (as in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh). But we need to understand that when we come to Jesus as this leper did, there is no situation in which Jesus will not meet us in our need.

Similarly there is no sinner who is too unclean, too unworthy or too morally corrupt to be cleansed by Jesus. As the hymn says “his blood can make the foulest clean”. If there is anyone reading this who is not a Christian, the way forward is to cast yourself at the feet of jesus to plead for his mercy. And his response will be to make you clean from your sin.

4. A Definite Prohibition

On the surface of it, the command of Jesus not to tell anyone seems odd. But Jesus was keen to ensure that His Father received glory rather than Himself. The command to tell the religious leaders was compliance with the law. It was only the priest who had that ability to re-admit this man into society. Of course, the man would have to start a new life, find a job and pick up a new place in society.  Sometimes   having God work in our lives can bring its challenges!

5. A Daily Practice

The passage ends with Luke’s recurring observation of the secret of the daily power of Jesus. He spent time alone with His Heavenly Father. Whatever else went on, this was a non-negotiable. Is it so with you?


This passage shows us a dynamic encounter of a desperate man with Jesus. It gives encouragement to all of us who may reach rock bottom, that there is  nothing at all that he can not help us with. However, the greatest need that any has or ever will have is the sin problem. The death of Jesus on the cross means that the price has been fully paid for anyone who would willingly come to Jesus and say “If you want to you can make me clean” . For anyone who would do that, the answer is: “I am willing. Be clean”

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