6th Sun B
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Leprosy was a shocking disease for a person in New Testament times. The disease was not what we call leprosy but a cluster of skin diseases, the sufferers of which were rigorously excluded from social and religious society - not because of the risk of physical, but rather, moral contagion. It was reasoned that if you had these physical symptoms it was a sign that you had committed sin. The list of possible sins was pretty comprehensive: malicious gossip, murder, a vain oath, illicit sexual intercourse, pride, theft, miserly behaviour. Well, that pretty well covers everyone! The fact that the majority of the population didn’t have leprosy didn’t seem to raise questions regarding this explanation of sin. So long as they didn’t belong to the excluded, despised group scrounging an existence outside the villages and cities, the rules and their interpretation were not challenged.
But not for Jesus. He is surging with emotion throughout this scene. The verbs in the Greek are very strong, with the English translations largely failing to capture the passion erupting out of him at this man’s situation. He ‘churns’ with compassion and ‘growls’ out the orders for the man to fulfil the ritual purifications. How this man has been treated is one of the very things he has come to destroy: judgement according to human distinctions, the separation of people into good and bad, which leads invariably to them and us. At the end of the Gospel, we see who he identifies himself with as he hangs between two thieves, dying an ignominious death.