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In the Grasp of Jesus

NOTE: While Pastor Charlie is on a trip out of the country through June 5, he has chosen some of his favorite blog posts from his weblog from 2020 to 2021 to share.

FromFebruary 8, 2021

Mark 1:40-45

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 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.” 45 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.

On the surface, a simple story of Jesus healing someone who wants to be healed. It seems easy enough. A man with leprosy begs Jesus to heal him. “If you choose.” Jesus responds, “I do choose.” Jesus says, Yes, yes I can do that. And Jesus heals him.

A beautiful scene, right? Butterflies fluttering, birds singing, a pretty scene. A lovely picture to put up on the Sunday School wall. Yes, on the surface, a healing story that captures the love and compassion of Jesus.

But if we look at it closely, there are some things might make us a little uneasy, and wonder, “What is going on?” In yesterday’s Gospel. Jesus healed Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law, and a bunch of other people. He is becoming very popular. The word is out – Jesus heals.

And who should he encounter but a leper. He is an outcast with an incurable skin disease. He is not in the place of worship, in town, in the homes. No he has to “social distance.” The law was the person with leprosy needed to stay six feet away from others. IF the wind is at his back, anywhere from 40 to 150 feet away.

Sound familiar? No mention of masks though!

In this text, Jesus is challenged by the man to heal him. “If you want to Jesus, and I bet you do, heal me!” Or in more modern language, “I double dog dare ya! All those others you healed, they got nothing on me. They can COME to you. They can be touched by you. Not me – I am a leper, an outcast, as good as dead.”

And moved with pity and compassion, Jesus does the unexpected. He touches. It was UNHEARD OF, RADICAL, DANGEROUS. In doing this, Jesus places himself in danger of receiving this illness himself. He is in danger of being cast out of society as well. He would have to self-isolate and quarantine for a few days. For coming in contact with unclean makes oneself become unclean.

This lesson takes on a whole new meaning for us in 2021, doesn’t it? How we can relate!

What we miss is the that human contact, that touch.

Now please, I know that there is inappropriate touching. There is bad touch. You and I know that.

But there is a touch that provides healing and wholeness and acceptance and love and peace. It is about being in the grasp of God’s love. It is this touch, this grasp that is wrapped up in Jesus, whom God sent to the world to make us whole, complete, saved and set free.

For the touch of Jesus is one that turns things upside down. Instead of one being made unclean by coming in contact with another who is unclean, Jesus is the one who makes the unclean clean.

Think of what this offers to the one who is healed. He is restored to health. He is restored to community. He is restored to being in touch with those whom he has been kept apart from for months or even years.

We pray for God’s healing touch. For many, that is coming in the form of a shot in the arm. I have heard so many stories and conversations around “when I got my shot.”

How is the touch of Jesus like a shot in the arm for you?

Jesus chooses. Be healed.

Let us pray: Almighty God, you come to us where we are – broken and out of touch. May we come to know once again the warmth of your embrace, that is made possible through your Son, our Savior. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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