What about Them? Reflections on Mark 1 and beyond … Part 1

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If you’re going to be in ministry—a person or church joining Jesus in his ongoing mission—you are going to disappoint people from time to time.  You will not—cannot—satisfy all the expectations that people have.

Every time we travel out of the U.S. we have new adventures in disappointing people.  We walk through a marketplace and stop at one place to look at the curios and immediately we are swarmed by people expecting us to visit their shops.  They wonder, what about us?  Or a little child crowds around our legs with a hand held out.  We give them something, almost nothing of value really, and immediately one hundred others come from nowhere with their hands out stretched. They are wondering, what about us?

Jesus had just finished a day of vigorous though exhilarating ministry—just the sort of comprehensive, holistic ministry that warms a Wesleyan’s heart.  He began by proclaiming kingdom come.  The long anticipated time when God—Creator and Redeemer—would at last rule, where his good will, his excellent way would prevail over his people and all people, over Israel and all nations.

And, this good news was taking shape right before the eyes of Simon, Andrew, James and John, and now the people of Capernaum.  He taught them the way and he showed them the way, with authority.  I.e., surprising and stunning power.  He expounded the Scriptures as though the stories and commands were his own,  He did so in a way that invited them into the story, as though it was really also their story.

But he also challenged the powers that threatened people, that if unchecked would destroy people.  Sometimes the powers can even be found in church.  At least it was so in Jesus’ day.  Jesus amazes the people with his teaching.  One could feel hope rising in the room, when all of a sudden, a man screams, “What are you up to Jesus?  You’ve come to destroy us”

It was hell questioning the motives of heaven.  The spirit in that man was half right: Jesus had come to destroy the evil one, unraveling what he’d twisted, mending what he’d broken, reclaiming the captives, restoring them to a kingdom life.  Jesus had come to silence the word and to destroy the works of the devil.  “Shut up!” Jesus said, “Ánd get out!”

The spirit didn’t leave quietly or without protest, but it did leave! And, you’d better believe Jesus had gotten their attention.  Quickly, the news spread. If he banishes the evil one, then think about what he might do for the hurting, the wounded, the outcast, the weak, the vulnerable and poor? 

All over Galilee that question made its rounds and people began to come.  So that evening (v.32) the sick and demon possessed came or were brought, a whole town’s worth.  And Jesus healed them, decisively undoing the havoc and chaos of the evil one in people’s lives.

The news continued to spread and the people continued to come.  You can imagine some walking and carrying their loved-ones for many hours, to bring them to Jesus, to be included in the good news he declared and demonstrated. I can imagine how it could have been.  Late the night before, Jesus and his helpers reach exhaustion.  They call it a day, a long, long day.  They retire for some rest. 

Meanwhile, the people continue to come.   The line forms and lengthens through the night.  At dawn both the sun and their hopes are rising.  Then, imagine, Simon Peter’s panic.  He wakes to the noise of the crowds at the door, but Jesus is nowhere in sight.  None of the others have seen him.  What are they going to do?  What will the crowds do when they find out Jesus is not there?  Where is Jesus?  The people are waiting!

Simon organizes a search party and slips out the back way to look for Jesus.  Finally he discovers him.  “Everyone is looking for you!”  But Jesus doesn’t respond as expected.  He says, in effect, “Our work here is done for now, let’s move on,” (v. 38).

I’m telling you, there were many people disappointed that day, probably some of them angry.  No doubt they wondered, what about us?  Indeed, what about these people?  They were just as tormented, just as ruined, but had missed the ministry of Jesus by a day?  They’re asking, “What about us?”

Have you noticed that very often Jesus answers a question with a question?  Someone once asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus answered, “What does the law say, how do you read it?”

I suggest that Jesus responds to this question, “what about us?” by turning to us who follow him, who were there the day before, for whom Jesus has cast out the demons, healed our hurts, restored and reconnected us to God and others—we were there the day before, and Jesus turns to us to  ask, “what about them?”

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    Thanks for this encouragement. It’s a confusing prayer sometimes, that I want lives to look at what God is doing among us and say, “What about me?” and be able to invite them to join. Not for any exciting thing we do or have, but for the work of God’s Spirit. Praying for it…

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