Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thoughts from Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him [Jesus] [and kneeling down] begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with compassion, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, Jesus dismissed him at once. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell noone anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleasing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
Reading this passage yesterday, I had two thoughts. The first was reminiscent of Mother Theresa's prayer; in the vein of "you can heal people from leprosy and ask them to be quiet; they won't; heal anyway." How often do I evaulate whether or not I should do good to/for someone based on how they will use my gift?

There's this reasonable justification (of not being charitable) that if the person is just going to abuse our charity, then we don't have to give to them. Because, really, we aren't doing good, we are just perpetuating a problem, addiction, etc. How do I know, though? How do I know that my small act of kindness could/couldn't be a turning point? We don't. We don't know how anyone will use a gift once it's been offered. Is that a reason to not offer the gift anyway?

It seems that Jesus would say no, based on his actions in this passage. It can be argued that, as the Son of the God of the Universe, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, that he knew how he leper would act. If that is true...and he knew that it'd play out that he would end up having to hang out in the deserted places from that point on...and he still healed anyway, well, that demolishes my end-use denotes justification of giving argument. Even if he didn't know how it would play out, given that the leper had free-will to choose his response, it's possible that Jesus, being a wise man, knew the two consequences (perhaps not the full extent) of the man's actions, either way. He still healed him. 

My second thought centered on the order to "go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed." I think in the past I've interpreted as Jesus the antagonist, "Show them what happened - in their face." Which is a completely WRONG interpretation, BTW.

The note in my Bible says this, "The law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper. In curing the leper, Jesus assumes that the priests will reinstate the cured man into the religious community." Hmmm.... The reason to heal and then go the priests was so that the man could be welcomed back, as a participating member, into the religious community. Being leperous had isolated the man from the community of believers; being healed and fulfilling the law through the thank-offering provided the avenue for him to be reconciled back to the community.

Which was more important - to be healed - or to fulfill the law by showing himself to the priest? Obviously, the man thought that the healing was more important because he didn't do the latter. It seems that Jesus would have thought otherwise. Certainly, to be healed was miraculous; a life-changer; but it wasn't a life-fulfiller...being an active member of the believing community was.

Which is more important - to be saved - or to be a participating member of the church?
First, that really the question. It isn't a more important than; it is more of an equation, "a" must come first, but "b" must come for "a" to reach its fulfillment.

To conclude, lately the YouTube video 'I hate religion but love Jesus' is getting a lot of attention. I just would like to say this. Jesus was religious. From what we know through the four gospels, his parents met the letter of the law when he was born; they observed the Sabbath and religious holidays. Jesus and his disciples did the same. He was religious; the disciples, the first Christians were religious. He did not come to abolish religion; he came to fulfill it. He said it himself that He came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law and the prophets.

I will grant that Jesus hated empty religion. Most definitely, Jesus examplified living in relationship with the Father and operating under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. However, I think He showed that this relationship brings about fulfillment to religious practices, customs and culture.

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