After Christ chose to heal the man by touching him, something no one was willing to do, he gave the man a stern warning. The verb that he used is somewhat of an obscure and difficult one to precisely define. What we can know is that Jesus was serious about the following charge. He had a deep emotional tone and manner in the following charge. Jesus sent him away and charged him to say nothing to anyone until he talked to a priest. The charge to not talk to anyone before talking to a priest was so strong, Jesus uses a double negative, giving it emphasis in the Greek.
Why would he do that? I believe Christ is continuing to hide his messianic identity for the masses. Mark has a theme of secrecy where Christ commands demons, those who he healed, and even his disciples, eight times throughout Mark. Jesus had such a sense of His own identity and job, He did whatever He had to to hide his true identity. As we will see, Jesus was afraid that what ended up happening would happen.
Jesus commands the healed leper to fulfill the law and present himself to the priest, as proof. This proof is two-fold, I believe. The first is the traditional proof that he was cleansed. When a leper was cleansed, the Levitical law commanded that they must present themselves to a priest to make it official. But I think the second purpose was even more significant. The word ‘proof’ has an idea of evidence. I believe Christ was telling the healed leper to present himself as proof of His Messianic identity. Jesus was very specific in who He revealed Himself to, hence why He would begin to speak in parables. This man would be walking proof of Christ’s Messianic nature.
Well, as we can see in the text, this man disregarded his request. I don’t know how much I can blame the man. he just couldn’t contain his excitement. And what was the result of this? Jesus had to retreat from society because so many people were flocking to Him to witness the power that healed this man who had been a leper. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the narrative, it is the leper that is isolated, and at the close Christ finds Himself alienated from society. This was not a surprise to Him. I believe He knew, if not from some level of God-inspired knowledge, then from human nature. Jesus knew this was the price to show compassion. He knew it would put Him at an inconvenience.
To leave this text without asking ourselves some questions is to miss the entire point of the passage. Jesus did not ignore the opportunities to serve those that were considered unclean. And not only did He choose to serve them, but He did it in a manner that communicated a deep compassion.
So let us ask ourselves? Who are the unclean that we find it difficult to minister to? Who are the ones that our society chooses to shun, but Christ chose to touch? Who are the people to which our automatic reaction would be to turn away from? I think the obvious is the homeless, the diseased, or the underprivileged. I think it is easy for us to think of every reason in the book why we should refrain from going out of our way to help someone. “I just don’t have the time.” “They’ll probably spend the money on booze.” “They need to hear the Gospel more than they need a meal or shelter.”
The fact is that compassion is to be a characteristic of the Gospel itself. Our salvation itself is a product of compassion. And when people think of Christians, compassion should be one of the first characteristics on their tongues. I don’t know when we began to think that it is better to share just the Gospel and if we have time, show compassion. I’ve heard the phrase said many times, “Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.” Obviously, the Gospel is words, logos. But it is also a mindset and lifestyle. It is a lifestyle lived out loud in the life of our savior, and how dare we ignore it in our lives.