A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” Joan of Arc
Mark's Gospel is a wonderful paradox to me - how this; the shortest of Gospels could have taken my scripture group two years to get to Chapter Ten (looks like we have at least another year ahead of us) - how these fragments of Peter's memory draws out memories of my own - how clearly God speaks through his Word - and sometimes the fewest of words.
This was brought home just this week; studying with the scripture group; starting a youth group study of Mark and preparing for next term's curriculum I have not only been reading (and reading around) but listening and watching Mark. On Youtube; on ITunes;on DVD; BBC radio series and one man theatrical performances.
The Gospel of Few Words is, I have realised, a gift to storytellers - as I am sure the first preachers and teachers must have been; as many are now. It can rattle along at a breathless pace, the urgency of the Message whispered under cover of night and behind closed doors.
Or, in the breath's space before every 'and then' the teller is given the opportunity to expand; to reminisce on their own memory; to reflect on the insights of a listener or the overheard murmur of gossip.
'If you want to'
How many ways can you say those four words?
Politely; confidently; cajoling; disarming? Or, disbelieving and challenging?
A leper; judged the greatest of outcasts; condemned as unclean; 'dwelling apart' -pleaded -
the pleading of a human being with no place left to go; no pride; nothing whatsoever to lose. The child that Jesus often reminds us we should be; powerless yet trusting.
He put himself at Jesus' feet and Jesus healed him.
I wonder though how often we bring our prayers to Jesus in that way?
Jesus tells us that the Father answers our prayers and yet we will say 'not this time; not always; not at all'
But how do we say
'if you want to'?
Do we make this a prayer of submission that allows God to heal in whatever way we most need it? Remember - for the first time in his life the leper was given the dignity of any other human being - he was able to speak openly and freely and everywhere.
Or, do we make this a prayer of challenge?
Do we dare God to answer our prayer?
Do I say that -
-I believe in You, the One God, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible
-I believe in You, the Father the Almighty who - put stars and suns in their place and set the tides in motion
- I believe in you whose name is Love and gift is Grace
That you may do ALL that
But I believe that You will not do this - because You don't want to.
Or, rather - and this is much more true -
that You will not do this because You will not do it my way.
You will not listen to what I need - how I need to be fixed - how I need what I want.
You will not because You do not understand that I know myself better than You do.
How can God cure me of that?