Tuesday 05 January 2016

Bible Book:

“A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’” (vv. 40-41)

Psalm: Psalm 3


This passage contains my favourite Greek word, 'splanchniztheis'(verse 41). The translation we have here is 'moved with pity' butmore literally it would be, 'gut-wrenched' because the word comesfrom the Greek for intestines. I like the word because it shows ussomething of the character of God. God-in-Christ is viscerallymoved by the kind of physical suffering, social isolation andreligious stigmatisation that he witnesses in the life of the leperbefore him. God chooses to be made flesh in order to feel in God'sown guts what human suffering is.

It is perhaps some comfort when we experience suffering -whether its physical or caused by social isolation or religiousprejudice - to know that God-in-Christ knows what that is and ismoved by our plight. Verse 41 goes on to say more than this aboutthe character of God, though. Not only is God moved by humansuffering, he also addresses it, "If you choose, you can make meclean," says the leper. "I do choose. Be made clean!" saysJesus.

The belief that God is moved by human suffering and wants toalleviate it commissions Christians who minister in Christ's nameto do what we can to help those who are suffering (whether inphysical pain or through social conditions like poverty) or thosewho are persecuted and discriminated against as subhuman orunclean. The belief that God chooses to alleviate human suffering,does though, raise difficult questions about why God seems tochoose to heal some and not others.

There are no simple answers to this question. It is not thatsomething in the life of the person who is not physically healed isnecessarily the reason that healing doesn't happen or that thosewho suffer have brought it on themselves. Jesus, himself,recognised complexity in this area: "those eighteen who were killedwhen the tower of Siloam fell on them - do you think that they wereworse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?" (Luke13:4). Yet, despite the fact that not everyone who asks ishealed, Christians still maintain that healing and the alleviationof suffering, as revealed here in Jesus' response to the leper, isGod's intention for the world.

To Ponder

  • Who do you think in the world today are considered unclean andsuffer the kind of isolation and discrimination that leprosyrepresents here?
  • Are you convinced that God desires the alleviation of theworld's suffering? What convinces you?
  • How do you interpret the fact that much human suffering is notalleviated and many people who pray for healing still live withchronic and acute physical and social conditions?
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