Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 7 July 2015

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. Mark 9, verses 14-15.

The crowd in these verses could be a crowd in America today.   Media fireflies swarm around Candidate A because they’ve anointed Candidate A as the Next Big Thing…until something bigger comes along.   In high school, the in-crowd picks on the new kid until a newer kid comes along…and then he isn’t what they expect.   At work, you’re swarmed by people who just want someone to help them get their work don, someone with a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of leadership initiative.   Crowds are crowds no matter where you find them in time.

To me, the reaction of the law-teachers is natural.   The teachers of the law were the Judean power structure (and they knew it).   If anyone came along, they were a potential threat to that structure.   Of course the teachers of the law would question, pivot on, and marginalize anyone whose words or actions could cause ripples in the carefully constructed pond. You can almost picture how the news traveled. “Have you heard?   Some of those Galileans who follow that Jesus are here in town.”   “Really?   Go find out what they want.   Take X and Y with you.”   And then it would start.

But that crowd?   They’re like any crowd.   They want to be fed, want to be led, want someone, something who is truly genuine.   When they saw Jesus’ followers, they swarmed them because they saw that ‘genuiness.’ When they saw the teachers of the law cornering Jesus’ disciples, they got even more interested.   And when they saw Jesus Himself, they dropped everything they were doing and ran.

Don’t gloss over that phrase “they were overwhelmed with wonder.” Politicians, former senators, and political straphangers don’t impress me.   Ditto the beautiful people from the red carpet.   I’ve met enough famous people to discover they use the bathroom the same as the rest of us; the same as Jesus did, in fact.   Yet this crowd in Judea saw something unusual in Jesus.   They had heard the rumors about Him; they had seen the miracles He performed.   Many of them had likely heard His teaching, which was spoken in kindly authority, words of love with a velvety steel core.   Forgive, love, be patient, be ready, be strong, love your enemy, love your neighbor, love God:   these weren’t the rote-lessons that the law-teachers taught.   No, the people were overwhelmed with wonder because Jesus was wonderful.

So, I say it again:   this could be a crowd in America today.   This could be us at the State Fair, or at your local mall. Despite how things are tough all over, despite how the mores of society seem to be devolving quickly, despite the worry, the unemployment, the endless cycle of crises both real and manufactured, we still long for something real, something genuine, something kind but with loving authority. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we still very much long for Jesus.

Lord Jesus, I long for You. I want to be where You are, like You are, live my life like You ask me to.

Read Mark 9, verses 14-29.


Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 20 January 2015

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” Mark 3, verse 30.

Mark finishes off this vignette with an explanation.   Jesus reasoned, implored, touched, refuted, rebuked, and forgave: all in the space of 6 verses.   Why did he do it? Because of lies about Him.

Now, let’s be fair: some people who heard Jesus talk may indeed have thought He was demon-possessed.   They saw this rebel, this upstart, who dared to defy the entrenched politico-religious authorities of the day.   The temerity of the man!  Surely he must be crazy (as his family had just said).   Barring that, the only other option was Beelzebub (as those politico-religious authorities said).  It stands to reason some of them thought that was the truth.

Yet when you take away that consideration and simply recall what was going on, you’re left with the knowledge that Jesus was simply responding to a pack of lies.  He wasn’t demon-possessed; Jesus wasn’t even self-possessed.  He had no political or military prowess, nor did He appear to even have an interest in such things.  Whatever made the world tick didn’t interest this ‘nobody’ from the nowhere village of Nazareth.  And while there were stories about miracles involved in His birth, who could really rely on stories, on rumors, to really gain a sense of the man?

So when the speculation as to who and why He was finally washed away, we’re left with the knowledge that, though Son of God, Jesus was also a real man about whom, and for various reasons, many lies had been spread.  He was possessed.   He was selfish.   He was a fraud.   He was a failure.   Nobody.  Somebody.  Savior. Scoundrel:  when folks didn’t seem to know what to say about Jesus, they simply prattled off the lies.   Thanks to the Gospels, the Epistles, and the first-hand accounts of His day, we actually know more about Jesus of Nazareth than we know about any other person from antiquity.  And still the lies persist; and still we spread the lies.   Even when we don’t spread them, we believe them.

Our world is polarized today.  You can’t troll Facebook without seeing shared stories of how up to no good the other side is (no matter who you perceive the other side to be).  I’ve fallen for them myself.  Thanks to my friend John (who originated this quote), I think Facebook is a mile-wide-inch-deep microcosm of who we are in America today.   If that’s true, we’re a pack of lying liars who all too easily believe the lies told about the other guys.  I disagree so strongly with my opponents that I find it believable that they’re a bunch of rotten human beings.   And I know I’m right because, well, I’m right.

Sound familiar?   Now is a good time to remember John’s “mile-wide-inch-deep” quote.

Perhaps it sounds familiar because we aren’t so different from the people of Jesus’ day, many of whom followed Him devoutly, but many of whom also believed the lies that seemingly reputable people told about Him.  Perhaps, too, this is a good time to remember that, while Jesus rebuked the people who meant harm to others, He also dealt with opponents using love, grace, and patience.  Jesus knew the score, and He knew others were lying about Him.   Yet Jesus moved from a posture of righteous love, and He didn’t let these things take His eye off the ball.

Jesus, too often I believe the lies about You. Forgive me and renew me to stand, to be faithful, and to forgive as You forgive.

Read Mark 3, verses 23-30.