8 November 2018Mark 5:1-20
'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.' (v. 19)
As we progress through this week of considering the fourth and fifth chapters of Mark’s Gospel, we are confronted by moments of deep challenge and great irony. Jesus has taken his disciples aside to give them some more teaching. He has told them of the tiniest grain of faith that can grow into something mighty. Crossing the lake, caught up in the storm, fearful for their lives, Jesus demonstrates his power over wind and wave. Parables of healing and wholeness that announce and define the kingdom. And yet how slow-witted and reluctant to believe the disciples are. Then comes the ironic story. The ones in whom Jesus has been investing time, who have been nurtured in the faith and yet have been so slow to respond are overtaken by a raving lunatic. The disciples’ question of who is this that even the wind and sea obey him is still ringing in our ears, their puzzled frowns not yet cleared from their faces. Then a man of unclean spirit, raving and ragged, saw Jesus from a distance, ran to him and bowed down, knowing him as Jesus, Son of the most high God. In the midst of the disciples continued confusion comes the confident confession of one who is far beyond the boundaries of life in the society of 1st-century Palestine.
Jesus rids the man of the unclean spirit, much to the consternation of the swineherds whose animals were destroyed in the process. Filled with fear they ran to tell others of what had happened and begged Jesus to go away and cause no further uproar. The healed man begs to be allowed to become a disciple and follow Jesus from that place, but he is sent out immediately to proclaim the message. The twelve were not yet ready, they still did not get it, they need more time before being sent out. The healed lunatic was ready, had all that he needed, understood the task and the message, he was sent out in mission ahead of the twelve.
In Jesus’ topsy-turvy kingdom, the first shall be last and the last first, the outcast will be sent to proclaim the kingdom and the long-standing faithful will be held back. We do not earn our place in the kingdom by anything but our faith, as Toplady puts it in today’s hymn, “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”.
- What manner of presenting the gospel story do we find most helpful and where does storytelling fit into our way of engaging with the wider world?
- Think about the church that you know best. Is it as open and inclusive as it might be? What are the power dynamics that challenge us? What can we do to make it better?