I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Mark 1:40-45 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Cleanses a Leper
40 A leper[a] came to him begging him, and kneeling[b] he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity,[c] Jesus[d] stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy[e] left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus[f] could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Use your imagination for a moment. Imagine yourself the leper Jesus encountered in our reading for today. What a terrible disease leprosy is! It is also called Hanson’s Disease and it affects the skin and peripheral nerves in ways that are disfiguring and debilitating. In the Bible, leprosy refers not only to Hanson’s disease, but to a broad range of skin diseases. Hebrew law, as recorded in Leviticus 13:45-46 proscribed the life of a person with leprosy: “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled, and he shall . . . cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ . . . He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
Imagine that life! Extreme social distancing! Your own family treats you as some grotesque monster. You subsist on alms given by strangers. From time to time you cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” to warn away the unsuspecting. Imagine the agony of that life!
Leprosy was such a dread disease!
Put yourself in the shoes of that man. Deep in your heart you long for the company of whole persons, persons who have not been so disfigured. But that day is over. You may never feel the warm embrace of your spouse or your children or your mother or your father or your brother or your sister again. You may only have the company of other lepers, but not the company of anyone who is “clean.”
Then you see a stranger approaching and you recognize that he is a famous rabbi you’ve heard about. You’ve heard that he is a healer. Maybe he will help you. So, instead of crying out, “Unclean, unclean!”, you approach him, fall on your knees before him, and say, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”
He responds that he does choose to do that and instantly you are made whole. You are almost delirious with joy. Soon you would be able to rejoin your family. Soon the extreme social distancing would end.
Imagine the joy! Imagine it! Everything is different now. Nothing will be the same, thank God!
Healing and wholeness come in many forms. Sometimes it is physical and sometimes it is spiritual or emotional. Consistently, the message of the gospels is that Jesus makes us whole.
This passage also has a feature that is found over and over in the Gospel of Mark. It’s referred to as the “Messianic Secret.” Here is how that appears in this text: “After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone…’”
That warning appears over and over again in the gospel of Mark, but it never works. It has the opposite effect: “But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.” (vs. 45)
The Good News is always too good to keep to yourself.
There is a lot of theology woven in to hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “When Jesus the Healer Came to Galilee”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster