Saturday, January 14, 2017



Thursday morning I opened my Greek New Testament and started reading the day’s gospel passage, Mark 1:40 ff -- and never got past the second sentence. The English translation in the lectionary begins this way:

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
"If you wish, you can make me clean."
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
"I do will it. Be made clean."

But in my Greek text, that third line, instead of reading “Moved with pity,” had “Being angered, he stretched out his hand.”  This passage is what the scholars call “one of the more disputed textual readings in Mark,” because the ancient Greek manuscripts disagree as to which word belongs there -- some have “moved with pity” while others have “being angered.” Not being interested at the moment in the the details of the scholarly controversy as to which is the better reading, I began to reflect on the idea that Jesus got angry at the situation.

Why would he be angry? When I’ve come across this passage previously, with the variant reading that has Jesus being angry, I’ve always assumed that he was angry at the existence of the disease and the horrible suffering it was causing this unfortunate man. This is the human side of Jesus identifying with the pain of a fellow human, and rebelling at the presence of that kind of “evil” in the world. His anger moves him to stretch out his hand against the disease and cleanse the man.


But Thursday morning I thought of a second possibility when I looked at the sentence that immediately precedes the one in question: “A leper came to him … and said,
"If you wish, you can make me clean." Could Jesus’ anger have been in response to the man’s phrase, “if you wish?” The leper evidently knew of Jesus and believed in his power of healing, but, it seems, couldn’t quite bring himself to ask Jesus directly for help. Jesus is saying in effect, “What the heck do you mean ‘If I wish?’ Why don’t you just ask me to heal you?”

I realized that there are times when I don’t ask the Lord to help me with my problems, but instead try to solve them myself, or resign myself to putting up with them, or feel sorry for myself because God has laid some particular burden on my shoulders.

I too easily forget Jesus’ invitation “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28), or I tiptoe around the issue instead of confidently calling out “Lord, help me! This is too much!”  Maybe the Lord gets exasperated with me when I don’t simply and confidently throw myself on his mercy and ask for help.

That meditation was a good reminder not to let myself get preoccupied with worries, but rather to hand them to the Lord and trust that he will give me all the help and healing that I need.

No comments:

Post a Comment