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MK 1: 40-45
The 6th Sunday after the Epiphany..Feb.16th, `03

Many commentators think biblical 'leprosy' often means what we know as a form of psoriasis, but we need to receive the story in its primary form before we apply our own modern insights. It makes no difference to  Reuben (let's give him a name & a face) whether he has psoriasis or leprosy. Under then law he's among the living dead anyway! Out in the furthest margins. By approaching Jesus he puts himself even further out, & pulls Jesus out there with him! Jesus is no stranger to our margins!

That Jesus' response is anger rather than compassion seems to be the earlier textual reading. Even if Jesus' anger is a quick response to Reuben's 'if....' (I don't think it is) one can see how even among evangelists, political correctness demanded anger be changed to compassion. It's not seemly for the Son of God to get mad at somebody or something. I don't have a problem with a truly human Jesus losing his cool. If I can do it, he can do it! If he can do it I don't feel so bad - just human -when I do it,  too. Jesus isn't angry at Reuben. If he's angry at all it's that Reuben or any other human being is afflicted as he is & then having still more affliction inflicted by exclusion. If we're Jesus' friends, ought we not to be madder about a lot of things that happen to people out there, that are being done to them?! Jesus is angry because he's com-passionate! Maybe some of our com-passion needs to be a lot more passionate!

Reuben's healing is a cleaning. Today there are many human predicaments where cleaning is needed if healing is to take place. It may mean us getting our reputations as well as our hands dirty if some of today's Reubens are to be healed.

Sending Reuben off, Jesus literally snorts with anger. There's colour here that this time gets past the literary censors. Contrast this with how colourless we can make Jesus appear (cf. Thompson's 'pale Galilean'. What a slander!) The word Jesus uses in sending Reuben away is the same word MK uses of Jesus being 'thrown out' into the wilderness for his testing ([1:12]. Jesus knows how much of a test for them all, not least Reuben himself, his return to society's going to be.

As one who finds himself hanging far more loose from church than in a previous existence, Jesus' instruction to Reuben to comply with the Levitical law warns me not to undo the tie that binds me to behemoth too completely! To be sure, many church structures need to be demolished because they are not Jesus friendly, but others provide some bones to give us stability. The issue is whether they bring us freedom as in Reuben's case, or simply bind us still tighter as the other edge of the same two edged law had done to Reuben earlier.

MK captures Reuben's sheer excitement at his cleansing. Do we detect much excitement, or much to get excited about in our church(es) today, or has spiritual psoriasis taken over & dulled our spirits?

Explorations of this passage for Home Groups may be found at: