Friday, September 3, 2010

Living Mark 1:14-45

The narrator summarizes in 1:39 explaining that what Jesus had suggested took place. He went throughout Galilee proclaiming the good news of his mission, and in the narrator’s understanding, driving out demons.

In his travels, Jesus receives a man with skin disease, which makes him unclean (1:40-45). No doubt such people were in outside places away from people and normal daily activities. The man urgently begs Jesus to cleanse him and the story wants to highlight that rumors about Jesus were making their way, even to such remote places and disconnected people.

The narrator first explains Jesus’ response - he was moved deeply by this man; his circumstances, social situation, and degraded condition. Next, he touches the man and courageously pronounces – “I am willing – Be clean.” To touch this man was to ignore laws of ritual purity, while also risking contamination by the sickness. Neither prevents Jesus from granting the request and the man at once is cleansed. Intriguingly, Jesus immediately sends him off with a forceful expression of anger.

Perhaps, considering Jesus’ words in verse 44, this man already mentioned he was out to portray Jesus in a manner that he did not appreciate and to pay no attention to the necessary legislation that would confirm his cleanliness. Jesus scolds the cleansed man. He is not to say anything about his cleansing. Ironically, he is instructed to obey ritual legislation, to show the priest, and to offer sacrifices. Jesus’ concern here seems to be for the man, not for the law per se. He knows that following these legal obligations will be the only way that this man can move from outside places back into the daily activities of living a normal life. The needed testimony to the priestly orders will be the sacrifices and the cleansed man himself, but Jesus is aware this will spark a fair amount of controversy and questions regarding his mission and the inauguration of a salvific power that goes far beyond legislation. Given the narrator’s next comment, we can’t be sure if the man actually went to Jerusalem, the only place to offer sacrifices, or showed himself to a priest.

What is clear is that he surely disobeyed the first command of Jesus – not to spread the news around about being cleansed. The unfortunate effect of this, as Jesus seems well aware, is that it begins to create a negative impact on the Galilean mission. The picture we’re left with at the end of chapter 1 is that Jesus is now forced to an outside place and away from towns and villages. The misunderstanding crowds and the growing opposition of the authorities are increasingly complicating matters and conflict is increasing. Who Jesus really was and what he was really doing are being put in jeopardy. Yet, as John the Baptist previously, a stream of people now came to him in the outside place far from everyday life. Outsiders continue to show the way inside, though not always with an appropriate recognition of the in-breaking KOG, or he who was inaugurating it.


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