I'm teaching the gospel of Mark on Wednesday evenings here at our new congregation, Burleson Church of Christ. We're beginning (fittingly) with chapter one tomorrow evening. At the end of the chapter there's a story that's become one of my favorites in Mark's account of Jesus' life. Here's my paraphrase of the event and some reflections.
A social and religious outcast - a leper - approached Jesus and fell on his face and cried out, "If you choose, you can heal me." Moved with compassion, Jesus not only healed the man, but also reached out and touched him, saying, "I do choose. You're cleansed." At once the disease was gone and the leper lost his outsider status. Jesus warned him not to tell anyone, but to do what the law required so that he might be welcomed back into normal life and society. But the man couldn't keep this good news to himself and as the message spread, Jesus was increasingly forced to avoid urban areas. But even out in the country, people traveled to see him.
We can empathize with the leper in this story. Maybe we know what it's like to be a social outcast. Or maybe we've suffered from a chronic condition or a serious, lingering illness. All of us know what it's like to be separated from our God. We've all had moments where we ask, with hesitation, for Jesus to at least consider cleansing us of our sins. When we finally have reached the point where we realize that we'll never be able to clean ourselves up, we fall on our faces and we say those words, "if you choose...Jesus, you can make me clean."
Just as in this story, we can be sure that Jesus' response is always, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Our God is a God who loves the unlovable and touches the untouchable. He's not concerned with our sin, our brokenness, our disease somehow infecting him, rather his healing and cleansing power is contagious and infectious - spreading and transforming every single fiber of our being until we've become holy, like him. He has compassion for us and will not stop his work in us until it's brought to completion. This is good news - good news that penetrates our hearts, and good news that's meant to be shared. - Shay