Mark 1:40-43 And a leper came to him, begging him, and saying to him, “If you desire to, you can purify me.” Angered, (Jesus) stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I desire, be pure!” And immediately the leper left him, and he was purified. And growling at him, (Jesus) immediately cast him away, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priests, and offer your purification what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Instead, (the former leper) went out and began to talk about it, and to spread the news, with the result that (Jesus) was not longer able to enter into a town openly, but stayed outside in deserted places.
This passage in Mark is more correctly translated with the word angered, but some translations do choose a more obscure translation of “with compassion” as they do not feel “angered” fits Jesus’ nature. Considering the fact that the people did not feel that they could go to the priests, following the laws of Moses, and that they needed to instead go to Jesus, likely angered Jesus. It was not so much the leper, as the situation. And, after instructing the man not to tell anyone, he told everyone, which caused Jesus issues, further confirms that Jesus had a right to be angry. When someone does not do his job, or follow the rules, to the point where another needs to step in, the system breaks down! This may seem like a minor point, as the priests likely did not believe they were neglectful or unapproachable, and the man likely thought he was helping everyone out by telling them where to go to be healed, but it caused a major change in Jesus’ ability to minister to the people.
Application for today: Think about: How often do you skirt your responsibilities, thinking someone else will handle it?
Example: One of the places I see this happening is in the raising of children, particularly in their education. We can use an example I observed of my granddaughters. One was homeschooled and the other was online in public school. My son was sitting in between them. The homeschooled child was learning to write a letter, while the public-school child was getting yet another lecture about basic behavior, including instructions on how to speak nicely to our friends. (She was not the source of the problem fortunately! Similar instructions are also repeated in every college class that uses a discussion format unfortunately….)
What I see today is that both teachers and parents are often not receptive to communication making them effectively unapproachable. Additionally, parents are often not checking homework, or correcting behavior, and/or making excuses for their child’s performance and they assume that the teacher should be responsible for much more than is reasonable. If the teacher has to teach any child in the class basic behavior that should have been taught at home, then there is not much time left for math and English! (There are teachers who are less than stellar. I understand. That is a problem that needs to be brought to the administration and not the scenario we are discussing here….)
Thiessen, Matthew. Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity Within First-century Judaism. Baker Academic, 2020.
The Israelites who left Egypt for the Promised Land had only ever known a life of slavery. Exodus is an account that instructs us how to leave that life. Everyone has something that holds them back from achieving everything God has available for them in this life. Think about your goals and dreams, and about how you can bring about godly changes in your situation as well.
1. First, sit down and create a list of the things which hold you back.
These things typically fall into the category of “stinking thinking,” which includes thinking that any other life is impossible, or someone else has the power to keep it from you. There may be obstacles, but many times the will to change and the willingness to do the hard work will lead to success. The Egyptians knew that the Israelites had grown too numerous and that they would be unable to keep them as slaves if they chose to rebel, so they put things into place to keep them down, including killing off their male children. The Israelites were so used to slavery, that even the order of the death of their children did not inspire them to revolt. “Stinking thinking” often makes us believe that things are hopeless, when they are not. The Egyptians knew that the Israelites had power and did everything they could to keep them from realizing how much power they had.
The other category that often holds people back is “habit and/or lack of knowledge.” Scripture often states that God’s people suffer due to a lack of knowledge. Many times we too are stuck in routines that are counterproductive or merely do not have the knowledge of how to do things in a more productive manner. For example, many of us are successful but busy, and cannot imagine having to do more, so we turn down many opportunities we might enjoy, that may even lead to more success. There are people however that own and operate large businesses, and/or multiple businesses and accomplish much more than we do each day. The difference? They know how to use their resources, which includes hiring other people. Sometimes we just need to know how to do things in a different way, and we will be able to accomplish so much more! The Israelites did not know how to live independently, and relied on the Egyptians for their food. God provided their basic needs in the desert, but not the extras they felt they were entitled to. The Israelites did not look for solutions, nor did they ask for what they wanted appropriately; they merely complained, which angered God. Sometimes it is our lack of knowledge regarding how to approach a situation appropriately, even to the point of not knowing where the resources are and how to access them that holds us back. Asking for help, and searching for answers is always better than giving up.
2. Now, think of the things that you wrote down on the list and figure out what your personal “idols” are. An idol is anything that you put in place of God, which would include anything that you give power in your life to hold you back from everything God made you to be. These would include fear of upsetting people, thinking that God made you less than others so even with hard work and dedication you will fail, and thinking that you past determines your future. The Israelites were slaves. They had no training in living on their own, and no reason to believe they could go someplace and run their own nation successfully, especially during a time when nations frequently fought and the loser became the other nation’s slaves. The fear that they could end up in a worse situation than the one that they left was based on a very real possibility! So, the first thing God did was to prove that He was more powerful than any Egyptian god or other thing that the slaves were taught to fear/ idolize in the land they grew up in. Look at your list objectively, and see whether, or not, the things you believe are holding you back are really as powerful as you believe. Find others like you who have succeeded and research how they did it. Chances are the things you believe are holding you back are not insurmountable, though there may be hard work involved in the overcoming. The hard work helps us grow and teaches us resilience, and at times can be very satisfying, so do not fear it!
3. The Israelites then had to cross the Red Sea. They had to take action. They collected their belongings and moved! They also had to trust that the path through the sea would not collapse and drown them as they traveled on it. What actions do you need to take to reach your goals? What things are you worried about “collapsing” or “drowning” you as you pursue a better life? Can you trust God to help you through? Even though it was difficult in the desert, the Israelites were sustained, and while their complaining and lack of faith prevented them from entering the land, their children made it into the land. Even if we do not perform perfectly, our attempts set up our children for a brighter future as well!
4. Not going back to your old ways. God gave the Israelites new laws. In the process of receiving a new way to live, the Israelites decided to go back to some of their old ways and worship the golden calves. Going back to former habits often results in losing progress and may put you back where you started. What habits can you absolutely not return to if you wish to stay on a successful path? Make a list and refer back to it when you are tempted to go back to your old, comfortable, ways. Some habits do not look so bad from your perspective, but a person who is further along the path you wish to take may tell you not to do such and such a thing. Listen to them. Sometimes we do not see that we are sabotaging our own goals because we have not gotten to a place where we completely understand what it takes to succeed.
5. The Israelites doubted and complained- a lot. The path to success requires hard work and sacrifice. Anyone who has made it big will tell you about the difficult time they had getting there. The rewards at the end of the journey are good, but you do have to put in some work, and it will not always be pleasant. Doubting you will succeed and/or complaining will only keep you in the “hard work” phase longer and make you miserable while you are there! With the right attitude, even the hardest work phase can be enjoyable as you feel a sense of accomplishment with each successive step. Break up your task into smaller goals so it is easier to see your progress and celebrate each victory you achieve! The Israelites won a lot of smaller wars before they entered the Promised Land. Figure out what “wars” you face and tackle them with wisdom!
Remember, the Promised Land you seek may not be financial. It may be a health goal, or a want for a more peaceful life. Ask for help from someone who has been there and done that if you are able. They often have wisdom that will help you avoid mistakes as well. You may have to give up things to move forward. This is not always bad, as the benefits will be worth it! Too often we stay in “slavery,” knowing that there is an aspect of our life that is not good, but unable to believe it could ever be better. Don’t let yourself remain enslaved when the Promised Land awaits!