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Mark in Slow Motion 12

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 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.’ 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.
Mark 1:40-45
Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν λεπρὸς παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν καὶ γονυπετῶν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι Ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς σπλαγχνισθεὶς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Θέλω καθαρίσθητι·
καὶ εἰπόντος αὐτοῦ εὐθὲως ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ, ἡ λέπρα καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη
καὶ ἐμβριμησάμενος αὐτῷ εὐθὲως ἐξέβαλεν αὐτόν
καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Ὅρα μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς ἀλλ᾽ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου ἃ προσέταξεν Μωσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς
ὁ δὲ ἐξελθὼν ἤρξατο κηρύσσειν πολλὰ καὶ διαφημίζειν τὸν λόγον ὥστε μηκέτι αὐτὸν δύνασθαι φανερῶς εἰς πόλιν εἰσελθεῖν ἀλλ᾽ ἔξω ἐν ἐρήμοις τόποις ἦν· καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτὸν πανταχόθεν

λεπρὸς – probably not today’s leprosy, but a contagious skin disease.

The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be dishevelled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Lev 13:45-46

καθαρίσαι – means “declare clean”. Declare clean is what the priest is to do (Lev 13:17,28).

The leper is challenging Jesus: you could declare me clean if only you would dare!

Most texts read σπλαγχνισθείς – moved with compassion (the word makes clear, our “guts” are the seat of compassion); ὀργισθείς is read by Codex Bezae (D), and a few Latin mss (a ff2 r1*) – Jesus is angry. “Jesus was indignant” (NIV) The harder reading is to be preferred lectio difficilior potior. Copyists are more likely to alter “anger” to “compassion” than “compassion” to “anger”. Is Jesus angry with the leper for challenging him? Possibly. Is Jesus angry with the whole purity system that has treated the leper in this way? Probably.

ἥψατο – by touching a leper, Jesus treats the leper as clean. [stretch out and touch are both in the historical present].

Jesus defies the Torah and rather than contracting leprosy, Jesus heals the leper!

ἐμβριμησάμενος – “sternly warning” can be translated “snorting with indignation”.

ἐξέβαλεν – can be understood as “sent him back“. This can mean the leper had already been to the priests and the leper’s request had been denied.

This story may connect with the Malachi quote of Mark 1:2 (Mal 3:3-5)

At the end of the story, “Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country” – by healing the leper, by touching the leper, Jesus ends up being leper-like. A leper “could not go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country”. Jesus’ challenge of the priests backfires when the leper does not follow Jesus’ instructions. There is a Markan theme here: liberation leads to conflict.

As this year the Sunday Gospel reading focus is on St Mark’s Gospel, This is some of my personal study and Lectio Divina with that Gospel.

This is the twelfth post in a series – you can begin here:
Mark in Slow Motion 1
Mark in Slow Motion 2
Mark in Slow Motion 3
Mark in Slow Motion 4
Mark in Slow Motion 5
Mark in Slow Motion 6
Mark in Slow Motion 7
Mark in Slow Motion 8
Mark in Slow Motion 9
Mark in Slow Motion 10
Mark in Slow Motion 11

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