40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
In Jesus’ time, the priests held somewhat of a monopoly on healing. No matter how the healing came, the priests were the “official” healers who were paid to provide a final “seal of approval” or confirmation of a healing. Lepers suffered from a long-term bacterial infection of the skin and were considered outcasts.
We now know that leprosy can be cured with a combination of antibiotics and that 95% of people who come in contact with an infected person will never contract the disease. It’s hard to believe that in some parts of the world today, there are still people being separated into leper colonies.
In today’s gospel story, a leper comes to Jesus and begs for healing. In verse 41, our NIV translation says, “Jesus was indignant.” In other translations of this passage - NASB, NKJV, NRSV - we see the Greek word Σπλαγχνισθεὶς used, which translates as “moved with compassion.” The NIV scholars chose to use a 5th century manuscript of Mark’s gospel with the Greek word ὀργισθεὶς, which translates “indignant.” Scholars use many ancient manuscripts of the Bible to translate each scripture passage. It is a tedious and holy task because the manuscripts sometimes have minor differences in wording.
Thankfully, for us, we don’t have to be the ones to choose which manuscript to translate and we are blessed to have several great versions of the Bible to study. Personally, I love reading multiple versions because the small variations I find compel me to depend even more on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, to dig deeper, and to seek a broader understanding of the passage.
In this example, could it be that Jesus really was indignant that day, but toward those who made outcasts? Could it be that Jesus was filled with compassion for the leper and at the same time indignant toward the system that segregated him to suffer alone?
Who holds the power, authority or influence to label someone an outcast today?
How can I share compassion with those who feel they are outcasts?
How can I take action to transform oppressive systems in our world?
Lord, open our eyes that we may see the needs of others. Open our ears that we may hear their cries. Open our hearts that we may love all people, as you love. Let us not be afraid to defend the oppressed, the poor, and the powerless. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.