The Divine Lamp

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Archive for January 9th, 2012

(Complete) My Notes on Mark 1:40-45

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 9, 2012

I’ve finished the notes on this passage, having previously posted the background material. I’ve added a brief item to the background material which I’ve posted in red text.  Being pressed for time neither the background or the notes are as complete or detailed as I would have liked, but I hope readers will get some insight and food for thought from them.

Background~As noted in a previous post, Mark’s Gospel opens with a title (1:1), followed by a prologue (1:2-13), which in turn is followed by the body of the Gospel. The first part of the body of the Gospel  consists of 1:14-3:6. It opens with an introduction (1:140-20)  which describes Jesus as a preacher (1:14-15) and shows him calling people to both discipleship (“come after me,” “he called them”, 1:17, 20), and to ministry (“I will cause you to become fishers of men” 1:17). His words “I will cause you to become” remind us that he is the one “mightier” than John (1:7).

After this introduction (1:14-20), the body of the first part begins (1:21-3:6). This body lends itself easily to a twofold division. In the first half (1:21-45) our Lord is shown as a teacher with great power (1:22, 27). He exhibits control, power, authority, over supernatural maladies which plague man: unclean spirits and demons (1:23-26, 32, 39); but also over natural maladies: fever, divers diseases (1:30-31, 34). In 1:40-45 (today’s reading) a man with a natural malady approaches Jesus and we see a supernatural reality introduced, the Law of Moses, make its first appearance. This prepares for the second half of the first part of the Gospel, namely 2:1-3:6. In these verses we will see our Lord clash with Scribes and Pharisees-the religious watchdogs of the Law-on various legal questions. But the story of the leper also prepares for the next section of the gospel (3:7-6:6a). The leper’s  discriminant preaching was not in accord with our Lord’s plans for that man, or for his plans to make Peter and Andrew “fishers of men” (1:17). These two and ten others would be specially chosen by our Lord when he going up into a mountain,…called unto him whom he would himself: and they came to him. And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach. And he gave them power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils (3:13-15). Towards this end they were to receive special instructions (4:10-12, 34).

The Gospel has begun (1:1). “Fulfilled is the time! At hand is the kingdom!’ (1:15). A new authority is being manifested (1:27).  Things, the likes of which people have never seen before, are being revealed (2;12). The physician is here to heal (2:17); the bridegroom has come (2:18-20); the new wine needs to be put into new wineskins (2:22)…but there is hardness of heart (3:5); and the leper in today’s reading is part of that tragedy.


Mar 1:40  And there came a leper to him, beseeching him and kneeling down, said to him: If thou wilt thou canst make me clean.

There came a leper to him. In the previous episode we saw Jesus rise early and leave [εξηλθεν = apelthen] Capernaum for a deserted place to pray. Simon (i.e., Peter) and the others set out looking for him, hoping he would return to Capernaum because, as they told him, All seek for thee (1:37). But Jesus said to them: Let us go into the neighbouring towns and cities, that I may preach there also; for to this purpose am I come [εξηλθον = exelthon] (1:38).   St Mark then tells us-according to the best manuscripts: he went [ηλθεν = elthen] into their synagogues in all Galilee, casting out demons (1:39). Now we see a leper come  to Jesus [“come”- ερχεται = erchetai, a primary verb from which the others Greek verbs referred to in this paragraph are derived].

(And there came a leper to him), beseeching him and kneeling down, said to him: If thou wilt thou canst [δυνασαι] make me clean. The man’s actions (coming, beseeching, kneeling) exhibit faith. He expresses his confidence that Jesus can cleanse him [“can”-δυνασαι = dunasai, power, force, ability; whence our word “dynamite”]. This relates to the theme of Jesus as the mightier one predicted by St John the Baptist (1:7), who has power to “cause you (i.e., Peter and Andrew) to become fishers of men” (1:17); who has authority to teach (1:22), with a teaching that includes the power to command, so that even the demonic obey (1:27, 34).

Mar 1:41  And Jesus, having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand and touching him saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean.

And Jesus, having compassion on him. Some ancient manuscripts speak of our Lord being angry or indignant with the man, and a number of modern scholars think it is the original reading, suggesting that copyists changed and softened the text with a reference to Jesus “compassion”.  It should be noted however that other references to Jesus’ anger have not been so changed (3:5; 10:14). On the other hand, in verse 43 when Mark says (in various translations) “he strictly (or straightly) charged him,” the word used is εμβριμησαμενος [embrimesamenos, “an angry snort”], which referred originally to the snorting of a warhorse, and when applied to humans usually denotes anger or indignation (Matt 9:30; Mark 14:5; John 11:33, 38). Further, when Mark write that he sent the healed man away, he uses the same word he employed for the casting out of the demons in 1:39.

I would suggest that the original reading of the first part of this verse is: And Jesus was indignant with him. I would suggest that we are to see in this man a certain type of believer, the kind who seeks a relationship with Jesus for his own benefits alone, according to his own will and fancy: Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity (Matt 7:21-23).

(Jesusstretched forth his hand and touching him.  In the reference to our Lord touching the man some see an allusion to the story of Naaman the Syrian and Elijah the prophet (see 2 Kings 5:10-14). Unlike Elijah, who did not touch the leper Naaman, Jesus here does so.

(Touching him) saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean.Jesus here directly responds the man’s request: If thou wilt thou canst make me clean (1:40).

Mar 1:42  And when he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him: and he was made clean.

And when he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him. Note that the miracle is here portrayed as effected by Jesus’ speech.  Immediately, like the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law,  the leprosy departed [απηλθεν = apelthen] from the man, much like the unclean spirit had done in 1:26 [ εξηλθεν = exelthen].

Mar 1:43  And he strictly charged him and forthwith sent him away.

Strictly charged him. A sign of his indignation (see note on 1:41 above).

Forthwith (immediately) sent him away. The Greek εξεβαλεν (exebalen) is used in various forms for the casting out of demons (1:34; 1:39; 3:15; 3:22-23; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18; 9:28). See note on verse 45 below

Mar 1:44  And he saith to him: See thou tell no one; but go, shew thyself to the high priest and offer for thy cleansing the things that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.

In Greek the command is emphatic and solemn, employing a double negative: μηδενι μηδεν ειπης [medeni meden ειπης: “no thing to no one say” ].

Go.  υπαγε (hupage); withdraw, retire to, etc.

Shew thyself…and offer for thy cleansing... See Lev 13:47-14:54.

That Moses commanded. the man will neither fulfill the command of Moses, or that of Jesus.

For a testimony to them. Rather, as a testimony against them.

Mar 1:45  But he being gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the word: so that he could not openly go into the city. but was without in desert places. And they flocked to him from all sides.

But he being gone out [εξελθων = exelthon]. The sentence opens with a strong adversative, “but” (δε = de), drawing a sharp contrast between the man’s actions and the bidding of our Lord. His actions begin after he has “gone out” [εξελθων = exelthon].  He should have obeyed the Lord’s injunction to “go, shew himself to the priest… as a testimony to (against) them” (1:44).   But instead of giving that testimony, the man begins to publish it (i.e., preach, proclaim, κηρυσσειν = kerussein), something Jesus never gave him license to do (see the next usage of the word in 3:14 where he appoints the twelve to do so). And instead of giving testimony to the priests, he began to blaze abroad the word [διαφημιζειν = diaphemizein]. He becomes nothing better than a rumor-monger (see the use of the word in Matt 28:15 where it refers to the lying report of the guards at the tomb).

So that he (Jesus) could not openly go into the city. As a leper the man would have been forbidden entrance into cities (there were however “leper villages”). The man’s actions have now place Jesus in this isolated position. He who once sought the brief solitude of desert places to pray so as to reinvigorate himself for his mission to the towns and villages (see 1:35-38), must now dwell in such places, a situation which forces the people to flock to him [ηρχοντο = erchonto, “come” see note at 1:40]. Many, no doubt, were coming on the basis of “preaching” by those who had no business doing so.

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