Book of Mark

When My Strength Fails (Mark 2, Part 1)

Pray

Good morning, Lord. It’s been a rough one. As I come to you this morning, my heart is heavy, but, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” I trust you this morning to “cheer my soul” and lift the burdens that are weighing me down. Help me to encounter your word in a fresh way this morning, and let it nourish my soul as I head into the day.

Read

This morning I’m moving on to Mark 2, so begin by reading the entire chapter. Make note of any phrases or ideas that pique your interest. I highlight or use a colored pencil to mark them in my Bible, but you can also just jot them down in a notebook.

Reflect

Here are the phrases I have marked over the years:

“he was at home” – v. 1

“immediately” (there’s that word again!) – vv. 8, 12

“many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his diciples, for there were many who followed him.” – v. 15

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – v. 17

“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” – vv. 27-28

This morning, I am reflecting on the first phrase: “he was at home.”

I travel a lot for work. For the most part, I fly somewhere at least once a month, sometimes more, and I also take occasional weekend trips with my husband or to speak at a retreat. And whenever I have been away, whether it’s for a couple of nights or more than a week, when I get home, I just want to nest. I want to stay in, cook, clean my house, and do the things that just keep me really close to home.

I also crave alone time. According to the Meyers-Briggs, I am a borderline extrovert, meaning I am right in the middle of being an extrovert or an introvert. From what I understand about this, it simply means that I am outgoing and comfortable in social settings, but after spending a lot of time around people, I really, really need to be alone. If I don’t get “alone time” to refresh and recover—spiritually and emotionally—I am a bit cranky.

So this passage indicates that, “after some days,” Jesus has returned home. He has been healing people and preaching about the coming kingdom. He has been building his team of first followers (the disciples). And now he is back home. But he didn’t get the “alone time” he might have needed. Instead, word quickly spread that he was back, and a crowd quickly assembled—and, from what I can tell, they assembled at his home! Wherever he was staying, the people gathered there, filling it such that no one could even get in the front door.

And Jesus, who probably felt tired, probably felt weary, probably craved time to be alone with the Father, continued to give, continued to pour out his heart in ministry. As verse 2 says, he was preaching the word to them.

I think everyone has their “ideal happiness needs”—a specific amount of sleep, perhaps, or maintaining a certain type of diet. I function at my best when I have at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night and eat a diet that is mostly fresh vegetable based. When I travel, I’m not sleeping in my own bed, and I’m often up late and up early. Also, when I travel, I am at the mercy of restaurant food, where it is harder to find healthy, fresh-veggie options. I am always grateful for the bed in which I sleep and the food I get to eat when I travel, but I do find that I am sometimes “out of sorts” when I get home. It takes me a day or two to get back into the swing of things.

We all have our ideal happiness needs, but there are seasons in our lives when we have very little control over whether we are able to live with those needs being met. I have several friends who have become parents recently, and their sleep schedules have changed dramatically. They’re totally exhausted! When I was teaching ESL in China and wrote an email to my friend Karen, who is the mother of three boys, I complained about not having any “alone time.” She wrote back, “just wait til you have kids! Alone time will become a thing of the past!”

Jesus came back from his travels and continued to give. As I consider all of the things this chapter says Jesus did after returning home from his travels, I wonder, how did he feel? Was he tired? Weary? How did he avoid feeling resentful of those who came to him?

This text doesn’t really address this at all, but here’s where I’m letting myself reflect and imagine a bit. And here’s what I think.

First, back in Mark 1, we read about Jesus’ baptism, and that, when he came up out of the water, he saw the Spirit descending on him like a dove. I believe that Jesus was able to continue ministering to people because he relied not on his own physical, human strength, but because he relied on the strength of the Spirit of God, which lived fully and perfectly in him.

Thinking about this also brings to mind a phrase from Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” As Jesus ministered to people, preaching the word to them and healing them, he was doing the very thing he was begotten to do. Frederick Buechner, a writer and theologian, is famous for saying, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I believe that Jesus was doing that very thing in that moment, the thing that was his “deep gladness,” and that it produced in him a great joy—the joy of the Lord, and more specifically of doing the Lord’s work—giving him divine strength.

As I read the gospels, the accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry on earth, I remember every so often that he was human. He experienced all of the basic human needs, such as food, sleep, shelter, etc. But I believe he also experienced emotional and spiritual needs. While this might be debated by some, I believe Jesus needed to pray, because prayer was how he received spiritual refreshment. And while he may or may not have needed friendship, I believe he, at the very least, wanted it. His disciples, especially his inner circle of Peter, James, and John, were not just his followers. They were his friends.

As I picture Jesus arriving back home in Capernaum, I imagine him walking in the door and sitting down. Perhaps he is staying in the home of friends at this point, I don’t know. But he is in the place which was, at least at that time, “home.” I imagine him looking forward to a bit of rest before he carries on with his ministry—he will be heading off soon to preach to those who are beside the sea (v. 13). But right now, he wants some time to rest, to pray, to refresh.

But then there is a knock at the door. We heard Jesus was back, and we want to hear more of what he has to say. There are tax collectors and sinners of all kinds—but there are also scribes, religious officials, who come. The host offers wine and a bit of bread, and one after another, they filter in the door, until soon, there is no more wine, no more bread—and no more room. Yet, still, they sit in rapt attention. And Jesus continues to teach. As he is in the middle of a sentence, they hear a scuffle on the roof, and as they look up, bits of straw fall into their eyes—someone is removing a portion of the roof, the portion directly above where Jesus sits. They lower their paralyzed friend on a mat, and as Jesus sees the looks on their faces and perceives the faith it took for them to carry their friend to him, his heart is overwhelmed with compassion.

And so, he heals. He forgives. He demonstrates the kingdom of God in that room as he asserts his authority as the Son of God. And he leaves them amazed, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” We’ve never seen this mercy. We’ve never seen this humility. We’ve never seen this power. We’ve never seen anything like this.

Apply

But, I’m not Jesus. He was perfect. I am not. I am most definitely not. What can I learn from this? What does it have to do with the day I’m about to have (or am in the midst of, or just had)?

First, the same power that filled Jesus and gave him strength is available to me: the Spirit of God. When reserves are low and my flesh—my strength— fails, I can ask for divine strength. “Holy Spirit, fill me now. I cannot do this on my own.” As we are continuously filled with God’s Spirit, through prayer and meditation, there is fruit that follows: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice that these are the first things to go when we are tired, hungry, and spiritually dry! The Spirit enables us to be graceful when we need grace to show grace!

But there is also much power in consciously recognizing that the work before us—whether it is a so-called secular job, or parenting, or vocational ministry—is work the Lord has given us. By seeing the tasks before us as the Lord’s work, there is a good chance that there will be at least a spark of joy in knowing he is with us there. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, says the psalm; the world and those who dwell in it, for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers. Everything is God’s! There is no “secular.” And I find that when I struggle to see my mundane tasks as “holy,” meditating on this passage changes my posture toward my work—and ignites new joy.

How are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit today? When your own reserves are low, when circumstances are not ideal, when happiness seems unattainable, are you relying on God’s Spirit to fill you up and give you strength?

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2 thoughts on “When My Strength Fails (Mark 2, Part 1)

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