Monday, February 13, 2012
Have you ever been entrusted with a really fantastic secret? I am referring to a secret that was so joyous, so marvelous, so sensational, and so excellent that you could not wait to share it by shouting it from the mountaintop for all the world to hear. Perhaps someone you know just discovered she is pregnant and asked you not to tell anyone. Have you ever been burdened with that kind of secret?
In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus continues his healing ways of the gospel's first chapter by curing a man suffering from leprosy. Surprisingly, Jesus sternly warns him not to tell anyone about this miraculous cure. Instead, our beloved Lord instructs the man to show himself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for his purification that Moses commanded. Incidentally, to learn more about this extensive act of purification, see Leviticus 14:1-32. We learn from the story that the formally unclean man cannot contain this miraculous secret, talking freely, and spreading the news to others. The news reached the people like a wildfire spreads through a drought-laden forest so that Jesus had to remain outside of towns in deserted places. Remarkably, people came to see him anyway.
Mark’s Gospel is straightforward and yet provokes questions for Jesus followers who are curious to know the good news more fully. For instance, what kind of courage is required for an outsider like a leper to approach his Lord and beg him for healing? What kind of love is it that our Lord should choose to make himself unclean in order to heal his follower? What exactly did Jesus heal in the man? Why did Jesus sternly warn him to keep this miraculous secret? If Jesus made him clean, why did he order the man to show himself to the priest and get purified? Why did the man disobey his Lord and spread the news he was entrusted to keep confidential? When the people came from everywhere to see him, what did they want from Jesus?
We might also ask, what does this story say to us today? How are we to understand this part of God’s story as our story as well? Perhaps the healing the man received in our lesson went much deeper than what was visible from the outside. This healing story offers us a glimpse of the kind of mercy God offers through the love of his Son. Jesus is willing to be unclean so that we may be clean by his blood; redeemed to a right relationship with God and his people. The cure that Jesus offers us goes deeper than we can hope or imagine. This gift of grace should empower us with the kind of joy that makes us want to shout it out from the mountaintop.