Tumbling in the Sand
“But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.” -Mark 1:45
I wonder why Jesus couldn’t go into a town openly anymore. There are at least a couple of explanations: the first of which is that he was simply mobbed by people who wanted to be healed anytime he was seen in public. This could be, given the comment about how people came out to him from every quarter. This also makes sense given the way that in just the previous story, Jesus had to sneak away in the early morning to pray. But, it seems to me that this would have been a problem given the sheer number of healings he’d done up until then (and that he kept on doing). It seems like news was spreading: why was the leper’s particular testimony so different? so impactful?
The second explanation (that I heard from someone other than me, but now cannot recall from whom) addresses that question: Jesus was viewed as unclean—as leprous—because he touched the man with leprosy. And since he was unclean, he was hazardous to everyone else’s health (and religious sensibilities). This is interesting, for so many reasons, not the least of which being that Jesus risked being ostracized from the community in order to allow someone to be made well and allowed back into the community.
But another thing that is interesting is that we don’t tend to think of Jesus as getting sick or unclean: when we think about Jesus touching the sick, we think about how the sick get well. But, when we think about a normal person touching the sick, we worry that that person will be made sick: that the illness is contagious, not the wellness.
What if, like Jesus, we could spread wellness? I wonder what we’d have to risk—to give up—to be able to do that?
I suppose the first thing we’d have to give up is the comfort of communities that exclude people in need of healing and grace.
Maybe another thing we’d have to give up is our fear that we will get sick: that somehow being around those people who are broken and hurting will make us more broken and hurting than we already are—that somehow being around lepers will make us into lepers too.
And I guess another thing we’d have to give up is the idea that some kinds of illnesses are irredeemable: that the healing power of God’s (com)passion isn’t enough to mend some kinds of people.
I imagine that there are some other things we’d have to give up too, things that we like that keep us comfortable. But I guess if we were to do it—if we were to be about spreading wellness—we’d probably find ourselves in remarkably good company (though he might well appear to be a leper) and we might well find in the process that we, too, are healed.
Featured Image: “Healing the Leper,” Rembrandt