Better! – September 6, 2015


Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23         Mark 7:24-37


          The former CBS

newsman…Hugh Rudd…got home late one night after presenting the late news.  He was let off by a taxi at his home on the

East Side of New York City.  As he

stepped away from the cab…four scruffy-looking youths surrounded him and said,

“Give us your money.”  He did.  Then one of them took a pistol and beat him

over the head.  Rudd fell into the

gutter…just a few steps from home.  For

seven hours on the fashionable East Side of New York…he lay on that

street.  He was semi-conscious.  A whole parade of people went by:  milkmen…people coming home from

parties…people going out to work on the early shift.  As they passed by him…Rudd kept saying…”Help

me, help me.”  They would shrug and look

the other way.  His wife…quite

worried…finally called the police.  They

arrived and found him at 7:00 the next morning.


Compassion and caring were not popular in Bible times.  They are not popular today.  In fact…it’s not hard to find someone who

says, “Why bother?”…or…“I don’t have time.”…or…”That person is not like


Mark’s story of Jesus’ “deep sigh” is…however…a healing balm…because of the compassion

it shows.   Jesus’ sigh comes from his

deep feeling for the poor man…even though Jesus knew exactly what he was going

to do for him in the next few seconds. 

This is the way Jesus always was.  At Lazarus’ tomb…John (11:33) wrote…”When

Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping,

he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

The word for “deeply moved in spirit” came from the ancient Greek word

that described a horse snorting.  Here it

described Jesus’ involuntary gasp.  Then,

he went on to weep for them.  Such

compassion.  Perhaps…when he got the poor

deaf and dumb man alone…when he saw closely the devastation…his shyness…his

crumpled ego…hurt upon hurt upon hurt…it was then that he sighed in

compassion.  Perhaps the sigh was also

for what lay behind it: man’s sin…the fallen creation…the Devil’s work. 

What our scripture is teaching is that Christ’s compassion

was part of his healing process for the world.

Those of us who desire to minister Christ’s healing must also share his

compassion for hurting humanity.  There

is a hurting world out there…with thousands who are hurting every bit as

much…or more…than the deaf man.  We need

to go to them “with a deep sigh.” 

George Eliot wrote, “If we had a keen vision and feeling of

all ordinary human life…it would be like hearing the grass grow and the

squirrel’s heart beat…and we should die of that roar which lies on the other

side of silence.”  None of us…who

are  believers…are meant to go through

life with dry eyes.  We need to be like

Jesus…and Jeremiah…who said…”Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes

a fountain of tears.” (Jeremiah 9:1) 

The world Hugh Rudd experienced that night is the real

world.  But…Christ’s sigh is just as real.  When the church sighs like him…in

genuine compassion…power comes to those who hurt.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn….”    And, “Blessed are the merciful.”  (Matthew 5:4, 7) 

Are we compassionate people?  Have we ever wept over the deformed?  Have we ever sorrowed over a life distorted

by sin?  Have we done anything about

it?  Does the evening news sometimes make

us cry?  Do we sigh over divorce?  Poverty?

Abortion?  Broken relationships?  Homeless refugees?  Homeless neighbors?  Are we tender and caring?  If we are deficient here…we need to pray for


It is significant that Jesus looked to Heaven and then sighed.  When we truly and fully look to heaven…we can

see the world through the Father’s eyes…as it is…and as it could be. 

Jesus never backed away from laying his hand on hurting

humanity.  On one occasion…a  man full of leprosy…loathsome…lion-like… grotesque…came

and lay prostrate at Jesus’ feet.  Jesus

looked on him as the man had never before been viewed.  According to Marks’ gospel…Christ was moved

with compassion indicating that Jesus was so touched by what he saw that he

touched the man.   Perhaps it had been

twenty or even thirty years since the leper had been touched by a non-leprous

hand or had received any touch…gentle or otherwise.  Now he received the touch of Christ.  The word used is often translated as “to take

hold of.”  Jesus…at the very least…placed

his hand firmly on the leper. 

How beautiful Christ is.

He could have just spoken a word or simply willed it.  But he chose to lay his hand on the poor man

in front of the multitude.  The onlookers

and the disciples were shocked.  Jesus

was now ceremonially unclean.   To their

way of thinking…he might catch the disease.

Why did Jesus do it?  There are

perhaps several reasons.  Reaching out…of

course…was the instinct of his loving heart.

But he also wanted to clear away any fears the man had.  He wanted the leper to feel his willingness

and sympathy.  The touch said…”I’m with

you.  I understand.” 

Those were the human reasons…but there was an overshadowing

theological reason.  The touch of his

pure hand on the rotting leper is the parable of the Incarnation.  Jesus in the Incarnation took on flesh…became

sin for us…and thus gave us his purity.

“God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…that we might

become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Jesus touched us and healed us.  Here Jesus’ handling of the deaf man…his

fingers thrust in his ears…his spittle anointing the man’s flopping tongue…was

instinctive and natural.  True compassion

doesn’t’ just feel.  It reaches out. 


If we are to minister…there must be touch.

Historically…this is where the established Church of England blew

it.  John Wesley came with a heart for

the poor…those outside the Church whose needs were not being met.  The Church was so repulsed by Wesley and his

methods that Wesley had to take to the fields…ministering and touching people

where they were.  Almost 200 years later

General Booth found a similar rejection by the Church and society in general as

he ministered to the urban poor in London.

As a result…he was forced to found the Salvation Army. 

Practicing evangelism or outreach which shies away from real contact with sin and pain has

no effect.  The surest way to harden our

heart is to fail to do something when we feel compassion.  Coldness and hypocrisy are the result.  The ring of truth is noticeably absent from

such lives. 

The hands-on touch is absolutely necessary to health…and wholeness…to authentic

Christianity.  While we must send

missionaries… and we must give money to the Church and to missions…we cannot

touch by proxy.  When faced with a need

right before him…Jesus did not ask Peter to be his surrogate hands.  Neither did he throw money at the

need…thinking that would fix things…and be sufficient involvement.  The question for us is…are we reaching out to

others…truly touching them in their misery?

Are we giving time to listen to the needs of others?  Are we willing to be uncomfortable to help

others?  Do we ever run the danger of

getting dirty in the process?   That is

what made Francis Schaeffer the great American theologian what he was.  He wrote about theology and he wrote about

compassion.  But the real genius in his

life lay in his touch. 

The story goes that at one time Schaeffer had a successful architect friend who had

“dropped out” during the disillusionment of the 1960s.  He had not yet come to Christ, and he said,

“I don’t know if what Francis Schaeffer is telling me about Christianity is

true or not.  But I do know this, that man

loves me.”  This was Christ’s touch

through Francis Schaeffer.  Later that architect

became a believer. 

Let us bring it all together…the look…the sigh…the touch…and the word.  God’s Word is enough.  It can do it alone.  But God has chosen to minister through people who pray…who are compassionate…and who are willing to get their hands dirty…who

truly reach out.  This is Jesus’ lesson

to us who would reach our hurting world.

Jesus was in profound communion with God.  He had exhaled a sigh of deep compassion over

the man.  His hands…his very saliva…had

anointed the man…and then he spoke… “be opened.”  Those words sailed through the ears of the

man and into his brain.  His tongue was

loosened…and he began to speak and keep on speaking. 

As we come to the Lord’s Table this morning…to be with Jesus…to be with our brothers

and sisters…as we take Jesus inside us…let us ask how we can let Jesus guide

us…so that we may touch as he did…may sigh as he did… may indeed be for the

hurting world…the body of Christ.