The Cost of Healing

Epiphany 6B: The Cost of Healing

Mark 1:45-50

Psalm 30

February 11-12, 2012

 

Does it strike you funny that this is a story

that Jesus didn’t want in the Bible?

It’s a story that he didn’t want to be told.

 

He was pretty clear about that:

“Say nothing to anyone,” he told the man.

 

But the man ignored the warning,

and spread the word,

telling anyone who would listen:

“That prophet Jesus is a healer!

            I had leprosy and he got rid of it completely.

I went to the priest, and he proved it!

                        I’ve been healed!

 

Who did it you ask?

            Well that man Jesus.

            That crazy guy who’s been walking around here the last couple of days.

 

Just yesterday, in Capernaum

            the whole city gathered at his door and there he was…

                        healing one after another…

                        back pain, fevers, rashes, demons – he could heal it all!

 

Yes sir!

            That man Jesus is a healer!”

 

The healing of the man with leprosy

came at a cost to Jesus.

No longer could he walk into a town and teach in the synagogue.

No longer could he gather with just a small group of his disciples

and teach.

People clamored over him;

they begged him for healing, longing for the miracles

but not as interested in the message.

 

After the near riot in Capernaum the day before,

Jesus went to a quiet place and he prayed.

As he looked over the Sea of Galilee,

maybe his prayer led him to a decision.

Maybe he decided that things had to change,

and from now on he was going to stick to the message;

he wouldn’t allow himself to be waylaid by the masses,

but from now on he would stick to teaching.

 

I know I’ve prayed like that sometimes.

Okay God, if you want me to do this,

give me the opportunity!

Help me stay focused.

 

After his prayer, the disciples came to him

and Jesus said with great confidence about his mission,

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also;

for that is what I came out to do.”

 

Aaaah!  Discernment!  An answer!

That is what I came out to do!”

 

But no sooner had he gotten to the next town,

when a man comes to him…

It is a man who is dirty and malnourished.

A man carrying a crutch.

A man whose face is disfigured.

A man who is missing a few toes on his left foot and his right arm up to the elbow.

 

This man kneels in front of him,

and it’s clear that he really didn’t come to hear Jesus talk.

This was someone else who wanted a miracle of healing.

 

Some texts say that the Greek says that Jesus was then moved with anger,

ours says he was moved with pity.

In any case, he had a deep emotional reaction,

a deeply human reaction,

and he touches the man,

says to him, “Be clean!” and he was.

 

The crowds came back.

Jesus’ willingness to heal the man came at a cost.

It came at an emotional cost;

It came at a spiritual cost;

And eventually we know that it came at great physical cost as well.

 

Entering into the suffering of another human being,

comes at a cost.

 

And maybe that is why we often try to avoid it.

We stop visiting those who are dying.

We try to keep the homeless far away from public view.

We turn the channel when we see images of violence in Syria.

 

We avoid suffering to avoid our own personal pain.

Because entering into the suffering of others, comes at a cost.

 

I lead a service at Hoffman Homes for Youth on Thursday afternoons.

Hoffman Homes is a residential treatment center for youth with severe behavioral issues.

Their stories are heartbreaking.

Time after time, we pray for a mother or father in jail,

for recovery from abuse,

or just for happiness.

 

This past week, after talking about this gospel story

of how Jesus healed the man with leprosy,

I asked the youth to think of one or two people who need healing

for us to pray for.

 

They came up with a lot of people.

I pray for my sister Malina.

I pray for my grandmother.

I pray for those who are in the hospital.

Their list went on and on.

 

But then Michael (not his real name),

a boy about 12 years old, but small for his age, and with dark curly hair,

offered his own petition.

He said, “I pray for those I hurt.”

I pray for those I hurt.

 

Can there be any greater expression of humility and empathy

than to pray for those we’ve hurt?

 

And let us not kid ourselves…we’ve all hurt someone.

Oftentimes we’ve hurt someone we love very deeply.

Through words spoken too quickly in anger.

Through inattentiveness or disregard.

 

We’ve even hurt those we don’t know…

often as much by the things we’ve done as the things we’ve left undone.

Michael was willing to enter the very dark place

and to look at the suffering that he had had a part in.

 

Entering into the suffering of others comes at a cost.

Michael was willing to go there in his prayer.

“I pray for those I hurt.”

 

Jesus was willing to go there with the man with leprosy,

“I do choose.  Be made clean.”

 

And Jesus is willing to go there – to that place of suffering – with us.

Thanks be to God!

 

Psalm 30 is the psalm assigned to go along with today’s reading.

It is a joyful response to healing.

 

That prophet Jesus is a healer!

            I had leprosy and he got rid of it completely.

I went to the priest, and he proved it!

                        I’ve been healed!

 

I can just hear the man with leprosy

singing this psalm.

 

I can hear Michael sing this psalm.

 

And when I think of God’s willingness through Jesus to enter into the suffering of the world

to bring healing,

it is good for me to sing this psalm in response.

.

Indeed God can do it…

Mourning is changed into dancing.

Weeping turns into joy.

 

Let us close by singing it together.

 

Amen.

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