Hello, and welcome to a new week of the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Mark with you this week.
This week we will be looking at materials from chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel of Mark is generally known as a fast moving story where Jesus hardly finishes doing one thing before he has started the next. We will, therefore, cover a lot of ground this week. For many people, Mark is the most enjoyable of all the Gospels because of this fast pace. For others, it might feel a bit frantic, without enough time to process what is happening. If so, the podcast allows you to stop when you need and ponder things for a while. Whichever your personality, I hope you’ll enjoy journeying through these four chapters with me.
Today, we will look at Mark 1, verses 35-45, focusing on verses 44 and 45. This passage begins with Jesus rising early and going outside of town in order to have some time alone to pray. Even this early in Jesus’ ministry, he has become a rather popular person, in demand by many people. If you’ve ever been in that situation, you know how valuable a few minutes alone can be. For instance, if you’re listening to this and you’re the parent of young children, you might be nodding along at the idea of just a few minutes of privacy and silence – a rare and highly valuable commodity in homes with children!
It isn’t long until the disciples find Jesus – so much for a break from the crowds. What is more, Simon Peter’s reminder to Jesus is it is not only the disciples looking for him, but the crowds of people in Capernaum too. Jesus’ response is to go elsewhere before the crowds find him. This passage reminds us that when Jesus finally begins his public ministry, he has a mission, and notoriety is not part of that mission. He’s not interested in big crowds or popularity, as verses 44-45 highlight.
Immediately, Mark tells us that a leper comes to Jesus for healing. Moved by pity, the text says, Jesus heals this man. Jesus doesn’t want payment or thanks, only for the man to offer at the Jerusalem Temple a thank offering for his healing. Indeed, Jesus tells the man specifically not to tell anyone about the healing. The man, it turns out, can’t stop himself: Mark says ‘he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word.’ It is a bit hard to understand why this would upset Jesus, but the explanation the passage offers is that Jesus simply isn’t interested in notoriety. Perhaps, and this is reading a bit into the text, it is the healed man who does want notoriety for being someone who has had this sort of encounter with Jesus? We just don’t know.
What is clear is that the way Jesus behaves in the text presents us with a clear question: can the same be said for us? Do we seek to build the kingdom of God without worry over who gets the credit?
Jesus’ miracles are a demonstration that the kingdom is breaking into a new place. When we pray for healing, do we hope that it will come because it demonstrates God’s kingdom coming into a new place or because we’d love to be able to say our prayers made a difference? I’m surely guilty of feeling the latter from time to time. Indeed, I feel that way whether I’m praying for healing or just about anything else. This passage is a good reminder to me, and maybe to you as well, that prayer is not a chance to demonstrate our own spirituality, but to invite God to move into our lives.
Today, let’s pray for healing for someone we know because we deeply desire God to demonstrate that Christ Jesus is claiming ever more of our lives and bodies, restoring them to reflect the goodness of creation.
Thank you Lord Jesus that you are willing and able to heal our broken bodies, and that you choose to do so as proof of how you’re putting our broken world right. Amen.
READING: Mark 1:35-45
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.