“If you choose, you can make me clean.”
Monday, 15 February 2021
In the ancient world, few diseases were as dreaded as the horrible affliction known as leprosy. Because it was so common and severe among ancient peoples, God gave Moses extensive instructions on how to deal with it. In the book of Leviticus (13:1ff) lepers are instructed to wear torn clothes, let their hair be dishevelled, and live outside the camp. These homeless and unwanted individuals were to shout out “unclean, unclean” when a person without leprosy approached them.
St Mark sketches the scene for us: He tells us that the leper appears abruptly in front of Jesus, “begging him and kneeling before him.” That phrase reveals some of the lepers’ desperation. He wants change. He yearns for a life without such a horrific burden. He wanted to be well so that he could live in and contribute to his own community. The news about Jesus had got around – even the reviled and ostracised lepers seek him out! Notice something else. The leper says to Jesus: “If you choose, you can make me clean.” By saying, “If you choose, you can make me clean,” the leper does two things. First, he indicates his absolute faith in Jesus’ ability to cleanse him of his disease. Second – and importantly, he also challenges Jesus to act. He challenges Jesus to do something radical about his tragic situation. He knows Jesus can do something.
Last week many people were disappointed with the President’s State of the Nation Address. Whatever promises he made and words he spoke, many South Africans are desperate for action, not words. They want to see economic improvements and unemployment reduced to at least be able to feed and educate their children. They want to see corrupt officials held accountable in tangible ways. People want the President to do something radical for the greater good so that they can live lives of dignity and contribute to society. People believe the President can act – like the leper knew Jesus could. Has he got the radical courage Jesus had?
The same applies to us. Take time today to ponder: The leper challenged Jesus to act, what or who is challenging you to act, rather than to use words, at this moment in your life? Are you willing to act radically for the common good, even if it costs you something?