Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Let me be the change I want to see in the world. Let me be to others the kind of friend I want to have. As your spirit breathes through me, let the fruit be seen and enjoyed and nourishing to all I come into contact with. May the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that are the fruit of your spirit be a blessing to others. And Lord, protect me from the schemes of the enemy of my soul—both the schemes I’m aware of, and the ones I am blind to.
The other night I ate a particularly rich piece of dark chocolate. It was so rich that I took only small bites at a time—nibbles, really—and just let the bits sit there in my mouth, melting and delighting my taste buds. I’m doing the same thing at this point with Mark. Today I’m still in Mark 3, and I’m taking the chapter in bite-sized pieces, because there’s so much in here to consider and give serious thought to. So read Mark 3:7-12 several times, and each time you read it, go phrase by phrase, so that a picture begins to develop in your mind.
Keep reading through the passage, over and over. That’s what I did this morning. Picture Jesus. His disciples. The crowds of people—they’re from all over the place (seven areas/cities are named). Some of them are sick—imagine what kinds of illnesses they have. What are their symptoms? How do they smell? Are they on crutches? Being carried on mats? What is the look on their faces?
Today, I’m just taking these verses in and letting my imagination fill in the gaps. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed…” What were his disciples thinking at this point? Were they whole-hearted followers, or did some of them have doubts, or at least questions, about Jesus? I imagine that this was a very exciting time for the disciples. I imagine they were somewhat swept up in the drama of the crowds and the healings. But I expect they were also somewhat confused about what to make of what the unclean spirits were saying: “You are the Son of God.” They were following him as their rabbi at this point, but the Son of God?!
It’s not a great idea to form too many conclusions about Jesus from just one short passage of scripture. Many doctrines are based on a few texts taken out of context, and I am a big proponent of seeking a theology that takes into consideration the whole counsel of scripture. In fact, that’s why I’m so passionate about reading through the whole Bible repeatedly over the years. But with that said, there are a few things that I’ve noted about how Jesus operated, that I think are also good for us to keep in mind today.
First, he did his ministry with a team. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples…” Jesus began his ministry by building his team of followers. Our life should also be marked by operating in community with others. You might have heard the phrase, “lone ranger Christian,” referring to someone who tries to go at their spiritual journey alone. But even the Lone Ranger had Tonto! We were made for community, and Jesus was no exception to that.
Second, he led by example. We’ve seen this several times already since we started reading Mark, but here it is again. At this point, we aren’t reading about his disciples doing any ministry; they seem to just be witnessing Jesus healing people and preaching about the kingdom of God. But, if you’ve been a student of the Bible for long, you probably know from other passages that, eventually, Jesus instructs his disciples to go out and do the ministry that he taught by example. At this point, the disciples are just along for the ride. They have no idea what is to come in the years ahead! But they are with him, watching—and learning.
Third, the kingdom of God is marked by healing. Why? As I mull this over, I recall that illness and injury are results of the fall, when sin entered the world for the first time. When Jesus healed people, he was giving them glimpses of the kingdom to come, when “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Jesus was preaching about the kingdom to come, and he was demonstrating that kingdom as he welcomed everyone to come to him, so that “all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.” He must have been someone they felt drawn to, and welcomed by, to press into him in such a physical, even intimate, way. Today, illness and disease continues to point us to the kingdom of God, as we hope for and long for that day when “the dwelling placeof God is with man, and He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God.”
Lastly, it strikes me that you don’t have to be a follower of Christ to recognize him as the Son of God. Or, to put it another way, not everyone who recognizes that Christ is the Son of God is on Christ’s team. Here, we see that unclean spirits “fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God'” (verse 11). As the apostle James wrote elsewhere, “Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” Recognizing Christ as the Son of God is not salvation. Salvation comes not from knowing who Christ is but from loving him, and receiving the gift of grace that comes only when he is our Lord.
Teamwork, leading by example, seeking glimpses of the kingdom of God coming to earth, and worshiping Jesus as the Son of God (not just “recognizing him”) are what I pulled from this passage. These are some things I’ve been chewing on as I have read (and re-read) these verses. I’d love to know what you’re noticing! Please share your gleanings in the comments below. Together, let’s enrich our hearts and minds and help one another see more as we read God’s word together.