14 October 2021Mark 1:40-45
But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word (v. 45)
This healing narrative is strikingly different from those we heard about earlier this week. We are told much more about the interaction between Jesus and the man seeking healing, about the emotion both men feel and in addition the link to the religious law and authorities is made explicit.
The word often translated as 'leprosy' was used as a general description of a serious skin disease, about which they knew little at the time but certainly feared. It may not have been leprosy as we know it today. It left people regarded as 'unclean' and therefore unable to take part in religious ritual, which made them an outcast in their society. It’s noticeable therefore that this man is bold enough to directly approach Jesus and kneel before him. He was clearly right in his assumption to do so, as Jesus makes the even more unusual move, by reaching out to touch him (v. 41). This was not what anyone was meant to do, let alone religious teachers.
The physical healing, amazing as it is, was only part of the process of restoring this man. He also needed the blessing of the priest, so that he could be deemed ritually clean again and therefore able to take a full part once more in society. The paradox is that even though Jesus has done what few would do, and touched someone who was unclean, he also demonstrates his adherence to the Jewish law, by emphasising the important and prescribed role of the priest in this cleansing.
However, despite being sternly told by Jesus to “say nothing to anyone” (v. 44) before he has seen the priest, the man cannot contain his joy and excitement about what has just happened to him, and is quick to tell anyone who will listen about Jesus and his actions. Jesus may have previously been seen when speaking in the synagogue to talk with an authority beyond local peoples’ expectation (Mark 1:22), however it seems that his repeated exhortations to those he heals to remain quiet carry little authority as he is repeatedly ignored. Instead, those whose lives are radically changed by their encounter with this wandering preacher and teacher cannot do anything other than spread the good news of what has happened to them, and in turn what could happen to other people too.
- Pray for those who live with chronic skin diseases today, for those with eczema, psoriasis, urticaria, severe acne and many other conditions that can lead to both physical and mental distress.
- Give thanks for the work of the Leprosy Mission and other charities working to break the chains of leprosy and empower people to attain healing, dignity and life in all its fullness.