I’ve been talking about the gospel of Mark in many different settings the past few weeks. In Bible studies in our local congregations, I’ve been part of discussions in which we struggled with the many stories of demons and exorcism in Mark and what those stories could possibly mean for today. I’ve heard people talk about Jesus’ need to go off by himself to pray and how we might emulate that practice.
This week in our monthly staff worship, we reflected on the lectionary text for this Sunday: Mark 1: 40-45. A leper begs Jesus to “make him clean.” Jesus was “moved with pity,” the New Revised Standard Version states. Jesus then touches him (Outrageous!) and cures his leprosy. In our reflection, we got caught up on the word pity for a while. Many of us wished the word had been translated with a word with less negative connotations, such as compassion. Though in my heart I’d probably prefer a word change, none of us really want to be given a gift (or anything else) out of pity – it implies we are “less than” the person giving it to us. The reality is that Jesus has some pretty harsh edges in the Gospel of Mark.
I imagine this Jesus often pounding his fist on tables and rolling his eyes. He clearly gets impatient with his seemingly clueless disciples and often ends stories with, “Let anyone with ears to hear Purchase Zovirax paypal without prescription listen!” to emphasize his point. Given the posture he takes with the people around him, it’s very possible that he would have actually pitied this poor leper. Jesus grasps the gospel vision in a way that others’ around him do not. This apparently makes him impatient and brusque in his dealings with those around him – even this leper.
It’s interesting that so often we typify the ideal Christian behavior as being “nice.” I wonder if that has more to do with our Scandinavian forebears who settled this land, than with Mark’s gospel. If we use this Jesus as a role model, we’d be decidedly less “nice” than we often think we should be. This Jesus was passionate, fiery, even impatient because he knew that he had a gospel vision to impart in a short time. Why can’t we get that passionate and fiery about the gospel now and even risk offending a few people in the process of spreading it? Why can’t we be the kind of leaders who have a broad, radical vision of church that takes people into uncharted, even uncomfortable territory? Why can’t we get a little impatient with people’s inability to change in order to get our point across a little more quickly? If we did, church members just might be a little more fiery and passionate in their living of the gospel.
Nicole Havelka, Associate Conference Minister Youth and Young Adult Ministries