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The Leper Who Can't Keep Quiet

This passage is a prime example of the “Messianic secret” theme that is so prominent in Mark’s gospel.  Jesus heals a leper, sending him off to the priest to be judged ritually clean (this according to Leviticus 13 and 14).  Jesus is healing far more than a disease, here; he is also healing the man from his rejection by society.  In this case – unlike Naaman’s, in today’s Old Testament lesson – the man does have a disease that, like Hansen’s Disease, leads to shunning by the community.  Before sending the man off, Jesus sternly charges him – as he so often does in Markan healing stories – to tell no one.  Overcome with joy, the former leper can’t keep the secret, and tells everyone he sees.  As a result, Jesus is mobbed by crowds of sick people seeking help.  It’s hard to know the reason for Jesus’ reluctance to have the man identify him as the healer, but it may have something to do with Jesus’ desire to have himself known as more than just a miracle-worker.  His mission is bigger than that.  Healing, for him, is an act of compassion for the afflicted, not a means of accruing glory for himself.

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