Summary: Sixth Sunday After Epiphany Year B
Intro: One day a lion decided to make sure all the other animals knew he was the king of the jungle. He by-passed the smaller animals and went to the bear – “Why you are, of course!” tiger – “Everyone knows that you are, mighty lion.” Elephant – grabbed lion, whirled him around, slammed him into a tree, pounded him onto the ground, dunked him in the river and dropped him on the shore. The lion --- beaten, bruised, and battered --- struggling to his feet looked at the elephant through sad and bloody eyes and said, “Look, just because you don’t know the answer is no reason to get mean about it!”
I. After working on this sermon, I sort of feel like the lion. I’ve been battered about by the text and have few answers.
A. We have 2 stories here about 2 men: Naaman and another nameless leper. Both men are seeking a cure for a horrible illness.
B. First, we have Naaman. He is a very wealthy man who travels to a foreign land hoping to BUY a cure. He brought 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of clothing. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m a wealthy, important person and if you do things my way, I will pay you handsomely.” Like the animals who told the lion what he wanted to hear, the temptation is to bargain or buy our way out of tough circumstances.
C. Next, there is the nameless man who rushes to Jesus throwing himself to his knees at the feet of Jesus, exclaiming --- even begging --- “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” If he isn’t cured, it isn’t his fault, he can blame Jesus. When things don’t go the way we want, we can blame God.
II. Mark uses the Greek word SPLANCHNIZOMAI to describe the disposition of Jesus. The English translations do not always adequately convey the full meaning of the verb.
A. NRSV – “moved with pity,” the NIV – “filled with compassion,” New Jerusalem Bible – “feeling sorry for him.” None of which are adequate by themselves.
B. “SPLANCHNIZOMAI identifies a profoundly intense emotional response that viscerally propels one feeling, compassion into action on behalf of others.
C. The creative one-word response of Jesus in Greek, THELŌ “I do choose!”
III. VS. 41 “. . . Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’”
A. There is something here I never realized before and it is key to understanding this passage. By touching the unclean leper, Jesus becomes unclean.
B. GK word is HAPTOMAI to touch or caress. It is offering a personal presence to that which was condemned, devoid of any contact. This hand is a sign of mercy and shared life, a sign that disrupts social and spatial order, liberation, and reconciliation.
C. With this simple act of touching, Jesus takes on the social stigma this man has experienced. He completely identifies with this man through a simple touch, showing his willingness to become unclean.
Conclu: Jesus sends the healed man back to demonstrate that cleanliness now happens not by adhering to any codes or laws, but by being in touch with Jesus, who is not ritually unclean but who has authority to make even a leper clean.
We, as disciples of Christ Jesus are called to break down barriers --- religious, social, economic, political --- between human need and God’s liberating mercy. How do we make that happen? By choosing to touch the untouchable. --- If you choose, you can make the world clean!