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Sunday 14 February 2021

You talk too much

Mark 1:40-45

By Ian Sweeney

Pastor and President, British Union Conference of the Seventh-day

Context: a training event for laity interested in sharing the gospel with their community

Aim: to encourage our Christian witness to be in accord with God’s direction

If there was a world championship for talking, my late father would have conquered all-comers!

I am aware that I have his DNA, and that I talk too much too.

I believe too many of us talk too much and correspondingly listen too little.

Following the healing of a leper, Mark 1:43,44 (KJV) tells us that Jesus ‘... straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;’ (44) ‘And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man ...’

EXPOSITION

Mark’s account tells us that when Jesus met the leper, He was moved with compassion for the desperate suffering man. This man who through his illness had been shunned and ostracised from his family, friends and community was desperate for healing and he knew that Jesus could restore more than physical health to him. Jesus, moved with a deep emotion to do something for the man, immediately healed him, tenderly uttering the words (Mark 1:41) ‘I will; be thou clean ...’

But Jesus, having responded compassionately, immediately changed in emotion when he ‘... straitly charged him ...’ The Greek verb ‘embrimaomai’ has at its origin the meaning ‘to snort with anger’. Jesus commanded him sternly, ‘… See thou say nothing to any man!’

We sometimes read the passage as though Jesus was just being self-deprecating and humble, ‘... Oh what I have done for you is nothing, please don’t say anything, I don’t want a fuss!’ This was not feigning humility. Jesus was serious and wanted this man to know it, ‘… say nothing about this miracle to anybody’. Jesus spoke with indignation, ‘keep this to yourself!’

Having told the healed leper not to talk about his healing, Jesus (Mark 1:43) ‘... forthwith sent him away ...’ The Greek verb ‘ekballo’, that Mark uses for ‘sent’, has the meaning to ‘eject’ or ‘expel’ or ‘cast out’. In other words, Jesus having healed the man told him to ‘... keep his mouth shut and go!’ In fact, ‘ekballo’ is often used in the New Testament when demons are driven out.

Jesus told the former leper: keep your mouth shut and go find a priest. According to the Mosaic law the priests who served as public-health officers diagnosed leprosy and ordered segregation. Anyone who recovered from their disease could return home after re-examination and certification (Leviticus 14) from the priest.

But the healed leper talked too much and listened too little because as Mark records (1:45) ‘But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter ...’

CONSEQUENCES (1)

By acting in the ways he did there were serious consequences for Jesus’ ministry.

Mark tells us (1:45) ‘…. Jesus could no more openly enter into the city.’ The man talked too much so that Jesus had to abandon his evangelistic ministry for the cities and flee to the countryside! Imagine, the man who talked too much put a stop to Jesus’ ministry!

The former leper possibly didn’t understand why Jesus told him to be quiet about his healing, but by his ignoring Jesus’ command, he effectively curtailed Christ’s ministry.

CONSEQUENCES (2)

A second serious consequence of the man’s talking was that he heightened prejudice against Jesus!

Jesus not only told the man to keep his mouth shut, but He sent him to the priests, as Mark 1:44 reads ‘… show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.’ Christ wanted to demonstrate to the priests, who were constantly suspicious of Jesus and His claims, that He respected their laws, the laws of Moses! Jesus wanted to build bridges.

Jesus commanded the man to go immediately to the priests before any rumours concerning the miracle had reached their ears. However, the healed leper did not go to the priests, so resulting in upsetting the priests (Mark 1:45). He may have thought he was doing the right thing by sharing his testimony, but he caused more harm than good by raising prejudice and heightening tensions against Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Today let us be mindful not to talk too much, but to listen to the voice of Jesus as to when, what and to whom we should speak.

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