We can only define them by their malady (or friend’s malady) and location: The Deaf Man in Decapolis, 4 Friends on the Roof. Or sometimes by their profession or nationality: Centurion in Capernaum, Syro-Phonecian Woman in Tyre. The one thing we never know is their names.
I mislabeled this blog series when I started. These people aren’t nameless. They had given names and family relationship names like mother, husband, or cousin. They were people, just like me and you. In fact, Jesus may have called many of them by their names. But we don’t know those names. So they’re not “nameless.” They are “unnamed” or “anonymous.” Maybe I’ll go back and correct all the posts at some point.
If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! –Matthew 12:11-12
The Gospels record seven times Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. In every situation, we don’t know the person’s name! (One was Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, so we know a bit more about her, but still no name.) We can only define these people by their malady and their location. I’ve listed all seven passages at the bottom, but let’s take a few minutes to look with more detail at three of these people.
He was a centurion. That’s all we need to know: a Roman invader, part of the occupying force. He commanded 100 men. Is that where he found his identity: in his authority and nationality? He was also generous, perhaps as a political move to placate the local religious leaders or perhaps genuinely desiring to do good. His words and actions suggest the latter.
This powerful, generous person of authority is quite a contrast to the others we’ve studied in the Nameless series. That’s why I find him so interesting.
Luke 7:1-10. Matthew 8:5-13.
One man, a leper, interrupted Jesus on the road, and Jesus returned him to his relationships (Luke 5:12-14, etc.). We saw that story last week. This week, we look at ten other nameless men with leprosy who approached Jesus in a different way, but only one of them chose to say “thank you.”
Jesus was already on his way to Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 13:22, On the Way to The Cross series), walking southeast, along the border between Galilee to the north, Samaria to the south, and heading toward the Jordan River valley. He stopped in some little village, which also remains nameless, along with the ten outcasts on its edge. The place isn’t important. The men’s names aren’t important. What matters? Jesus and His power.
Let me say up front, the muddy part is my imagination.
On two separate occasions, Jesus healed men with leprosy. Once, it was a single man, and the other time, it was ten men. We will spend some time with the former today and the latter next week. But first…
The New Testament term, leprosy, comes from a Greek word that refers to any type of skin disease. I worked in our backyard a couple of weeks ago, and as I write, I still have poison ivy on my arms. That’s one type of leprosy. The serious medical condition we typically associate with leprosy, however, is now called Hansen’s disease. It’s a bacterial infection that leads to nerve damage. The person doesn’t feel injuries to his/her extremities, resulting in disfigurement and sometimes death.
Here’s the CDC clarification:
The “leprosy” found in historical and religious texts described a variety of skin conditions from rashes and patchy skin to swelling. They were noted to be very contagious, which is not true for Hansen’s disease and also did not have some of the most obvious signs of Hansen’s disease, like disfigurement, blindness, and loss of pain sensation.
The Old Testament established regulations and purification rituals for those with leprosy (see Leviticus 13-14), which turned the priests into pseudo dermatologists. Glad I’m not them!
Now. Let’s get into the Scriptures.
A Muddy Man in the Road
Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-44, Luke 5:12-14.
I did a little thing. Something I haven’t done before.
I prepared a short Bible study for an online get-together. It went fairly well, so later, I recorded myself for you all. Instead of a written post, this week, I give you my first vlog! Continue reading
Jesus’ reputation was getting huge! He’d grown too large for the coffee shop scene and even the small venue circuit (Mark 1:45). He needed arenas for His teaching and healing times, but you don’t see many of those in first-century backwaters of the Roman Empire—especially not ones available to an itinerant Jewish teacher. Sometimes word got out that Jesus was in someone’s home. These unintentional public appearances always overflowed their spaces. People crowded into the main room, leaned in the windows, and blocked the doors—all just to get close to Jesus.
That’s the situation four friends found when they brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Continue reading
Peter was a fisherman, not a swordsman. I’m sure Malchus, servant of the High Priest, was glad about that fact when Peter’s sword swung toward his head. Or maybe later, when his ear was healed, and he’d had time to think about it, he realized Peter probably wasn’t actually aiming for his ear.
John 18:1-14. Continue reading
Sometimes you can be unforgettable and yet remain nameless.
[Jesus] said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” –Luke 4:24-27
In Elijah’s time, there was the widow of Zarephath. In Elisha’s time, there was Naaman the Syrian. Neither was a Jew. We don’t know the name of the widow, and we don’t know the name of the servant girl who introduced Naaman to Elisha, prophet of the One True God. Continue reading
It’s the shepherds again.
Every day since I wrote this flash fiction piece, my attitude toward Christmas has been one of anticipation rather than anxiety. For the first time in many years, I’m actually looking forward to Christmas in America. And it’s all because of one adverb in Luke’s story about the shepherds. Continue reading