6th Sunday Ordinary Time – Jesus Tempted Every Day… the Subtext
Three levels of understanding the gospel of Jesus curing the leper: 1) Historical – Jesus touched & healed a leper during his ministry. 2) 1st Century Studies – Jesus took on the leper’s uncleanness by touching him and had to stay outside towns. 3) Mark selected specific words to convey meaning – below…
Here’s my translation according to what I see in the Greek.
Mark 1:40 (NRSV) — 40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose/wish/desire, you can make me clean so I can attend public celebrations.” 41 Raging, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose/wish/desire. Be made clean!”
Mark 1:42–44 (NRSV) — 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him/scolding him, he cast him out at once, 44 saying to him, “Watch out! that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing/purification/atonement what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:45 (NRSV) — 45 But 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 WAS outside in the wilderness; and people came to him from every quarter.
Question: What does Jesus’ rage, scolding, casting out, “Watch out!” being outside, and in the wilderness have in common?
Here’s the subtext that circles around the Greek, erenos, “wilderness.” It begins in chapter one and is finally resolved in chapter fifteen.
Mark 1:2ff — 2 Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:12f — 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Mark 1:35–37 — 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to the wilderness, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
1:45 Jesus could no longer go into a town openly but WAS outside in the wilderness; and people came to him from every quarter.
Jesus didn’t stay for a short time in the wilderness, but existed, was, lived existentially in the wilderness – the place of temptation, the place of preparing the way of the Lord, the place of his identity as “Beloved Son” being tested every day – give up his mission to be the Suffering Servant for fame and notoriety and celebrity status.
Jesus did not resolve this until he surrendered in the garden of Gethsemane: “Take this cup from me… not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus raged in the presence of the leper because he recognized this as the work of Satan – the Tempter. Recall how he called Peter “Satan” later for tempting him to bypass his rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection.
Jesus WAS in the wilderness until his surrender at Gethsemane.