THE TOUCH OF JESUS
God of Light and all Comfort, today I want to meet You anew, and discover Your joy in different ways and places.
Read MARK 1:40–45
Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy
40 A man with leprosy[a] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant.[b] He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “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.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, / Who like Thee his praise should sing?’1
This starts a new section of the Gospel with mounting criticism of Jesus. This incident underscores the point made in the last section, i.e., that Jesus is alert to the danger. After the leprosy sufferer tells everybody about how Jesus has healed him, He can no longer enter a town. Much has been written about the ‘messianic secret’, and theologians have discussed why Jesus so often instructed people not to tell others about their healing. This story doesn’t need a complicated explanation. Jesus simply needs to be vigilant.
There is an interesting textual problem in verse 41. The NIV reads ‘Jesus was indignant’, where nearly all the other translations say something like ‘moved with compassion’. The difference lies in the Greek manuscripts. Most say ‘moved with compassion’. One has ‘indignant’ – or, to use a closer translation, ‘angry’. Why would the translators of the NIV/TNIV not follow the majority? Because there is a principle in textual criticism of preferring the more difficult text. Somewhere in the copying of the manuscripts, one word was changed to the other. It is easy to see why scribes would change ‘angry’ to ‘moved by compassion’ but very difficult to see how it could have happened the other way around.
So why is Jesus angry? Not at the man with leprosy, whom He has healed, but probably at the skin disease and how people have ostracized the man. Notice that Jesus reaches out His hand and touches him. We think of the danger of contracting the disease. First-century Jews would have had further scruples. The book of Leviticus devotes most of a chapter to describing diseases and declares anyone who touches a leprosy sufferer as ceremonially unclean.2 Can you imagine how the man must feel? It isn’t just the remarkable nature of anyone touching him, but the healing instance of Jesus touching him with divine love.
‘Thy touch hath still its ancient power.’3 Look up this beautiful hymn, ‘At even, ere the sun was set’.
Loving Lord Jesus, Your touch still has power. I pray that my concern and compassion for those in need will be used for good by You.
1 Henry F Lyte, 1793 – 1847, ‘Praise, my soul, the king of heaven’ 2 Lev 13 3 Henry Twells, 1823 – 1900
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