21 February 2011

Mark 9:14-29

"All things can be done for the one who believes." (v. 23)


When the actor Alec McCowen took to the stage in the late 1970s with his one-man performance of Saint Mark's Gospel, he discovered in this episode a real sense of renewed focus that draws its energy from the immediately preceding experience high up a mountain - the experience that Christians refer to as the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8).

Accompanied only by three of his closest disciples, Jesus has been seen to speak with the great prophets of Israel, Moses and Elijah. Then, from a low mountain-top cloud, the bewildered disciples have heard the voice of God addressing them, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" (verse 7). This is a turning point in the Gospel writer's story. Either side of it, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection (Mark 8:31-339:30-32). From now on, the story's narrative is driven forward by the journey of Jesus and his disciples towards Jerusalem and the climax of his ministry.

It's in this context of renewed sense of purpose that a distraught father, surrounded by a throng of scribes, disciples and bystanders, brings his son to Jesus for healing. As Alec McCowen observed, the people seem to rush towards Jesus as if to an approaching celebrity. Indeed, he has developed the kind of reputation that could turn the head of any lesser person. However, Jesus does not respond with a swift, flashy miracle but with the voice of one who knows his purpose and who makes others question theirs.

Arguably, Jesus has discovered fresh authority on the mountain top. This authority is closely intertwined with a manifestation of humility that has little to do with modesty or having a low opinion of oneself, but is all about being confident that the life Jesus is living is in tune with what he is called to be for God. Such humility transforms Jesus' life and has a transformative effect on the life of others.

To Ponder

What does the idea of humility mean to you? Is it a positive or a negative quality?

Does our 21st-century, X-Factor society value humility at all? If so, how?

How humble do you think Jesus sounds when he says, "All things can be done for the one who believes"?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.