The old white wing chair wrapped its arms around her. She was a lump, just sitting there holding it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed before or since,” she’d later say to friends and family.
Her dreams, her hopes, and, yes, even her desperation to move forward had all been placed in that job. She could imagine it. She could taste it.
Unfortunately, instead of a job offer she held a rejection letter in her hands.
After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once.
He went to her, took her by the hand and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. Mark 1: 29-31 CEB
He used to fret about his hair in high school. He wanted to impress the girls — the girl.
He’d spend more time than a boy ought to spend primping before he took to the football field.
Nonetheless, the girls did swoon and fawn over Billy.
That was sixty years ago when his body actually responded to his commands. Now getting up out of the chair, he needed assistance.
Some days he hated his body. Some days his self-loathing took over his whole psyche.
God save the home aid on those days.
“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. Mark 1:25-26 CEB
Written between the years 50 and 60 — two to three decades after Jesus’ earthly life — Mark’s narrative is concise.
In his use of words like “immediately” and “suddenly,” he seems to be in a hurry.
From a twenty-first century perspective it is like Mark is seeking to portray Jesus as someone who is here to get things done.
That may be partially true but it is more nuanced than that.
From a first century perspective, however, Mark is trying to portray Jesus as one with authority.
He portrays Jesus as someone with confidence in himself and in the one who grants him that authority.
Jesus is confident because it is God who has called him to heal. Even the demons recognize the Emmanuel, which means God with us.
Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching.
The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts.
Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” Mark 1:21-24 CEB
It’s helpful to realize that in the first century, in Jesus’ time, healers were a dime a dozen. That is, many claimed to be able to heal.
Many had some success at it, too.
That is why Mark explicitly claims that Jesus’ authority and power come not from himself — not from Jesus —but from God.
Notice that despite the urgency — all the immediatelys and suddenlys — Jesus gets up early in the morning to pray.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Mark 1:35 CEB
Jesus himself knows that it is not he who heals. Jesus knows that it is the power of the divine one, God, through whom Jesus has the power to transform lives.
When we think of Jesus healing we often think of miracles. Certainly, I think that is often the case.
Even in our time, in our own lives miracles happen. If we pay attention, we can see the inexplicable healing of those whose lives should have been hell transformed.
If we pay attention, we sometimes see those with serious illness recover despite the odds.
Unfortunately, we sometimes use these miracles to beat ourselves up or, rather, to blame God. We look not to the miracles but to those who are not healed.
“Why must I suffer?” we wail. After the many challenges in his life, Job also wailed at God:
What are human beings, that you exalt them, that you take note of them, visit them each morning, test them every moment?
Why not look away from me;
let me alone until I swallow my spit?
If I sinned, what did I do to you,
guardian of people?
Why have you made me your target
so that I’m a burden to myself?
Why not forgive my sin,
overlook my iniquity?
Then I would lie down in the dust;
you would search hard for me,
and I would not exist. Job 7:17-21 CEB
In other words, we are not the first to look at miracles and suffering and blame God for our misfortune.
And while I certainly don’t always know why bad things happen to good people, I think blaming God is a cop-out. It is too easy.
When we whine and blame God, we fail to find the healing all around us. As Shannon Alder suggests in our Words of Wisdom today,
“Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently.” (Shannon L. Alder)
When we focus too much on the past, on the pain and on the suffering we are failing to listen to the whole story.
The Good News is that resurrection is real. No matter what we are going through today? It will not last forever.
Life is about joy. It is also about pain and suffering. Living according to the teachings of Jesus is about allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us and provide healing for others.
Living as Jesus lived is allowing ourselves to be conduits for hope and healing. Admit it. Not one of us in this room has suffered as much as Jesus did.
Jesus had all the human feelings and pain receptors that you and I have. And what did he do?
A man with a skin disease approached Jesus, fell to his knees, and begged, “If you want, you can make me clean.”
[Filled with compassion] Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.”
Instantly, the skin disease left him, and he was clean. Sternly, Jesus sent him away, saying,
“Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for your cleansing that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.” Mark 1:40-44 CEB
It’s not about our suffering. It’s about the healing we provide to others who are suffering.
The Good News is that even in the midst of our own suffering we can heal others if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow God to work through us.
Following her stroke while driving, Betty was hospitalized in the ICU. Her car totaled, she didn’t remember the details of what happened.
She was hooked up to this machine and that machine. Distress and fear and deep sadness permeated her family.
Betty was going to be in the hospital for awhile. Within the year she would die.
Gathering in the waiting room, her adult children talked to the grandchildren, preparing them for what they would see when they went in to visit Grandma.
When the children gathered around her bed, Betty smiled and…
(The children still talk about it fifteen years later.)
And she sang to them. She sang the song she always sang to them, “I love you a bushel and a peck a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”
Through her suffering, she remembered the Good News. Within her suffering, she opened herself to the divine and allowed herself to be a conduit for good.
Grandchildren with fears and worries approached Betty. Their eyes begged, “If you want, you can make me clean.”
[Filled with compassion] Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Mark 1:41 CEB