The second half of Mark’s first chapter is all about healing. Early on we see that Jesus has both the power and the ability to make people whole. These miracles not only gave hope to the people who were healed, it also put Jesus in the precarious position of being in the spotlight.
In today’s story of the cleansing of the leper, we see that it is the man’s faith in Jesus that opens the door to his healing. Yet it is Jesus who chooses to cleanse the man of leprosy. By removing the leprosy, Jesus also removes the social stigma that came with it. Leprosy is a highly contagious disease. In those days the only way to prevent the spread of leprosy was to isolate people with the disease. They were cast off from their friends, family, and religious community. A leper lived a painful, shameful, and lonely life. Imagine the immense joy felt by this man who was healed by Jesus.
Jesus instructed the cleansed leper to do two things – (1) don’t tell anyone, and (2) present yourself to the priest. At this point in time Jesus was already starting to become overwhelmed with the crowds that were following him. These large gatherings may have been somewhat inconvenient, but they also presented a security risk for Jesus. The more his popularity grew, the more likely it was that government and religious leaders would see him as a threat. Jesus was attempting to keep the crowds small while also telling the religious leaders that he comes in the name of the same God they believe in.
It’s not surprising to read that the man couldn’t keep this news to himself. How can someone keep quiet when their life has been forever changed?! The man told everyone who would hear, which made life more difficult for Jesus. He would continue his ministry of healing and teaching, but it was a very different existence from then on.
- Have you ever seen a miracle happen to someone?
Yes I have I have seen miracles in people’s lives. They are not like the miracle that happened for the man in the Scripture reading today. I remember one miracle when I was working at My Brother’s Place a halfway house in Toronto for people with no place else to go. One fellow was living with schizophrenia. It was a miracle every day when he got up, brushed his teeth and dressed. One day I was asked to help him go shopping for some jeans. We came back with the things he was needing. The staff were amazed. Now isn’t that a miracle.
In a church long ago that was not known to be a happy place. One Sunday morning I came up to this church and heard laughter. I couldn’t believe it. What was going on? To my amazement two men had come back to church. They totally changed the atmosphere of this church. They liked to tease each other and their laughter transformed that congregation into a much more joyful place to be. Now that was a miracle!
It was a miracle how Jen and I met. She had asked the chair of the Sexual Abuse Prevention Committee to do a workshop for youth leaders on appropriate boundaries. Laura, the chair was not able to do it. So I was called and we planned this workshop. By the way when we talked on the phone we talked about lots of things way beyond what we needed to talk about the workshop. Then when it came time to facilitate this workshop at Conference no one came. We offered it twice and no one came. This gave us some private time to get to know each other. Our relationship bloomed very quickly. Now that is a miracle.
Think about the miracles you have experienced in life.
- When have you felt desperate for healing or change in your life?
I felt desperate for healing in my life in the summer of 1983. At the time I was training to become an Accountant. I was not a happy person. My teacher was rude, crude and nasty and I was just passing. So in the spring of 1983 I went to the UK and the European Continent for two months. It was an amazing trip where I learned a lot more self-confidence. Then soon after I got back I worked as a volunteer at the Peace and Justice Coffee House at the World Council of Churches Assembly at U.B.C. I loved the people I met! I heard some amazing speakers. I met Desmond Tutu from South Africa for the first time. I hadn’t been so excited in a long time. Then after that summer I realized that Accounting was not for me. So I ripped up my membership in the Society of Management Accountants and felt elation. This was all part of my journey to being called to Diaconal Ministry in the United Church of Canada.
A couple of years ago I was feeling very unsettled. There was a strong feeling in me that I had more to do. There were new things I needed to learn. I had this feeling for a while, but was afraid of addressing it. So on our trip to the UK one night when I was having trouble sleeping I woke up one morning knowing what I needed to be focussing on the Enneagram. The neat thing was that when I went home everything opened for me to be able to do this. Working on the Enneagram has helped me to begin a healing process helping me to recognize that I had more gifts that I needed to share within and outside the church. This continues to be a healing process.
- How would you respond to Jesus’ healing if you were a leper?
I hope I would be open to it. But I know I would be afraid of getting too close to the infected person and thus get infected myself. I can relate this to people who are living with AIDS. It was not an easy time for me and my friends to support our friend Craig who was suffering with AIDS. With a lot of prayer and intentionality we were able to be supportive of Craig and each other. We had to face our own fears and remind ourselves over and over that it was not an easy disease to get. So I hope with some help from Jesus I would have been there too for the man living with Leprosy. What would you have done?
- Why do you think Jesus wanted the man to not tell anyone?
I wonder if Jesus didn’t want him to tell anyone because he knew it would bring more people to see him and he already was exhausted. I have felt exhausted at times wondering how I could help another person who was in great need. I don’t doubt that Jesus was feeling that. Why do you think Jesus told this man not to share this Good News with any one?