A pause and a prayer

He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp” – frightening and dreadful words.  Spoken to a people in the wilderness, a people on the Exodus betwixt and between the slavery of Egypt and the promised land of Palestine. Words that ban, isolate, shun, and place someone beyond the connection to the community. These are words spoken to family and friends that pushed them from the routine of life into the wilderness. In modern life, we have our own words, instances, texts, and posts that push others into a more modern wilderness. Continue reading

Proof for them: silence

jesus-healing-leper45 The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

The Man Responds. This incident has an important position in the Marcan outline. It serves to terminate the preaching tour of the Galilean villages and provides the point of transition to the five accounts of controversy which follow (Ch. 2:1–3:6). The pericope establishes the surpassing nature of the salvation which Jesus brings, for while the Law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper it was powerless to actually purge a man of the disease. In all of the OT only twice is it recorded that God had healed a leper (Num. 12:10 ff.; 2 kings 5:1 ff.), and the rabbis affirmed that it was as difficult to heal the leper as to raise the dead. The cleansing of the leper indicates the new character of God’s action in bringing Jesus among men. Salvation transcends cultic and ritual regulations, which were powerless to arrest the hold that death had upon the living, and issues in radical healing. Continue reading

Proof for them: Jesus

jesus-healing-leper

41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” 42 The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. 43 Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 44 Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

Jesus’ Actions. The treatment of Jesus consisted of a gesture and a pronouncement. The touch of Jesus was significant from two points of view. From the perspective of the leper it was an unheard-of act of compassion which must have moved him deeply and strengthened him in his conviction he had not asked for help in vain. From the perspective of Jesus’ relationship to the cultic and ritual system, it indicated that he did not hesitate to act in violation of its regulations when the situation demanded: “the ceremonial law gives place to the law of love when the two come into collision.” Jesus’ touch and his sovereign pronouncement mean the same thing: “I do will it. Be made clean.” This was not a priestly pronouncement, as is made clear in verses 43–44, but a declaration that healing would follow immediately and completely. The text describes an instantaneous radical healing which was visible to all who met the man. Continue reading

Proof for them: the man

jesus-healing-leper40 A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” 42 The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Leprosy and the Man. The identification of the man who came to Jesus as “a leper” is not as precise as at first glance it may seem. Medical researchers who have examined the biblical data in Lev. 13–14 feel certain that the biblical term “leprosy” is a collective noun designating a wide variety of chronic skin diseases, one of which may have been interpreted in the modern sense of the word. Continue reading

Proof for them: context

jesus-healing-leper40 A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” 42 The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. 43 Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 44 Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” 45 The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: gratitude

tenlepers15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

The Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  Some might argue that it reads too much into the posture to say that it is an act of worship (although I think that is a fair reading of Luke) – but in any event, is it an act of humility.  St. Bonaventure, sometimes referred to as the second founder of the Franciscan friars, wrote in his work The Tree of Life that humility is the guardian and gateway of all the other virtues and that gratitude is its first evidence. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: boundaries

tenlepersThe telling of this encounter seems straight forward: (a) Jesus encounters a group of lepers on the road to Jerusalem, (b) they ask for his mercy, (c) they are cured, but (d) only one returns to thank Jesus and that one is a Samaritan. A simple miracle story, yes? A narrative about faith as the foundation of healing? Such simple summaries, even if true, miss several key aspects of the encounter and the chance to reflect further on our own life of faith in Jesus. Faith and the response to Mercy inevitably leads one to cross boundaries. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: context

tenlepers11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

The narrative of the Journey to Jerusalem (begun in Luke 9:51) returns; new characters are introduced – ten lepers – the disciples play no role in this story. For a brief moment the on-going theme of forming discipleship seemingly takes a backseat, as the accent is upon God’s mercy and salvation. Several commentators hold that this account marks a new turn in Luke’s telling of the gospel moving from an accent on discipleship to the larger theme of “Responding to the Kingdom” as the cleansing of lepers is takes as a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom. Continue reading

Be made clean: silence

jesus-healing-leper45 The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

The Man Responds. This incident has an important position in the Marcan outline. It serves to terminate the preaching tour of the Galilean villages and provides the point of transition to the five accounts of controversy which follow (Ch. 2:1–3:6). The pericope establishes the surpassing nature of the salvation which Jesus brings, for while the Law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper it was powerless to actually purge a man of the disease. In all of the OT only twice is it recorded that God had healed a leper (Num. 12:10 ff.; 2 kings 5:1 ff.), and the rabbis affirmed that it was as difficult to heal the leper as to raise the dead. The cleansing of the leper indicates the new character of God’s action in bringing Jesus among men. Salvation transcends cultic and ritual regulations, which were powerless to arrest the hold that death had upon the living, and issues in radical healing. Continue reading

Be made clean: Jesus

jesus-healing-leper

41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” 42 The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. 43 Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 44 Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

Jesus’ Actions. The treatment of Jesus consisted of a gesture and a pronouncement. The touch of Jesus was significant from two points of view. From the perspective of the leper it was an unheard-of act of compassion which must have moved him deeply and strengthened him in his conviction he had not asked for help in vain. From the perspective of Jesus’ relationship to the cultic and ritual system, it indicated that he did not hesitate to act in violation of its regulations when the situation demanded: “the ceremonial law gives place to the law of love when the two come into collision.” Jesus’ touch and his sovereign pronouncement mean the same thing: “I do will it. Be made clean.” This was not a priestly pronouncement, as is made clear in verses 43–44, but a declaration that healing would follow immediately and completely. The text describes an instantaneous radical healing which was visible to all who met the man. Continue reading