Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 124: Holistic Healing – The Man with Leprosy
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 124: Holistic Healing – The Man with Leprosy

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Scapegoating invariably involves having “insiders” and “outsiders.” According to Girardian theory, all distinctions are grounded on scapegoating. Jesus challenged the legitimacy of these distinctions by healing in the synagogues (where only “clean” people were welcomed) and by going so far as to touch an “unclean” man with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45).

The ancient Hebrews believed that disease reflected God’s judgment, and consequently they saw leprosy as a sign of sin. The man with leprosy was rejected by his community, and Jesus was “moved with pity”, “stretched out his hand and touched him”, and made him clean. Jesus told him to go directly to the priest “and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.1”

In ancient Hebrew culture, similar to other primal cultures, touching an unclean person rendered one unclean and, consequently, an outsider. Thus, the people believed that, when Jesus touched and healed the leper, Jesus became unclean (an outsider). Jesus had told the man with leprosy that, having been cleaned, he should “say nothing to any one” but “he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mark 1:45). After Jesus touched a person with leprosy, people regarded Jesus as unclean, and Jesus was forced to reside in the countryside. Those who recognized their need of healing (unlike the members of the crowd) still sought Jesus’ ministrations.

The instruction to offer at the temple “what Moses commanded” might relate to the sacrifices involved in the ritualistic cleansing of people with leprosy described in Leviticus 14. If so, I still do not think that this passage shows Jesus’ endorsement of animal sacrifice. Jesus likely knew that the man would not comply with Jesus’ instruction. I offer as a theory that the man, having been cleansed by Jesus, would not want to go to the temple. In the temple, the cleaning ritual involved shaving the head and eyebrows, as well as performing animal sacrifices. Since the eyebrows grow back very slowly, the man would not want to be marked for years as a former-leper.

Most contemporary medical professionals rely heavily on the “biomedical” model, which understands disease in terms of dysfunction of one or more body parts. However, the biomedical model does not lend itself well to completely healing afflicted people, because it does not address the psychological, spiritual, and social aspects of illness. Jesus exemplified holistic healing, which includes eradicating shame and social isolation. Jesus reintroduced the man with leprosy into the community by several means: Jesus first touched the man, signaling Jesus’ regard for the man’s worth; Jesus then healed the man’s visible lesions; finally, Jesus declared him clean, making shaving unnecessary.

Many healing stories relate Jesus’ compassion and concern for afflicted individuals (Matthew 14:14, 20:30-34; Luke 7:12-15; Mark 1:40-42). For example, Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:33-44). Remarkably, Jesus twice defended his healing on the Sabbath by pointing out obligations to treat animals humanely on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-16; 14:1-5).

1. The Greek here can also be translated to them (i.e., the priests), which makes more sense to me. The RSV is distinctive in using “the people” here.

Go on to: Part 125: Healing and Empathy - Raising Lazarus from Death
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