30 October 2020

Jesus's Way of Teaching

In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus is teaching, healing, and driving out demons. In verse 21, he drives out a demon and those witnessing the event respond, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!" (27). The people witnessing the miracles in this chapter take them as teachings. Jesus is teaching people not only with words, but with his actions, or as they say, "with authority." This method of teaching is echoed in the well-known quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."

We do not have the words of Jesus's early ministry; we do not know exactly what he was going from town to town telling people. Some are recorded, but most are not. Still, we know the message of Jesus because of his actions. wherever he went he healed people.

Jesus's next healing is in the home of Simon and Andrew (29). Simon's mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. Jesus heals her by helping her up. After sunset he then heals many people with a variety of diseases and some who are demon possessed (32).

Finally, the chapter closes with Jesus healing a man with leprosy (40). The man challenges Jesus, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Note that this is not a question, it is a challenge. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. He has the calling, the authority, and the willingness to heal the sick. This man is not questioning that, he is saying that Jesus does not care. Mark tells us that Jesus "became angry" (41) and replied "I am willing. Be clean." Jesus then tells the man to tell no one, but "show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded... as a testimony" (44). Instead, the man told everyone he met and never did give the sacrifice commanded in Leviticus.

The first miracle we see is the healing of a demon-possessed man. Today, most agree that the symptoms attributed to the "demon-possessed" of scripture mirror certain neurological and psychological disorders today. These conditions can be debilitating, and often cause people to be ostracized from their families, churches, and local communities.

The man in this story shouts an apocalyptic message at Jesus, asking, "have you come to destroy us" (24)? When Jesus yells back, the man appears to go into a seizure, convulsing and shrieking (26). This encounter is certainly dramatic, and would be terrifying for most people. But Jesus does not react with fear. Instead he is "stern" (25). He neither ignores the man nor treats him with contempt. He gives him neither pity nor fear. Instead, he reminds the man to be respectful of those around him and banishes the man's fear that others will destroy him. He does this in full sight of the entire synagogue so as to restore the man to his community.

When Jesus meet's Simon's mother-in-law, she is in bed, sick with a fever (29). Jesus's answer to her inability to get out of bed is to "help her up." Did his help end with helping her up? Was she healed immediately at the touch of the Son of God? I imagine that not only was Jesus's help more substantial than simply helping her up, but that it was not a supernatural miracle that healed her, but the care Jesus showed in helping her.

We know that Jesus's disciples were not all the best people when Jesus called them. He expected them to learn on the job. This healing was not just for Simon's mother-in-law, but was also a teaching for Simon. Perhaps his mother-in-law wasn't so much sick with fever as she was sick of being taken for granted. Jesus did not simply ask her to wait on them, Jesus helped.

Some time later a man comes to Jesus with leprosy (40). The man wants healing from Jesus, but he does not ask nicely. He has not done what is obviously required for his healing, even what is both easy and free. Even after he is healed, he does not change his ways. He is no better a person for having met Jesus.

Jesus healed him anyway.

Jesus did not withhold what he was capable of giving for any reason. He did not ask why they needed help, what they had done, or whether they would change their ways. Jesus helped first and asked questions later. The way of Jesus, the way of Christianity, is to make a different in the lives of others. It matters not if they're poor or rich, healthy or sick. If we as Christians have something we can give, we are called to give it to those in need. It matters not if they'll appreciate it, if they'll thank us, or if they'll be improved in any way. It is our calling to give first and preach second, just as Jesus gave.

Peace be with you.

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