Mark 1:40-45 (NIV)I’d never really considered Jesus in light of his fame. That’s the only way to view him in this story from Mark. He’s in some ways a prisoner of his own renown, unable to walk among regular people without being accosted. Without coming across as whiny, Jesus’ situation as described here sounds very much like the modern celebrity who dislikes leaving Los Angeles or New York because everywhere else in America they’re unable to be anonymous. They just want to eat a quiet meal with friends without signing autographs for everyone in the restaurant.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “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.” 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.
That image brings to mind a story my newspaper reported last week when actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis stopped at a small-town gas station, probably on their way back to Hollywood. It was a 10-minute visit on a Tuesday afternoon, but the store employees and fellow patrons collected pictures and autographs. This isn’t to equate starring on “That ‘70s Show” with healing leprosy, but another way of saying in the many different ways I’ve thought of Jesus, “as celebrity” hasn’t been among them.
This reality probably is a symptom of thinking of Jesus more in terms of his divinity, or at least his death and resurrection, than in terms of his humanity. I’m not sure why exactly I have that impediment, or even if it matters a great deal. But surely it would be helpful for me to consider the struggles Jesus faced during his human life. And not just the persecution and clashes with authority, but the demands of his followers, the task of keeping the disciples all on the same page, heck, even the frustrations of foot and boat travel in that part of the world some 2,000 years ago.
My inward focus is most sharply aimed at my roles as husband and father — two things I am that Jesus was not. But I’ve been reminded countless times how loving anyone the way Jesus taught me to do, whether a close family member or complete stranger, is a road map to a healthy relationship. I’ve got to have more of that part of Jesus alive in me, and I hope to be able to foster the same type of life in my kids. I need to lean on Jesus constantly to show me how to relate to people. He is willing to make me clean if I am willing to be cleansed.
A prayer for July 15:
Lord, I hope I am not taking you for granted. I want to always respectful of your power, your love and your desire for my obedience. I may not have leprosy, but there is plenty that needs to be washed away that I may be made pure. Please give me a new start, let me start over. Break me down and rebuild me as you see fit. Lead me always. Amen.