The Outsider

I have information but I cannot tell you what it is, at least not now. Maybe when you are older or better informed or just basically ready for it. It may be something about your past, who your real parents were, for example, or something about your present health. Or it may be an inheritance you will receive but it is best you do not know about it now. In the normal flow of life I carry this information as a sort of burden which casts a shadow over our relationship.

Jesus experienced this. At the end of the first chapter of Mark’s gospel we are told a man suffering from leprosy came to plead with him. Jesus cures him but then tells him not to speak of it. This is the first mention of what became known as the messianic secret. Jesus did not want to be known as the Messiah until he had completed his mission, that is, until he had suffered and risen from the dead. Any partial knowledge of him as a healer and ‘wonder worker’ would distort and imperil his mission. Right at the end he said, ‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now’ (John 16:12). They had to wait ‘a little while.’

But the cured man couldn’t wait. He blurted it out all over the place that Jesus had healed him. So Jesus ‘could no longer go openly in any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived.’ The poignancy of this is overwhelming. Here you have a man with leprosy who, according to the book of Leviticus, must ‘live apart … outside the camp.’ Jesus cures him and so integrates him back into society but then Jesus himself must live apart ‘outside.’ He becomes like the scapegoat on whom the ancients piled their sins and then drove out of the camp in a ritual of purification, (Leviticus 16:10).

Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, Ours the sorrows he was carrying. (Isaiah 53:4)

Today, in Zimbabwe or anywhere else, to refuse to do evil, to refuse to take the easy route of conformity – ‘everyone does it’, to refuse to log in to corruption and compromise, is to become an outsider. Such a one may be misunderstood and have to ‘live apart’ from others. But when this happens it is good to know in whose company we are.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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