February 5, 2012 – Immediately – Mark 1:29-39
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke work up gradually into the ministry of Jesus. In Matthew and Luke we have lengthy genealogies and the story of Jesus’ birth. Slowly, ever-so-gradually, the momentum of Jesus’ ministry seems to build, but that’s not the case for Mark’s gospel. Mark jumps into the momentum of Jesus’ ministry with the words, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
No star lit skies and angels, just John the Baptist shouting “prepare the way!” Mark has us racing along at breakneck speed. Words like “immediately”, “just then”, and “as soon as” seem to fill the pages of Mark’s gospel. The Greek word for “immediately” is euthus. It means straight away; without hesitation or lingering. Christ pressed on declaring the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, loving the unlovely, liberating the bound and uptight. There wasn’t time to coddle people who resisted his ministry while others pressed in upon him to receive his healing and hope. No time to play power politics in this earthly kingdom. He was the Messiah on a mission. He was the Master on the move! The divine Son of God was about his Father’s business.
Today’s reading appears casual enough: “as soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the home of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” Having enjoyed the worship of a traditional Sabbath, it appears that these four disciples and Jesus are about to spend some leisure time together. But they no more than enter Simon’s home when they learn that his mother-in-law has a fever. So much for kicking one’s feet up on the couch for an afternoon of quiet solitude.
Jesus heals her. As the day passes our text tells us they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered at the door. Imagine that huge gathering of humanity. As quickly as Jesus heals one, another is reaching out for help. As quickly as one is made well enough, another one is there asking, begging, pleading.
In fact, as the story continues to unfold, Jesus makes an early, pre-dawn escape in order to pray and regenerate. He needs prayer. No mention is made of food or breakfast, but there is a need for prayer. We can imagine Jesus saying something to the Father like, “God, I’m weary” or “God, renew me with your power” or “God, I give my life to you – my heart, my soul, my body. Give to me your strength.”
He prayed, but even as he is praying, his closest companions hunted him down; so much for rest. The demands pressed in and the disciples begin laying out his itinerary. They say to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” Jesus doesn’t linger, he answers, “Let us go!”
We can feel the pace. We can identify with the pace, or at least we should have some sense of this sleep deprived, over stressed and over worked Master we serve. No more do we pull together one part of our own life and something or someone else impedes on our plans sending us in another direction with apparent urgency. What drove Jesus? What pushed him? Where did all his energy come from?
Four times in this tightly worded Scripture, reference is made to the demons that had taken control over people’s lives. As much as Jesus was driven by his God-centered energy, he was also driven in response to the demons that were destroying the lives of the people around him.
We can’t know precisely what the demons looked like at the time of Jesus, but we can talk about the demons that are real in our world today. It doesn’t take long to see the telltale fingerprints of our frail humanity. A mother just miles from here is found dead in her van. Little children disappear without a trace, or are found dead of unnatural causes. Tension mounts from unemployment, or simply from broken spirits, and relationships suffer, laws are broken and lives become less than the beauty God intended. It happens in the secrecy of homes and is blasted across the air waves. It’s a close as the person sitting next to us and as far away as bankruptcy fears in Europe or invasion threats to Iran by Israel.
In the midst of the evil world, Jesus begins his ministry of healing, touching, and lifting human lives up from their beds. One by one, demons are extracted from the lives of those he comes in contact with. So it was 2,000 plus years ago, so it is this very morning!
In the readings for today from Isaiah and the Psalms, both make reference to God’s appointing and naming each star in the heavens. The personalization of stars is a sign of home, reminding us that while we may think our humble life stories are small in the grand scheme of creation, God’s view is quite the opposite. There is nothing too grand or too small for God. In the ageless progression of eternity, immediately God comes to the rescue.
God reaches out to us in life’s joys and struggles and invites us to place our trust in the assurance of God’s presence and faithfulness. When we place our hope in God, and “wait for the Lord”, we too are lifted up from the downtrodden places in life.
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, having her fever removed by Jesus’ healing touch, rose from her bed and began to serve Jesus and the disciples. Healing doesn’t just produce a whole body, mind and spirit. True healing duplicates itself. Jesus immediately reached out and lifted her up. Her response was to reach out and begin to serve.
If we ask “what must I do to be saved?” the answer is easy. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Saved from sin but for what? The deeper question is “what does God want of us?” God wants a faith lived out in what we say and do. We are to become living extensions of God’s healing love.
One day, when John was a freshman in high school, he saw a kid from his class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his text books. John thought to himself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books of a Friday? He must be a nerd.” John had a big weekend planned so he shrugged his shoulders and walked on.
As he walked, he saw a bunch of kids running toward Kyle. They ran straight at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. Kyle’s glasses went flying, landing about 10 feet away. Kyle looked up and John saw this terrible sadness in his face. John’s heart went out to him. So he jogged over to him and they crawled around together looking for the glasses. As John handed Kyle the glasses he noticed tears in his eyes. “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives,” John said. “Hey, thanks!” Kyle responded with a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
John helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near John, so he asked him why he had never seen him before. Apparently Kyle had gone to a private school before now. John had never hung out with a private school kid before, but as they walked together, John discovered Kyle was a pretty cool kid. He invited him to play football on Saturday with friends and Kyle said yes. They hung out all weekend and the more John got to know Kyle, the more he liked him. His friends thought the same.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day!” Kyle just laughed and handed John half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and John became best friends. When they were seniors, they began to think of college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and John was going to Duke. They knew they would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. Kyle was going to be a doctor and John was going of business on a football scholarship. Kyle was the class valedictorian and John still teased him about being a nerd, but inside he was glad it wasn’t him that would have to speak at commencement.
Graduation day came at last and Kyle looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than John and all the girls loved him! Sometimes John was jealous and this was one of those days. But, John could see Kyle was nervous about his speech, so he smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” Kyle looked at John with one of those truly grateful looks, “Thanks,” he said.
As Kyle started his speech he cleared his throat, and began, “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years; your parents, your teachers, your sibling, maybe your coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I’m going to tell you a story.”
John sat in disbelief as Kyle told of the first day they met. Kyle said he was so tired of not fitting in and not having friends that he planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn’t have to do it and was carrying all of his stuff home. He looked hard at John and gave a little smile, “thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”
John heard a gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told everyone about his weakest moment. John saw Kyle’s mom and dad looking at him and smiling that same grateful smile. It wasn’t until that moment he realized its full depth.
We love others because God first loved us. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life, for better or worse. We can be the one pushing someone in the dirt or the one who picks them up, brushes them off, and helps carry their load. It isn’t something we spend time thinking about; it’s an immediate response to who we are inside. We may never have the privilege of knowing our impact on others, but it matters how we respond to the healing we have received from God.
This morning we may identify with John, or maybe even as Kyle. Mark’s message has tried to show us a vivid image of the divine Messiah filled with the power of God. Jesus was who he said he was, and what the church later declared: God was in Christ reconciling the world! “Reconciling the world”…healing the hurts of frail humans like you and me. The Messiah moved immediately into human need, wherever he found it, and released the immediacy of divine power to all who came to him. That power, divided among us, is with us today and every day, waiting to be multiplied. We can love because God first loved us!