The following is a reflection on Mark 1:40-45, the Gospel lesson for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 12th, 2012, according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also a unique version of the Prayers of the People for All Epiphany.
I take the stories of healing/ exorcism/ and raising-of-the-dead at several levels.
First, there’s obviously the point that the Gospel authors wanted to make, that Jesus healed real people of real calamity. In this story we hear of a real man, with a real bad condition (leprosy), being really healed. That’s big stuff. Jesus doesn’t just kind-of-vaguely come down and sort-of interact with generic-people. Jesus encountered this man, and this man encountered Jesus—and out of that encounter something wondrous and holy happened.
Second, these stories can be read as parable. The Gospel Evangelists are never shy about condemning the religious leaders and structures of the first century. They were originally set up in the Hebrew Bible to be sources of life, truth, and holiness—and by the time Jesus gets on the scene they are anything but those things. In this sense, this story can also be told of a Temple/ Hebrew Nation that is so bad off that it’s leprous—but, at the same time it’s not so far gone that nothing can be done for it. If Jesus “chooses” it can be made clean. If the religious authorities and structures come before Jesus kneeling, begging, and repenting, Jesus can be moved with pity and make it clean once more.
And third, there is a very personal aspect to these stories. They aren’t just about “structures” and “systems,” they are about you and me. They are about personal encounters—but not just personal encounters that happened so many years ago, but personal encounters today. The fact that so many people who are healed are nameless in the stories adds to this. They are “every man” and “every woman.” One should read this story and see ourselves as the leper who comes to Jesus, whose plea moved Jesus within the core of his being (which is what the Greek word splagchnizomai means), and who leave the the meeting with Jesus completely changed.
In fact, even more this story should compel us to, like the leper, come before Jesus—with all our uncleanness, with all of our moral disease, with our limbs literally pealing off—and fall on our knees. Pleading. Not hiding our faults, but confessing them. And asking Jesus to make us clean.
And then we wait for Jesus to reach out and touch us.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me goosebumps. Jesus, upon seeing me as I am, is deeply moved and is compelled to touch me that I might live a holy and full life.