Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 1:40-45 bible study (August 29, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
Dear Ones in Christ, on this day of record heat, please take good care of yourselves by remaining inside as much as is possible and staying hydrated throughout the day. Pray for all of the folks who have no opportunity to get into a protective setting due to their life circumstances. Please also pray for the people of Florida as they prepare to suffer the power of a strengthening hurricane, its winds and water surge. Give thanks for living in the desert. Yes, it is hot sometimes, but there are so many in our world who are suffering due to the climatological changes which we have all played a part in causing. May God have mercy and guide us to the necessary solutions to deal with this crisis, and may we have the heart and a willingness to turn things around. Remember that we have Gospel Music this Sunday on the third of September, and after service we will gather for a southern comfort food potluck lunch in the parish hall.
Today we are in the final verses of chapter one of the Gospel of Mark bible study. (40-45) The telling of this early ministry interaction of Jesus with a leper is also recorded in Matthew 8:1-4, and Luke 5:12-16. There is no comparable offering in the Gospel of John. This is a case where the source material in these three Gospels is nearly identical. Though Scholars are fairly certain that Mark was the first written, there is still uncertainty in scholarly circles about the possibility of Matthew having sourced Mark. Luke, written in a much later time, and written by a Gentile, was not considered as the source of this passage.
At the time of Jesus, leprosy was considered a communicable condition. So, an amazing thing in this passage is that Jesus reaches out and touches this person. Christ is not worried about his own safety, rather he is moved by His compassion for all of the suffering of those who are ill, suffering from the illness and from the lack of understanding in their own culture and people. It is important for us to note that Jesus does not say here that it was the faith of the leper which brought healing, yet it is very clear from the text that the leper trusted that only Jesus could bring him healing. At the beginning of the AIDS health crisis, I was an intern at St John's Lutheran, Des Moines, IA. On Wednesday evenings we held what was called Super Wednesday, a time for education, fellowship, food, and confirmation classes in the congregation. Gerry was a man in the congregation who worked the parish hall kitchen preparing food for many of these mid-week’s church gatherings. Gerry fell ill and was hospitalized for a long period of time at IA Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. Just an aside, we also had a Lutheran General Hospital in Des Moines. When I went to see Gerry in the hospital, he was in really rough condition. There was no acknowledged diagnosis for his illness, but later we all understood that he was suffering with an early case of AIDS. At the visit, I held Gerry's hand and we prayed for healing for this unknown enemy of Gerry's health. His comment to me was how thankful he was for my willingness to touch him hand to hand. He told me that no one would touch him skin to skin. Just like Jesus, it was my touch of love and hope that brought Gerry the greatest relief. Imagine the leper, no one would get near him, and yet here is this Galilean preacher and teacher, ready and willing to offer physical touch and healing for him. Both this passage and my personal experience with Gerry still bring tears to my eyes this morning. Jesus did something which no one was willing to do for fear of their own isolation from family, friends, work, and the faith community. In our communities today there are still too many who live without that loving touch of the people of Christ! I am not suggesting that this is an easy thing to do. Of course, it has its dangers for those of us who choose to do it. After all, is this not where are faith takes us as we journey in our lives with Jesus.
One of the next things that Jesus tells the healed leper to do is to go show himself to the priests, and to take the prescribed measures to show that he is truly healed. The prescription for proof was as follows:
Leviticus 14: Be examined by the priest. Two birds were taken, and one was killed over running water. In addition, one must use cedar, scarlet and hyssop. These three things and the live bird were dipped in the blood of the dead bird. After this the living bird was allowed to go free. The one previously infected by leprosy must wash himself, his clothing, and shave. After seven days the man would return to be re-examined by the priest. Then he was to shave his hair, his head, his eyebrows, after which two unblemished lambs were sacrificed, a ram and an ewe. Then three tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil and one log of oil. The restored leper was to be touched on the tip of the right ear with this mixture, and the right thumb, and the right big toe. Examined once again and cleared by the priests the leper would receive a certificate of health. I know that this seems really primitive, but we must remember that it came from the time of the wilderness wandering at the command of Moses.
In this passage we see Jesus accepting into his presence this unclean man who had broken Jewish law to even approach Jesus, or to talk to Him. In the face of this man's desperation Jesus offered Holy Compassion and love for his wholeness. For Jesus the leper was not unclean, he was one of God's children in need of help and healing.
We might think that there was no need for the leper who was healed to go through the routine which the law required, but Jesus knew that without the conventions of the law the man would never be accepted back into his community. Jesus knew the man needed to submit to these ancient rules for restoration. Christ came into all of these circumstances with compassion, power, and wisdom. We need this very same compassion, power, and wisdom in our interactions with the world of brokenness that surrounds us all. May God bless you this day and always with His Love.
In Christ, Pastor Kim