A bible story that I come back to time and time again is the story of Jesus healing the leper in the opening chapter of Marks’ gospel. I once wrote a short story based on the incident. I imagined that the touch of Jesus went a little further than just a hand on the shoulder. While the man had leprosy, or whatever the skin condition was, he was barred from physical contact – so I wanted to communicate how Jesus goes beyond the basics. I opted for an embrace rather than just a touch.
There was nothing tentative or hesitant about his touch. He raises me to my feet and wraps me in his strong embrace. I inhale the clean smell of his robes and feel the roughness of the fabric against my cheek. The sun glistens off the pale hairs on his arms. I can feel his warmth seeping through his clothes and through my rags. Long forgotten sensations cascade over me as I stand enfolded. Just as the open sores of my leprosy break and bleed, my heart breaks and my hurts bleed out. He holds me close as I am drowned in a torrent of my pitiful and wretched tears. After a while I am still. I hear his heart beat in the peace after the storm. And we stand.
As I was checking out commentaries and what other people had blogged, or sermoned, about the story, I discovered that there is some debate about Jesus’emotions. All the various version of the Bible I possess read that Jesus full of compassion, or pity, reached out to touch the leper. It would appear that some of the early manuscripts replace the compassion or the pity with anger. Jesus, being angry, heals the leper.
The anger is not directed at the leper. Jesus wasn’t angry that a man who knew the rules concerning lepers broke them. He wasn’t angry that in coming so close, the leper was putting Jesus’ health at risk. Jesus’ anger was directed at the illness, the conditon that man found himself in and the whole social isolation thing. He was angry because sin had destroyed a person’s physical being, and all his social relationships and left him less than human. This was not the world that He brought into being. He did not plan for people to live under sickeness and death.
Some commentators dismis anger and stick with compassion. Some commentators suggest that anger was softened to compassion to fit in with people’s understanding of Jesus. I am challenged by anger. Like most people I get angry about things – usually the wrong things! I can remember a few weeks ago getting very angry with a minor celebrity who said that her misscarriage was a punishment from God!
I have just returned home from a family visit. My mother isn’t doing so well. She is slowly, but surely, physically falling apart – wear and tear in just about every bodily system. In one of her many hospital visits, the doctor was doing some kind of scan and suggested they look lat her gall bladder to see if she didn’t have gallstones. My mother, ever the humourist, reminded him that the doctor s had removed her gall bladder many years ago so quite where the gallstones were hiding out might prove a mystery!
My mum is fragile. It is not just the physical body that is being eroded, but courage and confidence is also being dismantled.
This is not the world that Jesus planned for her. It’s not punishemnt from God for sin. It is just the fallen world falling on her and crushing her at times.
It’s no wonder Jesus gets angry!