A man with leprosy comes to Jesus and is healed. But the end of the incident is just as striking. Jesus warns the man not to tell anyone what has happened, but the man can’t keep quiet and as a result Jesus goes into hiding. Why does Jesus say this ? Was it because he didn’t want all the attention from the people who needed him ? Was it because he was already aware of how the authorities viewed him, and didn’t want to draw attention to himself for that reason ?
Or was it more to do with a tension in Jesus himself ? We already had a similar scenario when Jesus is pressured to stay with the people of Capernaum. Jesus’ response to that pressure was to move on, saying that he needed to ‘proclaim the message … for that is what I came to do’
It seems as though there are two things going on in Jesus. On the one hand there is his awareness that his mission is to ‘proclaim the message’ and on the other hand we see his compassion for those in need.
Maybe Jesus knew that however many people he healed, his core mission was to do with transforming lives. Earlier in Chapter one, Jesus says “The time has come. The kingdom of God is is near. Repent (change) and believe the good news.”
At the Greenbelt Arts Festival a few years ago, I remember Rowan Williams, who had just been announced as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, being asked what for him was at the heart of the Christian faith. His answer was – ‘Change’. The possibility that individuals and situations can change.
Jesus is moved with compassion, but he is also concerned with change. I think we are also learning that it’s not enough to put on a bandage, or give water to the thirsty, but we must also address the reasons why people are sick and thirsty, and give attention to changing the structures that cause poverty in the first place.
The Collect for the Second Sunday of Epiphany:
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen