In Mark 1, Jesus spoke and acted with divine power and authority. He could receive the diseased to himself and could send them away well. If he can overcome a man’s skin-diseased condition, what else can he do, and what greater works can he accomplish? For example, what can he do about the problem of sin and death?
A skin-diseased man approached Jesus in Mark 1:40, and approaching someone while being unclean was something you were not supposed to do. The law of God said so. In Leviticus 13, if a priest confirmed you had a skin disease, you were to dwell outside the camp until it was resolved. If you were close to crossing paths with someone, you were supposed to dishevel your hair and clothes and shout “Unclean!” so that people had fair warning.
But the skin-diseased man in Mark 1 approached Jesus anyway. He fell down before him and said, “If you will, you can make me clean” (1:40). Now that statement is especially intriguing because no unclean person would fall before an Old Testament priest and ask for cleansing. Priests could diagnose, but they could not heal. What was this man doing?
The man had heard about what Jesus could do. In Mark 1:32, Jesus healed the sick at Capernaum (1:32–34). Word continued to spread, and more people came searching for Jesus the next day (1:36–37). Later, Jesus went throughout all Galilee preaching and casting out demons (1:39). What a report! Jesus had authority over diseases and demons! The reason the skin-diseased man came to Jesus is because he knew what Jesus could do.
“If you will, you can make me clean,” he told Jesus (Mark 1:40). The clean/unclean categories were Old Testament ceremonial evaluations about whether someone was ritually fit to approach the tabernacle (“clean”) or whether someone was ritually unfit to approach the tabernacle (“unclean”). Uncleanness also impacted family and social relationships, because perpetual uncleanness required dwelling outside the camp of Israel. The man’s request to Jesus was bold and faith-filled.