procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jesus the Leper

three thoughts on Mark 1.40-45


people with disfiguring skin ailments weren't allowed in camp with the rest of Israel, they had to be outside the camp, in desolate places, calling 'Unclean! Unclean!' to warn people away from them. (See Lev 13)

Jesus met such a person, and what is particularly striking is the way he took the man's place. the man is unclean, outcast, rejected, excluded - and Mark tells us Jesus was himself in such a place, where he met the man, and remained in that place. yet the man was healed, cleansed, and was able to join again into his society.

furthermore, Jesus was killed, cursed, and buried outside the city walls. the life the man was condemned to live Jesus took.


after Jesus healed the man he told him to present himself to the priest, to fulfil the law in offering the appropriate sacrifices. (See Lev 14) but we are told by Mark, he instead went and told people about Jesus.

i wonder whether the reason he didn't offer a sacrifice is because the true sacrifice was standing there right in front of him. he was both physically clean, yet through faith he understood that Jesus also had cleansed him on the inside.


the issue of the messianic secret pops up here also. for the uninitiated (and please correct me if i've remembered this wrong), this is the idea suggested by Wrede that Jesus was a failed messiah, like many others. therefore he wanted to keep the whole subject secret. this explains why it was only after his death (and particularly with Paul's missionary activity) that people began to acknowledge him as the messiah.

this was countered by others who read the synoptic gospels as primarily historical, and that if Jesus told people to say nothing, then that's what he did. the reason? he had a plan, and being outed as the messiah anytime before 'the hour' was not on - he had his own divine schedule and it was the resurrection, rather than any miracles or preaching, that would reveal his true identity.

from a narrative position, i wonder whether the messianic secret is there for the benefit of the readers. as we read him telling people not to tell anyone, we say - as if you couldn't! it's obvious who he is! what excuse could an ex-leper make to explain his healing?! - reinforcing in the reader who we know Jesus to be - the messiah, the beloved son of God.

looking forward to Dave's talk on Mark 1.40-45 this sunday at wildstreet@5 - see what he has to say!

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