Monday, 9 February 2009

Mark 1 40-45 touching a leper

There were times when Jesus, himself, cried out in anguished despair at the state of the world he had come into. The sheer weight of it appalled him and angered him. In the next healing story we find Jesus confronted by a man suffering from a virulent skin disease which alienated him from society. In this meeting we read that Jesus was angry and as he sent him away he was ‘snorting with indignation’. When a man came to him with an epileptic child Jesus was so outraged at the incapability of either the ‘teachers of the law’ or his own disciples to do anything about it that he launched out “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?” In some ways the boy with the demon that makes him both deaf and speechless is symbolic of the religious world to which Jesus came. The disciples ask him how he cast out this demon. Jesus replies: "This kind can come out only through prayer." The religious establishment seems both so complacently accepting and at the same time so utterly despairing that it has come to accept the world for what it is and has either totally lost all hope of a Kingdom of God or pushed it so far into the future that it is distant and irrelevant. Thus the religious establishment - both disciples and scribes alike - have become the means by which the world continues to suffer without any sign of justice because they have ceased to be the channels of God‘s grace and love and the means of his compassion. Similarly, in the story of the man with the skin disease, the way the Torah (law) was interpreted by the priests compelling a man to live as a leper an outcast within a chosen people, with no hope of rehabilitation, left Jesus snorting with rage. The man clearly had already been to the priest for a declaration that he was clean for Jesus sent him back. Jesus trumped the authority of the priest by touching the man, declaring him clean and sent him back to make the sacrifices only a clean man could make, thus ‘witnessing against the system’. But the failure of the man to comply with the law, of course, and instead tell the whole town that Jesus had touched him, marked Jesus out as potentially unclean too. Hence his need to retreat from that area.