Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mark 1:40-45

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year B, most recently February of 2015.
Summary:  Last week was all about the power of Jesus.  I think this story actually shows the gentleness of Jesus.  What will it take to heal this man?  Power?  Certainly.  But also a compassionate touch.

Word pairs:
δυναμαι and καθαριζω (1:40)  The first word here means "able" and can be translated simply, "can."  It is worth noting its root is the same as "dynamite" and the word has the connotation of power:  "If you wish, you have the power to cleanse me."  The second word comes into English as "catharize."  We use this word in Christian contexts with sin:  "He catharizes us from sin" (Lutheran confessional rite and 1 John 1).  Here it is used with cleansing of his disease.  While the cleansing of disease is an interesting topic in itself, I'd like us to consider the connection between power and "deep cleaning."  We buy powerful chemicals with "deep cleaning" abilities to get our floor clean.  We have powerful machines and medicines that cleanse our heart valves.  Are these gifts from God?  Furthermore, what kind of power does it take to cleanse our hearts from their sins?  This very issue will come up in chapter 2, the next story, when Jesus is asked on what authority he declares sins forgiven.

σπλαγνιζομαι and απτω (1:41)  The word for "compassion" (σπλαγνιζομαι) is a great one in the New Testament.  In Greek this word comes from intestines, the idea being that when Jesus sees the man he is filled with compassion.  His reaction is to touch (απτω) the person.  This is not a violent siezing, but a touching.  Sometimes what is needed when confronting the sin in the world is not simply a thunder bolt, but a touch compassionate touch.

μαρτυριον and κηρυσσω (1:44/45)  Our leper becomes the first witness (μαρτυριον; think martyr) and proclaimer (κηρυσσω).  This is not simply ironic because he had been on the outside of society, but Jesus asked him not to do so. 
Point one, not for a sermon, but my eternal axe against Lutheran Orthodoxy:  Taken alone, we might think that for Mark proclamation is simply a declaration of what God has done.  However, the disciples proclaim for the purpose of repentance (6.12); Jesus initial proclamation contains the command to repent (1.14).  Furthermore, Jesus says that wherever (14.19) the Gospel is proclaimed, people will recall the anointing of Jesus.  In short, we cannot simply say that proclamation involves only the "Gospel" in the sense of Jesus activities for us.  It involves also an ethical imperative on the listener and the broader story and context of the Gospel. 
Point two, for a sermon:  To tell others about Jesus requires nothing less than experiencing Jesus' compassion. This person prayed, had their prayers answered and then told the world.  What stops us?

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