The Disobedient Leper

Mark 1: 40-45
Heb 3: 7-14 / Psa 95

He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to Him.
(Mark 1:45)

We are in our disobedience
Stained by the leprosy of sin;
But thank God in our penitence,
Touched by God’s Word, we are made clean.

A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged Him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, He reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” Jesus said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him. (Mark 1: 40-45)

Reflection

Leprosy was set apart as an affliction far worse than other ailments not only because it was considered so repulsive and incurable, but because a man so afflicted was also regarded as spiritually and morally unclean. That was why the leper begged Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” What he prayed for was not merely for healing, but for cleansing. Isolated from society during those times, they were consigned to garbage dumps, where they could scrounge for scraps to survive, and also so that no one could witness their miserable existence.

The reality of leprosy can be seen as the physical manifestation of the malignancy of sin, which isolates us from the community of God’s kingdom, and we can only be cleansed through God’s mercy and the sinner’s repentance. Sin is so loathsome to God that we can become “unclean” by tolerating it. Ever since we first learned our catechism, we were told to avoid all occasions of sin. However, today’s Gospel also teaches us that although God despises sin, He still loves the sinner, and wants to free him from his affliction, just as our Lord Jesus touched the leper to cleanse him and show him God’s mercy and compassion

In his exuberance, the man who had been cured of his leprosy completely forgot the Lord’s admonition not to tell anyone about his healing, but “began to publicize the whole matter,” so that Jesus could no longer enter a town, but confined Himself outside the city limits in deserted places. Ironically, He had become isolated from the community because of the man’s disobedience. Most of us are guilty of the same human frailty. Once we have received from God what we prayed for, we revert to our old ways, or like the nine lepers in the Gospel of Luke (17:11-19) we completely forget to express our gratitude for God’s blessings. When this happens, our condition becomes worse than if we had been afflicted by the disease.

Disobedience has always gotten man into trouble ever since God created him. If only Adam and Eve had not disobeyed the simple rules laid down by their Maker, life for all of mankind would still be a paradise on earth. Fortunately for us, God did not allow the leprosy of sin to bring mankind to perdition. To bring man back to a clean slate, God Himself would end up thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem, ostracized and tortured in a way worse than any leper.

I was once a leper, Lord, in my sinfulness; but You touched me with your Word, and You made me clean. Never let me disobey Your statutes and decrees again. Amen.

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