Becoming the Good News- Thursday, 1st Week in ordinary time – Mark 1: 40-45
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) each have a focus. Matthew is the ‘teaching’ Gospel, Luke is the ‘feeling’ Gospel, for you see a compassionate Christ and Mark is the ‘doing’ Gospel, for Jesus is constantly working miracles.
Today’s miracle is the third specifically mentioned healing that Jesus performs in Mark’s Gospel. There were many other people that He healed and many demons were cast out by Him but these are mentioned in general (1:32). Interestingly, all these three specifically mentioned miracles have characters that are unnamed with the exception of Peter’s mother in law who has a ‘relative’ reference.
What is common to all three were that they would have been considered outcasts due to their illness. Not for Jesus, He not only restores them to health but the manner in which He does so is amazing and revolutionary for His time; he took Peter’s mother in law ‘by the hand’ and now a leper is ‘touched’ by Jesus.
The understanding of leprosy at the time of Jesus was not necessarily the same as ours today. Leprosy was used as a general term for any repulsive scaly skin disease such as psoriasis, favus and seborrheic dermatitis. However many who were afflicted with it were treated in the same manner as one with the more advanced case of what we know today to be Hansen’s disease. Touching such a person was out of the question; both out of fear of contracting the disease and for incurring religious ritual penalties.
Considering Jesus to be a Holy man, the leper asks Jesus to ‘make him clean’. The Greek word ‘katharisai’ could be translated as ‘declare me clean’; a ritual task that was reserved by Levitical law to the priest only. Yet here is a leper asking an itinerant Galilean rabbi to perform the task that was to be done by a Jerusalem priest. Jesus was not a renegade or law breaker just for the sake of breaking a law as some have portrayed Him to be. His purpose was clear and drawing unnecessary controversy was not His style. The leper is asked to show himself to the priest in fulfillment of the law of Leviticus 14 and go away quietly.
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