The Bible reading from the Old Testament, last Sunday (31st January, 2010) was the portion from Leviticus where Moses gives various instructions about how a leper is to be treated in the Jewish community and how upon him being cured the erstwhile leper should show himself to the priest and make an offering as commanded by Moses. The New Testament reading was from the Gospel of St.Mark which i reproduce herebelow:-
Mark 1:40-45 (King James Version)
40And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
41And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
42And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
43And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
44And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
45But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
This passage is seldom understood the way i have always understood. My father who is an ardent supporter of the Paulian interpretation of the Bible, with Pisa tower like leanings towards “charismatic” movement and speaking in tongues, was asked by me to expound the passage. More as a challenge, than as a student eager to understand the “true” meaning of the Biblical passage. he went on the traditional route and said that this was an instance where Jesus in flesh as God finds a LEPROUS MAN who is unable to “will” his own weal and requests Jesus to WILL for him. The new versions use the word “CHOOSE” instead of the KJV “WILL”. Effectively, the Leper was unable to believe, and therefore wanted Jesus to CHOOSE for him the health which he desired for himself, but could never believe that he could ever be cured of his LEPROSY. So the relevant part of the passage is ,”And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean!” So here Jesus fills up the void in the WILL of the leper and makes him whole.
Although, my dad’s interpretation had a new flavour to it, i felt that the kernel was left untouched. So i embarked on my explanation thus:
“God’s commandments succinctly put by Jesus in the flesh, was twofold:
Love God and Love your neighbour.
So the commandment is lucid on two aspects, one is the SPIRITUAL the next is the SOCIAL.
First is Man’s relationship with God, and the next is MAN’s relationship with MAN.
Jesus not only “willed the cure” for the leper on his behalf, but advises the cured leper to show himself to the priest as commanded by Moses and obtain the CERTIFICATE OF CLEANLINESS. This was the Social aspect. Jesus in Flesh knew the ostracism that had been faced by the cured Leper and wanted him not only to enjoy a life without Leprosy, but wanted the cured Leper to enjoy his life MORE ABUNDANTLY. The former leper is to be recognized by the society as “CLEAN”, thereby gaining access to the temple, to public places etc.
JESUS saw the second aspect and told the cured leper, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”
It is not that Jesus told him a secret, but advised him to go and get the stamp of approval from the appointed authority, for declaring cleanliness of a cured leper, and thereby enjoy a good social life. But in the miracle of the cure, the man goes declaring that he had been healed. Jesus was also aware that if the priests knew that the healing came of Jesus, they might not declare the leper to have been cured and thereby jeopardize the social life of the cured leper (pl. recall the sufferings that the healed blind man from birth had to go thru, because he confessed that Jesus opened his eyes).
This is what Jesus wanted- that MAN should not merely have LIFE, but that he should have LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY.
No sooner had i finished my little sermon, on our way back from St.Mary’s church, Fort St.George, Chennai, than my father looked at me in a strange but a lil respectful way ( which i had never experience before!) and said, ” You can be a good preacher! and fool the masses with all yr social aspects of the Bible, but i am too much of a Christian to fall for your theories!!
And wryly added, ” Christianity is in the EXPERIENCE and not in the EXPLANATION.”
His one liner was truly withering. Experience has its certainties, which sounds ADAMANT to the youth’s ears. AMEN.