"Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach . . ."
Mark 1: 20-39
If cameras had existed in the time of Jesus you could be sure that we would have thousands of photographs or maybe even video recordings of this charismatic and mysterious man. If only he had come in our time. The 24 hr news reporting would be hotly in pursuit of an interview. Websites and blogs and social media would be buzzing with reports of his healings and the number of followers who were attracted by his words and actions. We might hear his voice and see his face and find ourselves pulled to more than mild interest in this amazing teacher.
Well, the above is obviously only fantasy for in the time when our Lord came, none of that existed. Only by the written word and verbal accounts were the Gospels written. Yet more than a moment in time, they are deep reflections on the words Jesus preached. The scene in this Wednesday scripture we might say is a kind of snapshot, a "day in the life of . . ." Jesus. And that day, and others like it, seem to have been frenetic.
In the scene presented by Mark, Jesus extends a healing hand to Simon's (Peter) mother-in-law who is sick with a fever. The illness leaves her at his word and his touch and she rises in perfect health. The word spread quickly and before you know it the "whole town" was gathered outside the door of Peter's home in Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus proceeds to preach, expel demons, and heal the sick. Early the next morning, he rises, goes off to pray privately, the disciples find him and he invites them to follow now throughout this region in his preaching ministry:"Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come."
Jesus comes as one who preaches in the fire of John the Baptist and the prophets before him; he heals in the power of God but primarily it is his word, the good news of God's love and mercy, that he is called to proclaim.
Yet, we want the magic, the wonder, the healings and the blowing trumpets don't we? We want God to instantly solve our problems and answer our prayers on the spot. We are uncomfortable with waiting and with what at times may seem like persistent but unproductive prayer. Yet, we know that God's ways are not our ways. He isn't bound by our schedule or personal agenda. Rather we must seek his and know that what might seem like a delay on the part of God is a call to grace; to grow in his image and to strengthen our weak faith.
I always think of Abraham and Isaac, his son. Remember God's seemingly heartless request that Abraham slay the son he had longed for all his life? Out of obedience, he takes his son Isaac, places him upon a makeshift altar to slay him as a sacrifice at God's request! Such a scene is shocking to say the least.
Yet, why would God do such a thing? We learn quickly, that at the last moment, God stops Abraham and explains that this was not God's intention but rather a test of Abraham's faith. How far would he go to trust the Lord - Abraham proved himself obedient even to such an edge of testing, and God rewarded Abraham for his total dedication. Such may be true in our prayer. God waits till the "eleventh hour" in order to test our faith in him. How persistent will you be in prayer? How trusting are you in God? How far will you let him push you? I ask such questions myself of course.
Today's report from Mark assures us that God, in Jesus, is a God of compassion and mercy. And he is also a God who wants his children to become holy and to be tested in faith. Yes, it is a mystery and we would rather God acted more like our I phones or computers with instant gratification. But, what good will that do for us? We would never be satisfied, always wanting more and more and never grow beyond a mere surface pleasure.
God is love and mercy itself the Psalms tell us and he will meet us where we are at but we must let go and follow as the disciples did.