Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”
By Rajiv Sidhu, ordinand at Ripon College Cuddesdon:
This is a real ‘gobstopper’. There is a lot to chew over. In these two very short verses, a huge amount happens. The heart of the gospel can be found in this short but life changing interaction. We find four key things about the nature of God, through the actions of Jesus in this reading. Firstly, Jesus sees the leper. Secondly, Jesus is moved by the leper. Thirdly, Jesus reaches out to the leper. And, most importantly, Jesus chooses.
Jesus sees the leper.
It is very easy to overlook this very simple point. Jesus sees the leper. The leper was the outcast, the person diseased by something that people did not understand. They knew they had to keep their distance. They knew that something was happening that made this person different. They would have been surrounded by suspicion and exclusion.
Yet it is this very context that Jesus meets the Leper. And rather than choose to ignore or avoid the situation, Jesus sees this person. He sees the experiences of hurt, humiliation, and abuse. The mental anguish of wondering “why”, and the cycles of pain, self-distain, and forsakenness that this person went through.
Jesus sees and acknowledges all these experiences. He does not deny any of them. He sees this person, the very personification of marginalisation, and recognises them. He recognises their humanity. He recognises their kinship with him. He sees them when others choose not to see them. He sees them when they call out to him. He sees them in their desperation. And the good news is, it does not stop here.
Jesus is moved by the leper
Jesus has heart. He is moved by this plight. Some translations suggest that Jesus is moved by “anger”. Others suggest “pity”. The point though, is that Jesus is moved. Jesus shares in our joys and sorrows. We see this here. And. This. Matters. This matters because our stories, our experiences, our hurts, our heartbreak, our anger, all these things move Jesus. He is with us through these things. He breathes with us. He walks with us. His humanity means he shares with us, in all these things in their fullness. More than that though, Jesus also…
Jesus Reaches Out To the Leper.
Jesus touches the leper. Jesus crosses boundaries. Jesus sees the brokenness, the otherness, and the sickness. And sees through them. Jesus sees a situation that is not right. And reaches into it. Jesus sees a situation that is not just, that is not fair, and that is not to God’s plan, and reaches into it. He touches it. He holds it. He feels it physically. Regardless of the cost to him socially. Regardless of the suggestions that will be made after this. He reaches out because he sees. He reaches out because he is moved. And he reaches out because reaching out is the right thing to do.
This is my most favourite sentence in the Bible. (Thank you, Andrew!). Life is complicated. And ideas crucial to life are even more complicated. The concept of “justice”, and “social justice” is fraught. Whose Justice? Who decides Justice? What even is Justice? How can human justice be equal to God’s Righteousness? Is such a thing possible? Is Human Justice anything like “Gods justice”? Human justice cuts, divides, and excludes at some point. Is that Gods righteousness? Does that mean there is a limit to the Salvation of Passion Sunday?
And in more practical terms- what about the context of the people that we are having to decide justice about? What about this circumstances that have surrounded and shaped them? How can we make such finite decisions in the face of infinite variables?
“Undecidability” is the term for such decisions; decisions that you must make because you are forced into a situation where a decision is needed. Yet a decision cannot possibly be made. But “undecidability” is not “indecision”. Indecision is simply not choosing. To not choose, is, though, to choose to be outside of the situation. And to be outside of the situation with the option to choose to intervene, is to be in a place of privilege. Worst still, the decision not to decide, is a decision to stay with the dominant opinion, idea, or thought. And we see this here. There are all sorts of reasons not to intervene. For Jesus to choose not to see, for Jesus to choose not to be moved, and for Jesus to choose not to reach out. Yet he does. This single sentence has immeasurable hope; “I do choose.”
Jesus, the Son of God, the Divine Incarnate, the one who can choose to be outside because he is from outside, both humanly and divinely, chooses to intervene. He chooses to heal. He chooses to touch. He chooses to be part of this story and to make it better. He does the radical thing. The thing asked in faith. The thing that delivers hope. Jesus chooses to do the loving thing.
We are called to be equally radical. So, see the person in front of you. Be moved by them. Reach out to them. And most fundamentally, choose. Choose to bring faith, hope, and love, to a world that so desperately needs it. Because that is what Jesus did, does and continues to do.
If you would like to be notified by email each Saturday when a new weekly reflection is posted, please make sure you are subscribed to the “prayer & faith” emails from St Giles’ (click here) or St Margaret’s (click here).
If you would also like to receive an email each day with a new “thought for the day” related to that week’s reflection, please sign up below: