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Friday, June 28, 2013
Today’s Reading | Mark 1:40–45
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 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 stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. (NRSV)
The stories the Gospels tell of Jesus focus on what he did and said more often than on what he felt. In this particular story, Mark tells us that Jesus was moved “with compassion.” The word “compassion” can also be translated from the Greek as “indignation.” On the surface, indignation and compassion seem not to be quite the same thing, yet in the context of this story, it is likely that Jesus could have felt both compassion and indignation when a leper came to him for healing. Most translations highlight the compassion of Jesus over his indignation, Jesus may have indeed felt indignation at the suffering of the leper and even more indignation at how society unjustly treated people suffering from illness.
In his Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections, against the Puritan sensibilities of his day, the American theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards argued that religion without the affections is no religion at all. Essential to true religion, though not sufficient for it, are the emotions. Like nothing else, the emotions stir us up and propel us to act.
The connection that Edwards drew between emotions and actions helps me to contemplate the intimacy between Jesus’ compassion, which inflamed into indignation, and the bold actions that he undertook in order to advocate for and be in solidarity with those who suffered. Though we don’t often see the emotional life of Jesus played out on the surface of the Gospel stories, we can imagine the deep and dynamic reservoir of emotions propelling him to live and die as he did.
Most merciful God, every day I see people suffering. You have made me to feel things very deeply. Following the example of your Son, help me neither to neglect nor to indulge my feelings, but instead to be empowered by them. For the sake of your Son, I pray. Amen.
Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life
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