When I first read this passage, it did not seem immediately relevant to me because I’ve never personally experienced miraculous healing. As I reflected though, I recalled a time where my cousin experienced a medical miracle; and then after more reflection, I remembered a miraculous reconciliation in a family member’s marriage. Some of you may resonate right away with the passage’s stories of healing, and other of you, like me, may need to reflect a bit more—either way, I invite you to consider how this passage shows God’s love for us in our very particular problems, and especially, how Christ has the power to restore our relationships.
For those who are healthy (thanks be to God!), it can be easy to breeze through this type of story: Jesus heals friend’s mother-in-law (check), [Jesus prays], Jesus heals leper (check). In a world of antibiotics, and vaccinations, we can lose sight of how common disease was in Jesus day; but when we remember that disease was probably the most common problem in Jesus’s time, the passage appears more relevant. Just as Jesus could heal the common afflictions of his age, so can he heal the most common afflictions of our age—things like depression, addiction, loneliness, and broken relationships (and in fact, some interpret the casting out of demons in verse 33 to be an example of Jesus doing this type of healing).
On a closer look, the healing of the leper in Mark shows Christ’s power to restore our relationships. In Jesus’s time leprosy was a death sentence, incurable and highly contagious; for this reason, lepers were banned from community and family life. When he healed the leper, Jesus not only healed his body, but also removed a barrier that had separated that man from his family and friends. Imagine the joy of that man being able to have dinner with a brother, visiting a daughter for the first time in years, or worshiping at the temple. Christ can restore us to relationship as well—even in situations that seem as impossible as the leper’s.
In verse 41, Jesus responds to the leper’s cry for help by saying, “I am willing,” and then touching him. Just as Christ’s touch healed the leper, he is also willing to heal us, physically and relationally.
Lars Olson grew up in California and Washington State. He loves his wife Jane, and their children Claire and Teddy. He works in energy finance at the Department of Energy.