The lasting impression the movie Avatar made on me last month was the way in which the Na’vi people from the planet Pandora greeted each other. Instead of greeting each other with a “hi” or a “hello,” they said “I see you.”
By addressing each other in this manner, they were saying, “You’re more than a face. You’re a person whom I value. I see you.”
I wish we could integrate the same ideal into our culture.
Every week, I talk to tens, sometimes hundreds, of people. In my heart of hearts, I confess that my greeting is often a “hi” or “hello” rather than an “I see you.”
“How are you?” doesn’t necessarily mean I really want to know how a person is doing. It’s simply a shallow way of acknowledging another person’s existence.
Jesus didn’t live this way. He saw people as they really were—and was moved with compassion. Then he demonstrated his love by touching them, even if it meant getting his hands dirty.
Please join me in today’s study…
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Leviticus 1. The title of this book comes from the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament which means “relating to the Levites.” The focus of the book is the worship in the tabernacle, which was conducted by the priests and the rest of the tribe of Levi.
Leviticus 1:3. The Bible Background Commentary offers an interesting observation about the reasoning behind male sacrificial animals: “Male animals were both more valuable and more expendable. A herd could be sustained with only a few males in proportion to the many females needed to bear the young. This would mean that a large percentage of the males that were born could be used for food or sacrifice.”
Leviticus 2:11-13. When bringing grain offerings to God, Israel was prohibited from using yeast, but they were told to include salt. Yeast, which is often likened to sin in Scripture, changed the composition of the dough through a fermentation process. Salt, on the other hand, acted as a preservative. The same theme runs throughout Scripture. Jesus warned his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) but also told them, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Interestingly enough, salt prevents the effects of leaven.
Mark 1:35-39. Just as Jesus was gaining in popularity through his healing ministry, he contradicted conventional wisdom and snuck away to be alone with his heavenly Father. Then when his disciples finally found him, he told them they were going “somewhere else”—where he would preach and cast out demons.
Mark 2:1-12. This story of the paralytic is really the story of the paralytic’s friends. They loved their friend so much they were willing to do anything to bring him to Jesus, even if it meant digging a hole through a roof. Even if it meant looking foolish or over-exuberant. Even if it meant paying for the repairs to the owner’s roof.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
When reading the gospel of Mark, I must constantly remind myself to pay attention to the details—including the actions of the players involved in the stories. Although this is true of every book in the Bible, it’s especially true in Mark.
Today we read about a man who begged Jesus to heal him of his leprosy. Then Mark describes what happens next: “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”
If I spent every day preaching and healing people, I think it would be easy for me to see every person as the same. But Jesus didn’t. He saw the man and was filled with compassion.
Then Jesus violated a cultural norm: he touched the leper. By touching the leper, he willingly made himself unclean. This inconvenience meant he was forbidden to touch anyone else and had to endure a ritual cleansing process that could last the rest of the day and perhaps extend into the next day.
Every day we brush shoulders with modern-day lepers. They may not suffer from a skin ailment, but they exist as society’s untouchables. Perhaps they exhibit traits of mental illness or they just irritate us. Maybe they act uncool or dress in embarrassing clothes. Or maybe they just fail to share anything in common with us. These people require much more work: longer conversations, greater patience, perhaps they even cost us our hard-earned money.
Regardless, to us they’re lepers.
When I encounter people like this, I remind myself, You’re looking into the eyes of Jesus. Not long ago we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
But most importantly, this is how Jesus responds to us. Our sin makes us unclean. Nevertheless, filled with compassion, he reaches out his hand to us, touches us, and heals us of our sin-laden condition.
Then he sends us out as his ambassadors to a broken world, to see the lepers around us, to reach out and touch them, and to get our hands dirty.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What does it mean for you to get your hands dirty?
- How has Jesus touched you and delivered you of your leprosy?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.