Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Layman's Bible Commentary Layman's Bible Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
"Commentary on Mark 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
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"Commentary on Mark 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
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The Power of the Good News (1:21-3:6)
In the opening paragraphs of his book Mark had introduced Jesus of Nazareth as a prophet who had received authority from God as the Messiah. The announcement of how the time had been fulfilled, along with the summoning of the four fishermen, had been the first public clue to the Messiah’s authority. God’s power had now to be released publicly, but without losing its heavenly depth. Disclosure would not dispel its mystery. Each exercise of this power, as Jesus followed step by step the leading of his unique vocation, would intensify the question, "What is happening here?" (see 1:27). The presence of power was undeniable; not so its origin. In the succeeding episodes, the disciples watched with increasing surprise the results of this power as it now operated among men.
The Beginning of the Beginning (1:1-20)
The Title (1:1)
An ancient writer selected for his opening phrase what a modern writer would choose as the title of his book. This opening phrase was selected with great care so that it would fit the contents of the book and suggest the author’s objective. Often, therefore, this phrase should be capitalized and boldly separated from the following verses. Such is the case with Mark:
The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Each word here is strategic. A gospel is news, great news. It is news because it tells of something which has happened. It is great because the event has produced so great a change. The greater the change in human affairs, the more urgent the news. It may of course be either bad or good. The better the outlook, the better the news. If it offers power for men’s deliverance (Romans 1:16), then its excellence beggars comparison. This is the force of the term "gospel." This meaning would have been familiar to anyone acquainted with the Scriptures in Mark’s day (Isaiah 61:1-4).
This news pertained to Jesus in a double way: it was an announcement which he had made, and also a manifesto about him. He was the speaker, and also the one spoken about. Few books incorporate so diverse a collection of materials, yet few have so unwavering a focus. Whatever the situation and whoever the participants, Jesus stands always at the center. Attention shifts from seaside to synagogue to mountain, or from tax collector to leper to centurion, but always Jesus is there.
"Jesus" was a personal name, frequently adopted by Jewish parents for their sons ever since the time of Joshua (the Hebrew form), "Christ" was an uncommon title. What did Mark understand by that title? The answer is by no means certain, even though one of the earliest and simplest Christian confessions was "Jesus is the Christ." Different people meant very different things when they used this title. Jesus himself seldom, if ever, used it (Mark 9:41; Mark 12:35; Mark 14:61-62). Those who applied it to him were often misguided in their views (Mark 8:29; Mark 15:32). It could be applied to many others (Mark 13:21-22). What then did Mark have in mind? In one sense, the best answer is simply to read the entire story and to include as a definition all that Jesus did. We may summarize by saying that, to Mark, the Christ (the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Messiah") is the one whom God has anointed to inaugurate his Kingdom and to serve as King of his people. Through him God has chosen to fulfill his promise of liberty to captives (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). Even so, this remains a formal and theoretical definition until it is defined by the person who accomplishes this deliverance. Jesus himself is the definition, although his definition was so unique and so unexpected that no one really understood his Christhood until after deliverance had been experienced through him. The gospel discloses the drastic changes which were required in men’s thinking before they could fully recognize Jesus as the Christ who had come from God.
Mark believed that another title was especially appropriate to this Messiah: "the Son of God." Again we are dealing with a phrase which has had many connotations, a phrase which we think we understand until we try to give an exact equivalent. Again we must listen to the entire story before we trust our definition. Otherwise we might be trapped into adopting popular notions of gods, angels, heroes, and wonder-workers as divine beings, and applying these notions to Jesus. Mark had learned from Jesus how to think of sonship to God. It must be measured by doing work which God has assigned (Mark 1:38), by complete obedience to God’s will (Mark 3:34-35), by exercising God’s liberating power, even through death (Mark 2:5; Mark 15:39). The Son is known by his love for the Father and the Father’s love for him (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7).
One other expression in the book’s title requires comment: "the beginning." We should probably not think of this as if the author were saying: "Here begins my story" or "Here begins the lesson." Just as the term "gospel" did not refer here to the written document (the Gospel of Mark), but to the great message which Jesus and his disciples proclaimed, so, too, its beginning cannot be limited to verse one of chapter one. Does Mark refer to the first episode in the story, that is, the preaching of John and the descent of the Spirit on Jesus? Yes, but far more than this. As we have stressed in the Introduction, Mark considered the entire series of events as "the beginning," everything which led up to the proclamation of the gospel by the Apostles. The point where he ended his story was the point where the Apostles began to shout their personal testimony that this crucified Man had now been revealed as the Messiah. In this sense Mark may have wished to remind his readers of that other Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." God had begun a new thing in creating a new humanity, yes, even a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). Understood against this background, Mark’s title makes a tremendous assertion.
The Prophecy (1:2-8)
It was the custom of Apostles in Mark’s day to include in their witness to Jesus the assurance that through him God had carried out his promises. Such an assurance was much more than an incidental matter, for unless God is faithful he is not truly God. When he acts he must act in harmony with previous covenants. He had earlier bound himself by firm oaths to his people, the Israel of the Covenant. Those promises, in turn, had served as the basis for the work of all the prophets. Through Malachi, God had pledged to send a "messenger of the covenant" to prepare the way. He had warned men that this messenger would bum "like a refiner’s fire." Preparation required purification, a purification involving both soap and fire (Malachi 3:1-4). Through the prophet of the Exile, God had announced to Jerusalem the boon of wars ended and iniquities pardoned. He had indicated that a highway would be constructed in the wilderness. One sign of this revolution would be a crying voice (Isaiah 40:1-5). Those messages, delivered through the prophets, had demanded of Israel both dread and hope, both stringent repentance and humble expectancy.
For Mark the appearance of John as God’s messenger constituted a first and strategic step in the fulfillment of such promises. John was this voice in the wilderness, sent to make straight the paths of the Lord. Israel must heed his commands as the commands of God himself. Why must this happen in the wilderness, with its nomadic dress and its meager diet? To symbolize the sharp break with the institutions and culture of the city, to dramatize the renunciation required of those who would accept his authority, to intimate that this prophet who came in the "spirit and power" of Elijah (Luke 1:17; Mark 9:13) was to protest against the complacency and the idolatry of the accepted religious leaders. An authentic and ancient prophet had appeared again, the signal for a divine accounting with God’s people, the omen of a shift in the course of history.
Why the voice? John’s strategic preparation of the road for the Messiah lay in his preaching. About what did he preach? The other New Testament books give a fuller account than does Mark’s Gospel (see Luke 3:4-17). God’s judgment was near at hand, as close as the ax to the root of the tree when the woodsmen have marked it for felling. The crisis was such that no one dared rely on his parentage, his piety, his prestige. Everyone faced God’s awesome winnowing in which the chaff would be burned. Everyone needed forgiveness; apart from forgiveness no one could survive. Those who recognized this situation (and this would include all who accepted John’s authority as a prophet) joined in humbling themselves before God.
Why this baptism? John not only spoke but acted. His action was itself a dramatic sign of the new day, a sign in which both the prophet and the people declared their faith. Multitudes came from great distances to confess their guilt and to throw themselves on God’s mercy, praying for the day of redemption. Their journey to the Jordan showed their willingness to leave the old world and its entangled complicities, and to plunge into the fires of God’s righteous judgment. More than this, it was a symbolic repetition of that earlier crossing of the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua, when God had led into the Promised Land those emigrants who were ready to venture all on his leading. Now again God was calling for a new decision and was opening up a new Land of Promise. John established the Jordan as the frontier between old and new. Those who crossed this frontier were pledging themselves to place God’s will above all earthly securities and ambitions. When they descended together into the water, this was no conventional gesture, but a radical self-renunciation and an equally radical reliance on God. They sought to cross the boundary between a cursed past and a blessed future. When Paul spoke of baptism as being "buried" with Christ, he showed how radical was this act (Romans 6:3-4). But John’s demand on those who heard him preach was no less rigorous and ruthless. This baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins was nothing casual or trivial; it was sober and revolutionary. Otherwise Jesus would not have reckoned it as the work of the promised Elijah.
John not only demanded humility; he demonstrated it as well. He knew that he was himself unworthy of the new day. He had been sent from God only to prepare his people for it, to lead them to its dawn. Both he and they would need something more than forgiveness for the past; they would need to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, who alone could give them power and life. But because John’s authority came from God, their forgiveness also came from God. Together they were leveling a new road, looking toward a "mightier" one who would baptize with the awesome gift of the Holy Spirit. So Mark saw prophecy fulfilled in the mission of John. His Roman readers would likewise see in John’s baptism the essential beginning of their own baptism, their own forgiveness, and their own preparation to receive the Lord.
The Descent of Power (1:9-13)
"In those days" is a strange way of dating so important an event. Mark was not concerned with the exact year or month; in all likelihood he did not know it. He was more concerned with showing how God had linked the vocation of Jesus to that of John. In this he followed the accent of the Apostles’ sermons, which often began by appealing to "the baptism which John preached" (Acts 10:37). Those were the days when God had prepared Israel for the coming judgment, when Israel itself had been called into the path of revolution.
The statement that "Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee" is remarkably brief. It identifies Jesus’ home town and, since the town was small and little known, his home province also. But Mark shows no interest in Jesus’ earlier life in Nazareth, no interest in his training or home. Jesus made the long trip, presumably on foot, though Mark says nothing about the manner of the pilgrimage. He simply assumes that Jesus had heard what John was doing.
Nothing is said about Jesus’ state of mind. He simply came and was baptized, along with others who had answered John’s call. To Mark there was no difficulty in supposing that Jesus shared with his fellows the baptism of repentance, the will to turn away from the past and to face toward the coming Judgment. But when Jesus was baptized, all heaven — yes, and all hell too — broke loose. Mark declares that three things happened, each of which he describes very tersely and very symbolically.
1. "The heavens opened . . . the Spirit descending." By "heavens," Mark was speaking of more than the sky. "Heaven" is the biblical way of referring to the invisible throne of God, the source of God’s mysterious words and deeds. A view of opened heavens enabled a prophet to glimpse God’s decisions and to grasp God’s purposes for men. The man to whom the heavens are unveiled receives the gift of prophecy and the authority to speak in God’s name (Mark 11:30-31). This is the significance, too, of the Spirit which descended like a dove on Jesus. We are not asked to visualize this dove, but to meditate upon earlier deeds of the Spirit and earlier descents of the dove. Mark’s account echoes the story of divine creation in Genesis when the Spirit had brooded over the waters (Genesis 1:2). It thus connotes the faith that again God had released a mighty creation force. The symbolism is also reminiscent of the story of the great deluge, when the dove had brought glad tidings to Noah (Genesis , 8). Reflecting for centuries upon such episodes, Israel had come to expect that the New Age in human affairs would be inaugurated by the Spirit’s descent. The Spirit would convey heavenly grace and power to the Messiah (Luke 4:18-21) and through him bring peace and joy to men. Water, dove, wilderness. Spirit — all these images suggested agelong struggle and elicited great hopes. Where the dove descends, there God’s power begins again to operate.
2. "A voice came from heaven." The voice put into words, powerful words taken from Scripture, God’s address to Jesus: "Thou art my beloved Son." In being baptized by John, Jesus was baptized by God’s Spirit and appointed to do God’s work as God’s Son. What is the precise weight of these words? We cannot be entirely certain. They echo phrases in the Second Psalm (2:7) and in the prophecy of Isaiah (42:1). The echo of the Psalm intimates that God was now crowning a King on his holy mountain who was destined to inherit and to rule all the peoples on earth. The echo of Isaiah intimates that God was now calling a Servant through whose suffering justice and peace would be restored to a dark and tormented world. It was thus intimated that Jesus’ mission would embody the authority and power of a world ruler in the atoning love of a world servant. We will find that successive episodes illustrate this same fusion of the regal authority of a king with the gentle humility of a slave.
3. "The Spirit . . . drove him . . . into the wilderness." Mark closely connects the descent of power with what at first sight seems its antithesis. For what is the first sign of sonship? Struggle. The Spirit who had anointed Christ as Son immediately "drove him" (the Greek verb is a harsh one) into the wilderness. From the first the path of sonship would be lonely and desolate, for this required him to do battle with Satan, the ruler of darkness. This battle must proceed without aid from men. It must proceed even within the stronghold of the Devil himself: "the wilderness . . . the wild beasts." (For an instructive parallel, read Revelation 12.) The work of both John and Jesus sent them to this territory of the Enemy. With the aid of the Spirit, Jesus vanquished the Tempter, and that victory assured triumph in temptations and battles which were to follow. But Mark leaves little doubt in the reader’s mind that the struggle was genuine and long. The "forty days" calls to mind the deluge in Noah’s day (Genesis 7:17), the wandering of Israel in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5), and Elijah’s period of wrestling with his call (1 Kings 19:4-8). After this victory Jesus was qualified to wrest other men from Satan’s grasp. He could now command the demons and they would recognize his authority. The descent of power from God had thus precipitated a challenge to the only other ultimate power-center in human affairs and had accomplished a victory which could be extended far beyond the original beachhead.
What are the connections between this story and the life of the Church in Mark’s day? The main links are clear. The Church as a whole, including every believer within it, was baptized by the same Spirit. All were reborn from above, from heaven. Their sonship, as brothers of the Son of Man, was acknowledged by God. Moreover, they were made sons for a purpose, chosen to carry out a redemptive mission. Their call to serve men was everywhere dependent upon Jesus’ power as God’s beloved Son. They were struggling daily with the same Tempter in the same wilderness (Revelation 12:14; Hebrews 3:8-10). The memory of Jesus’ baptism was therefore more important than the memory of their own, because his baptism had preceded and included their own.
The Call of Fishermen (1:14-20)
The episodes in Mark are so loosely linked together that it is quite impossible to recover the length of the time intervals. How long a time elapsed between Jesus’ battle with Satan and his return to Galilee? We do not know. The duration of the private battle was not a matter of dates on the calendar. What seemed important to Mark was the fact that it was only after his anointing with the Spirit and his victory over Satan that Jesus could take up his public work. One other event intervened — the arrest of John. This must have posed its own form of temptation to Jesus. Was it not evidence of the folly of the expectation which John had held?
Did not this public hostility and government brutality prove the futility of such dreams? If Jesus continued to proclaim joyful tidings, could he expect any more merciful fate? Instead of frightening Jesus from his work, however, this arrest struck the signal for which Jesus was waiting. He took over John’s message and carried it even into Galilee, the very stronghold of Herodian power.
We do not have a full transcript of his opening message. Mark gives us a summary in a single sentence, each word of which calls for expansion. Of what "time" did Jesus speak as being "fulfilled"? The time of sin and sorrow, the time of patient waiting and penitent preparation, the time of crucial decision and risk, the time which God had determined and promised, the time when he would bring final judgment and mercy to the earth. Of this fulfillment, the preaching and arrest of John were tokens, as were Jesus’ struggles in the wilderness. God had declared war on Satan’s empire, and Satan had responded with all-out mobilization of his forces. God had set his Kingdom in motion. It was now coming toward earth from heaven. It was pressing in at the very doors. Signs of its nearness might be detected in the descent of the Spirit and the triumph over the Tempter. Another sign was simply the presence of Jesus himself with his authorized manifesto. As surely as he was God’s Son, so surely was his announcement God’s own declaration. God’s impending judgment was indeed as terrifying as John had indicated. "Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire" (Malachi 3:2). But the judgment must be so caustic just because the redemption was so great. Apart from God’s word, there could be no peace. If forgiveness were to be final, repentance must be total. Only when men became free from the past could they become open to God’s future. This was what gave to Jesus’ call a double thrust: "Repent, and believe in the gospel." All that Jesus taught was simply an expansion of this keynote sentence.
Note, for example, how the double word "repent . . . believe" was immediately matched by the double deed of leaving and following. The summoning of men to join him was an essential part of Jesus’ vocation, a part which he undertook at once. The first who "left . . . and followed" were four fishermen. In describing their response, Mark gave only a glimpse of what originally must have been a much longer episode. This quartet may well have been disciples of John and recipients of his baptism (John 1:35).
They probably had met Jesus on earlier occasions. They almost certainly had heard Jesus give at greater length his proclamation. But the miracle lies in the fact that they had accepted it: Is the time fulfilled? Yes, Must we "repent, and believe"? Yes. Symbolically the story stressed two things about these men. First, they had abruptly and completely broken away from the routines of their job and from the securities of their home. Second, Jesus had pledged to teach them how to fish for men. All the later episodes in Mark’s document make clear how Jesus had redeemed this pledge, as one "lesson" followed another. At the end of their "course" these first four had in fact become fishermen. The initial story, therefore, reminded every Christian reader of the intended outcome of his own decision to leave and to follow.
The story of the call of this quartet also suggested to early readers that Jesus had begun his task of creating the Church at the very outset. He had been sent for the very purpose of fishing for a community of fishermen. In these five Galileans the later Church was foreshadowed. In what happened one could see mirrored how the Messiah makes his "catch" in every situation: a call, a companionship, a sacrifice, a shared task. It is not surprising that in early Christian art the Church was pictured by the rough sketch of a boat, with fishermen at their nets.
Thus with great economy of words Mark suggested the beginning of the beginning: the prophecy and the prophet, the baptism with water and the Spirit, the struggle with Satan and the triumph of God’s Anointed, the proclaiming of the news and men’s double response, the call and commissioning of the Apostles, the emergence of the Church, the journey together into Capernaum.
To Cast Out Demons (1:21-28)
The site of Jesus’ earliest ministry was the province of Galilee, still an important governmental division in modem Israel. The site of the first invitation to discipleship was the lake, still the location of a substantial fishing industry. On the northern shore of the lake was a bustling city, Capernaum. Excavating the ruins of the third-century city, archaeologists have uncovered a large stone synagogue and a Roman-style forum, buildings which indicate an active community. Nearby was the place where fish were salted for export. In this city lived the first disciples (Mark 1:29), and here much of Jesus’ earliest work was carried on.
"On the sabbath he entered the synagogue." It was probably a large building, with many of the citizens in attendance. Every week they gathered to hear the Scriptures read and interpreted, to pray for daily strength, and to praise the God of Israel. Here the scribes expounded the lesson and taught the people what God’s Word meant for them. Here, then, Jesus appeared among the scribes as one of the teachers. But immediately the manner of his teaching created astonishment. Whereas the other scribes relied upon the authority of the Scriptures and of their tradition, this visitor spoke as a prophet, relaying a message straight from heaven and acting as if he had been assigned to speak in God’s own name.
Mark did not pause to tell how long, on that first occasion, Jesus spoke and what he talked about. Mark had already given the gist (Mark 1:15). Presumably Jesus spoke of the new opportunities which God had made available for fishermen and for housewives. He made clear the threat which God’s action posed for the powers of the Devil; he issued God’s offer of freedom and peace. Whatever he may have said, one response paralleled the response to his baptism. There the descent of the Spirit had been recognized and resisted by the Devil (Mark 1:13). Here the authority of the Spirit was recognized and resisted by the demons, who were, so to speak, private soldiers in Satan’s army. An unclean spirit (or a demon) discerned that this strange preacher was "the Holy One of God." He rightly inferred that God had sent Jesus to "destroy" them. He realized that the Holy One would allow no compromise : "What have you to do with us . . , ?" Satan himself had learned this lesson in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Now Jesus demonstrated his authority over Satan by commanding the demon to depart from the man. The demon obeyed his new master and, after one final display of his anger, released his prey. News was made in that synagogue that day, even the ordinary kind of news. Rumors raced throughout the countryside. Inevitably men asked, "What is this?" What can explain this thing? A man had appeared with a message concerning God’s power. He had spoken a simple, direct word, and strong chains had parted.
It is not surprising that the story, wherever it is read, creates similar reverberations. Of course in that day the belief in demons, in the reality of their power over men and the possibility of exorcizing them — all this was taken for granted. Other men had been known for their ability to ban these unwelcome spirits. Even today the phenomenon is by no means as rare as most of us suppose. From a good friend I have heard a similar story of how she, a pastor, evicted a demon from a man on the island of Truk. In Mark’s day, of course, such an incident was more common. As Mark told the story for Roman disciples, it was just one example of how the power of the gospel could free men from many despairs which constricted their hearts and destroyed their health. Jesus’ word still exerted in Rome its mysterious power to produce surprise and awe, expectancy and fear, wonderment and uncertainty. Public curiosity and personal interest in being healed, in Rome as in Capernaum, combined to raise the question: By what authority? To that question each of Mark’s readers had to provide his own answer.
To Heal the Sick (1:29-45)
Such notoriety and excitement can easily mushroom, especially if other startling things happen in close succession. Such was the case on this particular Sabbath. The group of five men went to Simon’s home for lunch. There the hostess was in bed "with a fever." Jesus "lifted her up . . . and she served them." The terseness of this story baffles both the interpreter and the reader. Why did Mark not say more? We do not know. But we can surmise why he says what he does if we remember that this anecdote speaks of the home of disciples, a home in which a member of the family was sick. In similar homes in Rome, disciples would be conscious of the Lord’s abiding presence. They would tell him of "her." And this Lord would come, would take "her" by the hand and would lift "her" up. Then she would be healed and, since she might not have been a believer, would now become one who "served." This is a picture of how the servant Messiah made servants of those whom he blessed with his presence.
Sundown in Israel marked the end of the Sabbath. Men could again walk and work freely. The unexpected presence of a divine healer created a furor. So the crowds gathered in front of the house, bringing with them the sick and the tormented. Mark summarized what happened most tersely: "and he healed many . , . and cast out many demons." The two episodes just recounted were only a selection of many such stories that might have been told.
One feature of this summary calls for comment. In freeing man from demons Jesus bound the demons to a pact of silence, "because they knew him." Why did Jesus do this? Why does Mark mention it, here as well as later in his narrative? (for example, Mark 3:12). Did Mark add this detail in order to explain why men had not recognized Jesus as the Messiah during his lifetime? Some interpreters think so. Or did Jesus want to discourage the misleading notoriety and confusion which would result from open publication of these wonders? Possibly. A premature popularity might have forced him into a type of "headline" ministry which would have defeated his purpose. Or was he aware that a faith produced by the spectacular and the abnormal, a faith based on popular gossip of what Jesus had done to someone else, would always be inadequate to support believers through the trials of ignominy and death which true faith entailed? (Mark 4:16-17). Mark is reticent about disclosing Jesus’ motives, but he sees great significance in the fact that the demons recognized in Jesus "the finger of God" (Luke 11:15-22). They realized that with the coming of the Kingdom their own days were numbered. Mark also implies that the onlookers, who did not understand the mysteries of the unseen world as the demons did, were unaware as yet of the true source of Jesus’ power.
The silencing of the demons is thoroughly consistent with the fact that Jesus immediately chose to slip away from the crowd, avoiding further clamor and excitement (Mark 1:35). He would not allow the crowd to deflect him from his major work. He was a courier with news which must be broadcast as widely and as quickly as he could manage it. The news included, to be sure, the power to evict demons; but if he permitted the hubbub which was produced by this power to deflect attention from God’s commission, he would forfeit his assignment. Time and again during the weeks which followed, he had to keep his heart focused on the basic purpose: "why I came" (Mark 1:38). Time and again concentration on this single task led him to withdraw into the wilderness. (The Greek word translated "a lonely place" is the same as that rendered "wilderness" in Mark 1:3 and Mark 1:12.) This place, symbolizing the ministry of John and the trial of Jesus by Satan, was the place where by prayer Jesus could himself resist the attractions of popularity, where he could renew his dependence on God, and where he could return to his initial commission. The disciples were as surprised by his desire for seclusion (vs. 37) as by his power over evil, yet Mark knew that these two were linked together.
Try as he did to evade the spectacle-hungry crowds, however, Jesus could not escape the claims of human helplessness. "A leper came to him" begging for help, confident that Jesus could cleanse him. Then, as now, leprosy was a major scourge. Leprosy was more than a physical malady, for it made one a social derelict, unable to live in any settled community, unable to touch anything or anyone without spreading the awful contagion. A leper became a religious outcast, cut off from synagogue and Temple. Wherever he went he was met by the horrible shudder, "Unclean." Shunned by the whole world, hating and despising himself, he lived within a frightful shell of uncleanness and hopelessness. This particular leper, however, had not given up all hope in God’s power and compassion, for he came to Jesus with his pathetic cry. The Messiah was moved with pity. He touched the untouchable and thus took upon himself the dreaded contamination. He commanded, and the leprosy departed (the language of verse 42 suggests that Jesus was expelling an unclean spirit). He commanded again, and the leper went to the priest for that certificate of cleanness which would restore access to the homes and hearts of his neighbors. Although the Messiah commanded the leper to conceal who had cleansed him, his command could not be obeyed. Word of what had happened spread so widely that Jesus again had difficulty in avoiding publicity. In Jesus’ work as master of maladies a light shone which could not be totally hid; for it made too obvious a difference to the sick, the insane, and the leprous. The next episode shows how the power to cleanse and to heal was inseparable from the power to release men from the paralyzing effects of guilt.