The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany (2/12/2012)

Lessons:2 Kings 5:1-14 Psalm 30 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 St. Mark 1:40-45

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, with mercy you look upon our weaknesses. Stretch out your wondrous hand to protect us from danger and restore us to health, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity,Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45But 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.

St. Mark 1:40-45 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Jesus Stretched out His Hand and Touched Him

The Messianic Secret is all over St. Mark’s Gospel, and we’ll run into it any number of times this year. The term “Messianic Secret” refers to the fact that time after time Jesus instructs people not to say anything to anyone about what he has done for them. We notice that in this week’s text. After cleansing this man whose life had been ruined by leprosy, Jesus “sternly warns him” to “say nothing to anyone.” (There are certain people, of course, who claim this is the commandment that North American Lutherans follow with the most intensity…)

A number of explanations have been offered as to why Jesus does this. (Go ahead and Google “Messianic Secret” — I got 2,430,000 results in 0.16 seconds this afternoon.) The one that has the most traction with me is the argument that before the death and resurrection of Jesus, nobody on earth could imagine what it meant for him to be Messiah anyway, and he wanted them to wait until that experience had touched their hearts before they try to invite anybody else to have faith in him.

Nevertheless, despite the stern warning of Jesus, look at what this man does. Jesus stretches out his hand. Jesus touches the man. Jesus says, “Be made clean.” Immediately this leper is rid of that terrible scourge. Jesus sternly warns him to keep quiet. And this guy becomes like a three-year-old who has just found out what Mom and Dad are giving big sister for Christmas. His insides are nearly exploding as he tries to hold it in, and he lasts about as long as it takes him to run around the corner. He proclaims it freely. He spreads the word. And on the strength of his witness, people begin flocking to Jesus from every quarter.

Jesus stretches out his hand and touches him, and nothing will ever make as big of a difference in his life as that single touch. It will define who he is for the rest of his life: he will be a man who has been blessed beyond measure by the amazing grace of God.

And that, my friends, is what we are talking about when we talk about discipleship. That is what we are talking about when we talk about evangelism. That is what we are talking about when we talk about stewardship. That is what we are talking about when we talk about living lives of service to others.

We are talking about an experience of God that is so amazing, so profound, so life-changing, so grace-filled, that we run away from it like a three-year-old who is in possession of the season’s greatest secret. We couldn’t hold it in if we tried. We couldn’t stay interested only in ourselves and our families if we wanted to. But from the very center of our being, we are driven into the world, filled by a passion to share with others what God has shared with us.

God: stir up the hearts of your people. Touch us at our core with the grace of Jesus Christ. Inspire us with the gift of your Holy Spirit. And then go ahead: just try to stop us.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How had leprosy changed this man’s life?
  2. Why did the leper beg Jesus to make him clean? (What did he know about Jesus?)
  3. How did his testimony affect those who heard it?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has God touched my life?
  2. What can I do to stay more constantly aware of God’s touch in me?
  3. What are some ways that I can thank God, for the difference faith has made in my life?