And why was he so angry? Because the man was sick? Perhaps in part. But I think what really angered Jesus that day was the unfair treatment of that leper by society and the religion, and the irrational fear that used its sacred texts and traditions to justify and validate its exclusion and demonizing of one already vulnerable.Van Dyke of course goes on to equate the leper with all marginalized people whose problems cannot be hid from society including LGBT people. He then turns the subject about and castigates those who are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
I look at the Presbyterian Church today and see those who are promoting schism and going to great lengths to leave—those who are guilty of the sinful stewardship of everyone’s time and resources just because they don’t agree that all churches should be free to discern the Spirit’s leading in electing their own leadership.There is more but I want to focus on Jesus’ reaction to the leper and to something much more serious but nonetheless something that is connected to the leper. The New Testament text often speaks of Jesus reaction to the miseries around him. And undoubtedly Jesus’ pity for the leper was also anger, but not at sacred texts or even people. John’s gospel recounts another time when Jesus reacted with great anger. That was at the death of his friend Lazarus.
When Jesus confronted death in the body of Lazarus the text states that he was “deeply moved within.” R. V. G. Tasker, in his commentary on John, clarifies this in great detail using Warfield who uses Calvin. Referring to Paul’s description of death as the “the last enemy that shall be destroyed,” Tasker writes:
To bring about his destruction was the chief purpose for which the Son of God had entered the human arena. B.B. Warfield’s comment on this passage may therefore well be right, ‘It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, “as a champion who prepares for conflict”. The raising of Lazarus thus becomes not an isolated marvel, but … a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. … Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. …’The healing of the leper and every healing by Jesus was just a foretaste of his final victory over the enemy. Jesus’ forgiveness of sins was an even greater part of that final work. That is part of what he wanted the people to understand when he forgave the sins of the paralytic before he healed him. (Mark 2: 1-12) Healing, forgiveness, new life, eternal life: given because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
The Scribes refused to accept the forgiveness because they did not believe Jesus was God. “Only God can forgive sins, they said. But what we often fail to see is the great transformative divide; not only are we transformed by the work of Jesus but he, through the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see what his great battle entails, the agony, blood, grief and yes, anger toward sin and death that he carried for us. We are divided from all unbelieving scribes by the knowledge of Jesus’ great redemptive battle on our behalf.
Dyke writes of how Jesus touches the leper before he heals him thus taking “into his own being the man’s situation.” Truthfully on the cross he “bore our sins.” And this is why some are turning away from the PCUSA, so that they might feel freer to minister and proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to all sinners rather than ignoring some in their own particular leprous condition and allowing them to go on suffering.
And this is why some are staying-it has nothing to do with dialogue-but rather that the good news that Christ died for all sinners may be heard anew. They want the leper who does not acknowledge her need to turn back to the one who shed his blood for the forgiveness of sin.