Mark 1.35-45 ‘Jesus is... the famous one’
Have you ever met anyone famous, I mean really famous?
Up here in Galilee the best we ever get are rejects from Jerusalem; wandering rabbis who haven’t made it, so they try their luck with us simple northern folk. Nothing ever happens here. We hear stories from Jerusalem and Jericho – but nothing ever happens here.
Honestly, I think the tales we hear get taller and taller every year. I heard a good one recently about some half-crazed prophet called John who was chucking people in the River Jordan. Something about getting the people ready for a big event. Maybe they just needed a wash, I don’t know.
It seems that one day, the sky was ripped in two – so the story goes – and something like a bird came flying down and landed on some guy’s head. It can’t be true, pause can it?
Well let me tell you – nothing like that ever happens here.
Well. I guess there’s that.
A few months ago we started to hear rumours about some guy called Yeshua, or Jesus if you prefer – from Nazareth or Cana, I’m not sure – around there anyway. People were raving about him – one day we’d hear a story about an evil spirit he cast out, the next about some sermon he gave at a synagogue, the next about some woman he healed of a fever, the next about how he turned gallons of water into wine at a wedding – now that’s my sort of miracle.
One of my mates – Zebedee, a bigshot fisherman who works the Lake – said the other day, when this guy showed up, his sons just upped and left! I mean, who does that?! Good job Zebedee has enough money to hire some more guys to take their place.
Anyway, this guy. Jesus. I keep hearing all these rumours about stuff he’s doing. Either people are making it up, or he is really getting about – from village to village, all round the Lake – the guy must have shares in a sandal-makers, that’s all I can say!
From what I’ve heard he is going around, there, everywhere – everywhere except here. Nothing ever happens here. We always miss out on the excitement. But maybe that’s a good thing.
So let me tell you about my brother, Reuben – he was always the clever one. Me, I’m happy enough working here by the Lake, fixing boats – but he, he was always wanted more. He fancied himself as cleverer, better than the rest of us.
Maybe it was God’s way of bringing him down a peg or two – but a couple of years ago he woke up and his skin was covered in white patches – the priest confirmed: he had leprosy.
We have rules for people like him – to make sure the disease doesn’t spread. They have to live outside the village, in the caves – and if they see anyone coming they have to yell, ‘Unclean!’ to warn them of the danger. He didn’t want to go, but I made sure he did – we burnt his clothes, pulled his house down. Mum takes some fish to him every day, but I haven’t seen him for two years.
Until yesterday, that is.
Things are changing, and I don’t like it, and it all seems to be down to this... Jesus. He’s trouble, if you ask me. Not that anyone does. People are... excited. As if anything good would happen here! Not that I want it to anyway – I’m quite happy with the way things are.
My life is good, I have friends, family, work, food to eat – what more could I want? There isn’t anything more... is there?
Anyway – yesterday. Yesterday I saw my brother for the first time in two years, and he looked – different.
My wife was on the roof checking the rain-water jars and she yelled down that Reuben was coming. I grabbed my digging stick and went outside to chase him away.
But he looked – different.
Instead of yelling, ‘Unclean’ as he came towards our house he was shouting something about Jesus and how he was completely cured. I thought he must have gone mad. I shouted back to leave us alone, but he kept coming.
I called my neighbours to help me chase him away – but as he got nearer I could see – his skin was back to normal! I mean, no-one gets better from leprosy, no-one. It’s impossible.
Reuben was talking at 100mph, something about how he’d heard about Jesus, he’d found him and begged him to make him clean again – and then Jesus touched him... Touched him!! I knew the guy was mad. You don’t touch someone with leprosy! Jesus touched him – and Reuben said he was cured – immediately.
It sounds too good to be true, but there he was yesterday, standing where you are right now, hopping from foot to foot like a boy. I didn’t want to believe it – nothing ever happens here – I don’t want things to change, I like things the way they are.
But what if...
Before I could say anything, Reuben ran past me into the house to find Mum – I was too stunned to stop him – and before I knew it they were hugging and crying and both talking at once. He told her the same thing he told me – it can’t be true, can it?
He said Jesus had told him not to tell anyone – ha! fat chance of that with a gob like his! You could tell from looking at him: he wasn’t going to keep his mouth shut. Something in him had changed – there was something more, something deeper than simply the leprosy leaving his skin.
Mum was begging him to come home and stay, but he said he couldn’t, that he had to spread the news of what Jesus had done for him. He said he wanted everyone to know. He came up to me, and before I could stop him, he threw his arms around me and held me tight. And with that, he was off, skipping down the road, singing praises to God, banging on everyone’s door to tell them what had happened.
Last night Mum said she wants us to go and find this Jesus. She says I could do with whatever happened to Reuben, whatever that means. My wife agreed. But I’m fine, I don’t need help. I just want to keep my head down, I don’t need to see this Jesus chap. I don’t want him to change me. I can’t believe it’s all true – but my wife says maybe I should look for myself before deciding that.
But then... what if there is something more than gesture around all this? What if Jesus really is from God, like everyone is saying? He’s all anyone can talk about – but nothing ever happens here. Until yesterday.
I wonder what might happen today – who is this guy?