By David C. Cook III
Copyright 2000 Bruce L. Cook
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"And, in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon, and those who were with him, followed him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you.' And, he said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.' And, he went to Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And, a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean." -- Saint Mark
There is a healing touch in this adventure with
Jesus when He lived on earth centuries ago.
My friendship with Simon is deepening. This morning we are talking together in the front room of his home in Capernaum. We are seated cross-legged on the wooden floor even though a low couch and pallets are available behind us for more comfortable seating. Simon always prefers to sit on the floor or on the ground. This posture helps to typify the appearance of manliness, which he seems to always display. In one corner of the room an olive-oil lamp sits on a plain wooden chest. In another corner an open doorway leads to a patio in the shape of a quadrangle, which serves as a place of privacy for family or friends…
Suddenly the front door bursts open. One fisherman after another plunges into Simon's home. They are a burly lot, dressed in white canvas-like cloth that drapes as far as their knees. The stains of hard work are already on their clothing. But now the atmosphere of the room reeks with the stench of dead fish.
"Where is Jesus?" the first man cries.
"Can't find him anywhere!" another one chimes in.
"I saw him last night," a fisherman with a big nose adds.
Then, the first spokesman continues, " That fellow is mysterious. One moment he's here. Next moment he's gone--vanishes without leaving a trace of his destination."
"All right, follow me!" Simon commands as he jumps up without hesitation from his sitting position and heads out the door.
Simon strides hurriedly through the town of Capernaum. He seems to know where he is going, whether he does or not. The pack of fisherman and I half walk and half run to keep up with him. We rush by small white houses adorned by flowering bushes in front yards and fertile gardens and farmyards in the rear. Dew covers the grasses and moistens our feet as we run. Along the shore of the Sea of Galilee we continue. One fishing boat returns early with a rip in its sail. It looks like a huge rowboat with a mast in the bow. Yards of sailcloth cover the breadth of the craft while two fellows stripped to the waist are examining a large hole in the sail. The sea sometimes called Lake Gennesaret, glistens in the morning sunlight. Far out from shore a lineup of boats borders the favorite fishing spot. With the sun as a backdrop the vessels stand out as floating silhouettes outlining the horizon.
Simon and his companions continue their bold walk along the seashore. Then he veers sharply to the right along a pathway that is dimly marked through tall reeds and grasses. We encounter small trees and shrubs on a gradually ascending path. As the passageway narrows, we follow Simon in single file.
"Where do you think you're going now?" one of his friends asks.
"To find Jesus," Simon answers just as sure of his steps as though he were divinely inspired.
Since there is not one of us who knows a better way, we all follow behind him in eager pursuit. Now our pathway takes a sharp turn to the left. Just as certainly as he has dashed forward, Simon suddenly stops cold in his tracks. The big nosed fisherman crashes into Simon's body almost knocking him off balance.
There He is! On the knoll of a small hill, Jesus is kneeling in prayer. He is dressed in a white homespun robe and a light brown mantle. As we stand there in respectful silence, Jesus looks up.
"Master," Simon declares. Jesus turns and greets us with a smile. He lifts His arm gracefully. At first it looks as if He is waving to us, but now I can see that He is really beckoning to us. He is gesturing to us to come to Him. With joy we hasten forward. As we draw closer I can see that Jesus has a darker complexion than when I last saw Him. But the real thing--the real manifestation, which is evident, is an aura of adoration, which emanates from His entire personality. All I know is that His Presence with us projects a feeling of love personified. Is this the secret to the very fascination of Jesus that attracts the multitudes and that has drawn our little group to Him like a magnetic power? Has the fetching force of His attracting love drawn us here? The very power of His personality appears to be expressed through the influence of His love and prayer.
We gather around Jesus on the top of the hill where He is waiting. Then one by one we kneel following the lead that has been taken by our Master. There is a long silence. I rather expected that Jesus would pray aloud. But instead He invites us to pray quietly with Him. Now we can hear the buzz of insects, the sweep of wind blowing through the tall grasses, even a change of posture as a follower alters his kneeling position. As we pray I face the Sea of Galilee. The water is an azure blue and starting from our westward shoreline, it appears to ascend slightly upwards toward the far distant Eastern Shore slanting uphill. It looks off balance adding a mystical aura to this devotional setting. Each one of Jesus' followers is still kneeling in prayer. A tender spirit of love and compassion fills the atmosphere. Just being with Jesus creates a deep sense of worship. Words are not necessary in prayer because we are in the Presence of the Master. If silence ever was me!
Wow, it is right here with Jesus. There is a sense of knowing--a realization that Jesus loves each one of us. We know from the warm glow in our hearts that we love Him too. We long to be loved. We acknowledge the love Jesus has for each one of us by loving Him in return. It is like a prayer-group experience - only - ever so much more meaningful. The spirit of worship conceived by Jesus passes through one person, through another person, through still another until our experiences of mutual love are magnified through the multiple power of each person there - intensified as they focus in Jesus and circulate through us - before a word is said - before a gesture is made - before anyone endeavors to speak.
Finally Simon breaks the silence. "Master," he asks, "for whom are we praying?" Still there is no answer. Jesus retains the spirit of worship without a reply. Then Simon asks again, "For the sinners?"
Jesus still remains in silence as He becomes more immersed in prayer. A mysterious manifestation of consecration glorifies His countenance almost as though He has transcended into the realm of Heaven here on earth. There is another long period of quiet worship. The extended experience of sanctified reverence has been enhanced by the composure and by the expression of radiance on the face of our Master. A feeling of eternity is all about us. A mystical cloud of love, joy and protection seems to overshadow our kneeling figures.
Simon still remains inquisitive. "Master," he exclaims again. "Is there someone or some group of people for whom you have a special concern today?" This question is well phrased. Jesus answers, "Let us pray for those who are sick or who are called unclean."
After another period of silence, Jesus arises and leads us through one small town and synagogue of Galilee after another. I am dazed by the many experiences of healing, of transformation of personality, of response to His precious Promises. Even though the crowds in each town beg Jesus to stay with them, the Master appears to have a sense of direction. He seems destined to continue on his swift journey from one port on the Lake of Gennasarette to another. Finally He slows His pace. We leave the Seashore to enter a valley that is circled by a series of arid highlands. In the distance is the scenic vista of Mt. Tabor rising like a steep plateau suspended in the clouds. Descending around a mound of molten rock we reach the outskirts of an inland village. An entire hamlet of homes and shops spreads into view. Within a short time we reach the center of the town even though we are trudging under the heat of the blazing sun. The drama of astounding events does not diminish!
As we enter the marketplace of this Galilean City, we notice a crowd of people loitering along the dusty street. Among them are the sick, the crippled, and the poverty-stricken. Two stalwart men are carrying an elderly sick woman in a long woven basket. Donkeys overlain with wood, baggage and foodstuffs cross the road. A cluster of cackling hems and chicks follow in their footsteps. Boys and girls are throwing pebbles toward an empty jar. They throw several pebbles at a time giving shouts of joy whenever one goes in the opening.
Suddenly the crowd breads apart in horror and confusion! A mother clutching her daughter in her arms hurries away. An old and bent man in ragged garb passes slowly through the wide space made by the parting crowd. Let by a small boy, the diseased man hobbles painfully with a crooked cane. It is apparent that he is a leper. The stench emanating from his sores is nauseating.
The people are terrified by the danger of contamination. But their minds are occupied by the swift progress of dramatic events. An observer shouts, "Unclean. Unclean!"
The leper is grotesquely bent from the hump on his back and the erosion of the disease. He has wrapped strips of rags round and round his arms in an attempt to cover his leprous scales. The three fingers on his right hand clutch the cane in a claw-like fashion. He steps amidst the tumult of the crowd and stands motionless with a stoic expression on his face. Twisting his head in a bird-like manner so that he can look up, he peers from under his mantle and twists about as though looking for someone. His young companion, probably his grandson, holds the old man's elbow with his youthful arm and stands patiently. No one dare touch them. A huddle of people mumble together in excited tones and stare menacingly at the pitiful pair.
Our small group has scattered through the shops of the bazaar. Some of Simon's friends are examining gems in the marketplace, knowing they cannot afford them. Simon is talking eagerly with a fellow who is gesturing menacingly toward the leper.
Suddenly an appearance of approaching action sweeps through the crowd. A person of determined purpose is walking swiftly through the center of the group. "It is Jesus!"
Simon cries, "Master, Master, stay away from that filthy rascal. Watch out! He's unclean!"
Jesus walks firmly and resolutely toward the diseased man. A look of deep kindness radiates from His countenance.
The leper shakes from the strain of the disturbance. He falters. His cane slips from his grasp. The crowd gasps as he drops on his face into the dirt. The Master retains His look of loving composure. Jesus reaches down to touch the leper. As His hand contacts the leprous scabs, the observers recoil in amazement. They are shocked--electrified by this startling transformation of events. Simon rushes toward the treacherous scene trembling with anxiety, "Master! Master!" he screams; "Get away from that dirty codger. This is the touch of death!"
Another follower grasps me by the arm as he complains, "As Jesus leads us all into His own swinepen. As He contaminates Himself, He spreads the filth of leprosy, corrupting all of His followers."
Jesus rests one hand on the shoulder of the child who accompanies the diseased man. The Master bows his head in prayer. Now the leper struggles to his feet again. Jesus looks longingly into the eyes of the crippled man.
The cries out to the Master, "If you will, you can make me clean."
Jesus smiles at this statement--smiles in the knowledge that this man truly believes. Even in the midst of this entire clamor and excitement, Jesus' smile is one of understanding, of compassion--perhaps of appreciation upon seeing this evidence of personal faith.
He raises His arm in a gesture of authority and answers, "I will." With a gleam of power in His eyes the Master proclaims, "According to your faith be it unto you." Then He commands, "Be clean."
That's all Jesus has to say, " Be clean"--two words of perfect, cleansing healing.
Slowly the leper arises from his hunchback position. His fears have all been shorn away. Without the help of his grandchild, or any other person, he stands before us tall and erect. The scales are gone from his flesh. His forth finger is restored again. Every feature of his face is illuminated by the glow of happiness. He laughs. He acts almost like a child, himself, again. His skin shines fresh like the skin of a baby. His body and mind have been cleansed through his faith in the Master. The healing power of Jesus has deeply touched him. He is transfigured! He is washed as clean as snow. The love of Jesus has healed the leprosy of his body and soul and made him whole once again.
The boy is completely confused by this miraculous change in his grandfather's appearance. He turns and darts quickly up the hill to find refuge behind a huge rock formation. The earlier shouts of open defiance by the crowd followed by the startling transformation in the features of his grandfather are beyond his comprehension.
Suddenly, my sympathies are directed toward the frightened child even more than they were toward the leprous fellow. It seems as if I can almost hear the ringing in the lad's ears or do I hear an undertone of tingling in my own hearing? I run up the hill to help the bewildered child. He is cowering beside a huge rock, tears running down his face.
Why do I also have to respond like this? Tears are blinding my eyes and my ability to help the lad understand this miraculous healing. How can I explain to him what has happened in a smooth tome of voice? I stoop down to his level placing my arm around his shoulder and hold him close rocking slowly to and fro. We huddle together, two strangers held in a common bond comforting each other.
He is the first one to find words to speak, "You care for him too," he observes.
"Yes," is my reply, "I care."
Then the child reveals his perplexing question, "Why is he so clean?"
"He is all well, " I explain, "The man who placed His hand on your shoulder has healed him."
"Really?" the lad answers. "Only a God could do that."
"Perhaps He really is God." I reply. "He is the answer to our prayers."
"Yes," the lad says, "I have prayed. I couldn't do anything else." He rises and looks around the rock at Jesus, taking in the whole scene before us. He looks fondly at Jesus for what seems like a long time. Then, he declares, "It is true. I can see the light that shines from His eyes. I believe."
I place my arm around the boy's shoulder again and we just stand there together. It seems as if we are both absorbed in our own reflections. As we embrace there in the arms of love, I wonder how the events of this day reflect upon the lifestyle of the twentieth century.
Go to Meditation 1 - Following Jesus
to Meditation 2 - Praying with Jesus
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