If You Will, You Can (Mk 1:35-45)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 1:35-45 

I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark during Lent this year, seeking what I can learn about God and what I can learn about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.

If you are willing

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.                                                (Mk 1:41-42, English Standard Version)

“If you will, you can. . .” This man came to Jesus with plenty of faith — faith, that is, in Jesus’ ability. What he was lacking, though, was faith in Jesus’ heart. He seemed to have no doubt that Jesus could heal him, but he wasn’t sure if Jesus would want to. 

“If you will, you can. . .”

After all who would blame Jesus if he didn’t want to? No one else wanted to be near this man, or the many like him. No one else wanted to chance making themselves unclean by getting close enough for an accidental touching, a chance brushing up against. No one else wanted to risk infection with the disease themselves.

Everyone stayed safely away. No one touched him. How long had it been since anyone had touched this man? Did he remember what did it feel like to be touched by another? Had he resigned himself to living the rest of his life without human touch?

But Jesus was moved with pity and did the unthinkable. Jesus touched him. There was no reason he needed to. He had healed many with his touch. But he also had healed many with only his words. Some, in fact, were in another location, perhaps another city, when Jesus spoke and made them well. But that’s not what he did in this story. Moved by compassion for the man — heart as well as body — he reached out and placed his hands on the man, unclean as the man was. And the man was healed.

If anyone else had touched the man, the person would have been made unclean. But not Jesus. When Jesus touched this man, the opposite happened. Jesus wasn’t made dirty; the man was made clean.

And this, friends, is the story of the incarnation, the story of our salvation.

Moved with pity, God, through Jesus, stretched out to touch us in our defiled, sinful, unclean state. And rather than God becoming defiled by our sin, we were made clean!

If we had a God with desire to heal us but lacking the ability to do so, we would be lost. And if we had a God with the ability to heal us but without the desire, we would be just as lost. But thanks be to God! Our Creator is our Redeemer! Our God has both the ability and the desire to save us!

Oh, God, glory to your name! You haven’t left us without hope, for you have everything we need for salvation. You, Lord, have both the ability and the desire to make me clean!

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