October 21, 2020

Reconsider Jesus – The Compassionate One (Mark 1:29-45)


Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark
A devotional commentary by Michael Spencer
Compiled and Edited by: Michael Bell
Table of Contents

The Compassionate One

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:29-45 – ESV

There is an aspect of Jesus’ ministry here that requires our attention: When Jesus casts out demons, heals a person with leprosy, or performs one of the other miracles we see in this passage, he is doing something radical in his world. He is rejecting a whole way of thinking about people and their problems. When the society of that time was confronted with what it called demon possession it was common for them to take sticks and beat these people into submission, or to give them poison thinking that if they vomited they would vomit out the demon. It is unbelievable what a person like this might have been through.

My father was put in a mental hospital in the late 1960s in Louisville and I was never able to visit him, but the people who did said the wards were like going to hell. People are not treated well when others don’t understand what is going on. In Jesus’ time they would write off these marginalised people, saying “It proves I am a godly person if I have nothing to do with that person.” “It proves I am a godly person if I avoid the leper.”

Jesus rejected this whole way of thinking about people and their problems. When Jesus saw a demon possessed person, a leper, or even a mother-in-law with a fever, Jesus saw a hurting person. He gave them love, acceptance, kindness, and dignity. Having anything to do with a person with leprosy would have made you unclean yourself. For Jesus to reach out and touch a leper, was not just a mere action, it was reaching across all of those barriers that society had put up and instead saying that this person is lovable and valuable in God’s sight.

We need to remember this: If we are not saying, “Give me compassion for the excluded, and compassion for the hurting” then we are not yet following Jesus. As we go through our world, through the courthouses, the hospitals, the classrooms, and the community, we will see all sorts of people of whom our world says, “They are in that unacceptable group and deservedly so.” Jesus calls us to be willing to go across that barrier, not just out of some sort of feel good duty, but out of true genuine compassion.

The gospel tells me that despite all my failings and imperfections Christ loved me, included me, cleansed and forgave me. Therefore I can go and eat dinner at a table with someone with whom I wouldn’t normally eat, talk with those with whom I wouldn’t normally talk, and befriend those who are not supposed to be in my group. That is following Jesus.

Jesus is calling us to reach across barriers and get out of our comfort zones. He is calling us to draw a larger circle of God’s love than just the people with whom we are comfortable. He wants us to include people who are different from us without excluding those who are like us. To cross the barriers, reject cliques, and to treat people as Jesus treated them is a powerful demonstration of the gospel. I want you to notice as we read through Mark what happens as Jesus does this: In verse 32, the whole town gathered at the door; In verse 45 Jesus could no longer openly enter a town. Over in chapter three so many people were being brought to Jesus that he had to teach from a boat because the crowds were so crushing. In chapter six, facing yet another large crowd, and despite a lack of food and rest, Jesus had compassion “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Did Jesus face these crowds in these passages and elsewhere because he was a miracle worker? Yes, but more so because Jesus treated, and reached out to, and loved, and touched the unacceptable and the excluded. People came running to him, lepers came from their hiding places, and prostitutes came from their hiding places. People who were ashamed of their family members brought them to Jesus.

Do you understand what Christianity means if we practice this? What would a church look like if it was Jesus’ church? Would it be only for nice white families with no problems, two cars and two kids? No. Jesus’ church would include all kinds of people, with all kinds of problems, who would be drawn together by the acceptance they find in Jesus Christ. They would not be ashamed but welcomed and there would not be one hint of anyone saying, “We’re happy we don’t have that kind of person here.”

I cannot say I am following Jesus Christ if I am not willing to pray that the authority and the power of Jesus would change the lives of those around me. I don’t believe it is up to me to diagnose people’s problems, but it is appropriate for me to say “Lord Jesus Christ, send your Spirit and work in this life. Do what only you can do.” God saves people, heals people, delivers people and changes people. A rationalistic Christianity that excludes this is wrong. It doesn’t need to be a show, and it doesn’t need to be self serving, and it can’t be a circus, but it can’t be left out. You can’t have powerless Christianity. Our Savior has authority over everything, including demons and illness, and he extends it to people that our world has written off.

That includes us. All of us know what it is like to feel unaccepted. The word “stigma” may not be in vogue anymore, but if you have been divorced you know what stigma is. If you have been unemployed you know what stigma is. If people look at you as a failure, or as somebody they don’t want to talk to or know, then you know how powerful it is to realize that Jesus Christ includes you and accepts you. There is no time that I need Jesus more than when I feel unacceptable to myself and to others. I am acceptable to him and he will always come and stand by me, and embrace me, and love me. He doesn’t exclude me, and he doesn’t blame me.

The kind of Christianity that presents a Christ who blames people and excludes people is not following the Jesus of the gospels. In the New Testament when someone has to be excluded from the church for reasons of church discipline, it is a heartbreaking matter because Jesus Christ is an includer, not an excluder. Our gospel needs to start at that. You need to feel what it is to follow a Christ who looked at a demon possessed man and said, “Bring that man to me and I’ll help him.” Jesus looked at illness. He looked at stigma. He looked at all of that and said that in the Kingdom of God it is a whole different thing. Those barriers are gone. I pray that you experience that for yourself through the gospel.

In our next chapter I will elaborate a little more about what this should and shouldn’t look like in a church today.

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Notes from Mike Bell:
1. What questions or thoughts come from your mind from what you have just read? What stood out to you?
2. Would you be interested in a paper or Kindle version of the book when it is available? Please email us at michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com so that we can let you know when it is ready.
3. Find any grammar or spelling errors, phrases that are awkward or difficult to understand? Also send these type of comments to the email address above.

Comments

  1. “We need to remember this: If we are not saying, “Give me compassion for the excluded, and compassion for the hurting” then we are not yet following Jesus. As we go through our world, through the courthouses, the hospitals, the classrooms, and the community, we will see all sorts of people of whom our world says, “They are in that unacceptable group and deservedly so.” Jesus calls us to be willing to go across that barrier, not just out of some sort of feel good duty, but out of true genuine compassion.”

    This spoke to me as it does now call into question so much of the fundamentalist type of ‘exclusion’ of ‘the others’ from our coming alongside to be ‘with’ them when they suffer, and to help ‘bear their burdens’ in accordance with the Royal Law of Christ.. That whole ‘exclusion’ thing is troublesome to Christian witness as it reeks of ‘The Pharisee’ and not of the one who prayed ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’.

    I was moved that this was understood and so clearly expressed in a way that crosses many ‘denominational’ barriers and goes right into the Mind and Heart of Christ.

  2. “Do you understand what Christianity means if we practice this? What would a church look like if it was Jesus’ church? Would it be only for nice white families with no problems, two cars and two kids? No. Jesus’ church would include all kinds of people, with all kinds of problems, who would be drawn together by the acceptance they find in Jesus Christ. They would not be ashamed but welcomed and there would not be one hint of anyone saying, “We’re happy we don’t have that kind of person here.”

    Reading this brought to mind a long-forgotten sermon I heard many years ago at a large wealthy suburban church (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty). The preacher lamented the full sameness of the church’s life and wondered what would happen, and have to happen, for that to change. He left the question unanswered. I think this is that answer. I also suspect that this answer would be too unpalatable for most who attend that church.

    • Dull, not full.

    • thatotherjean says

      Bingo! Doing Christianity in imitation of Christ is a whole lot more difficult than going to the Sunday Morning Social Club every week. It may get to be dull, but it’s safe. You don’t have to mix with that big, messy world out there, and all the “different” people in it. It strikes me as a, if not the, besetting sin of the Evangelical bubble; but Evangelicals are not alone in it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In the words of the prophet Steve Taylor:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9lyT8UUw_I

      • thatotherjean says

        I hadn’t heard that before, but it’s all too apt.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Matches what I observed during my time in-county among the “splinter churches”:
          Cro-Magnon anarchy on the macro level (between all the One True Churches);
          Total Conformity on the micro level (within each One True Church).

  3. This is perhaps my biggest problem with church. I’m elitist even though I have few credentials for that. I’m a house painter for goodness sakes. I ain’t no author or professor. Still, people make me crazy. The closer I get to strong involvement in church the more judgmental and annoyed I become. There are people who are prominent at church in their religiosity but biting and mean when you see them at hone. I don’t know. People are just hard to love. If the church really is made to be filled with the dysfunctional of the world we must admit the true difficulties of participation in that. Sometimes it’s really tough. Sometimes demands are made of your time that throw your life out of balance but the thing you’ve done to be of service ends up needing to be done over and over again anyway. Meantime, your home life has gone into some disarray. I guess what I’m saying is that it sounds good on paper that we take the weak of the world and the despised under our wing (of course that weakness would essentially describe all of us but that’s a different point) but the reality of that is often very trying and even life altering the further you immerse yourself in it. It’s like it has to be a full time job. Again, I’m not sure precisely what I’m saying. I have been thoroughly burnt out in the past by the work of church and I’m very careful about it now.

    • Christiane says

      ” People are just hard to love. ”

      sometimes they are 🙂

    • It’s probably easier to love people who aren’t in the church, as they have no pretensions to being righteous.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But they have Cooties.
        (See my comment below.)

      • thatotherjean says

        “Righteousness” so often brings obnoxiousness along with it. “Holier than thou” is hard to take, even in small doses. People outside the church may have major problems, but rarely that one.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        But in general, and I’ll likely to catch hell for this, they may not be sanctimonious, but they **are** boring.

        At least in the US, we have been so manipulated that all you need to know about most people is which brand markers they subscribe to, which ‘tribe’ they see themselves as being a part of, and 90% of what can be known about them is known. Ordinarily, they can prattle for hours about the accomplishments of their sports teams, their fashion icons, musicians, etc. but for discussing ultimate concerns, they usually aren’t very capable of this.

        I don;t blame them. In the lower-middle- and middle-class milieus with which I am most familiar, a sigh followed by “what do you think life is all about?” is a serious mistake. It leaves you open to an ‘evangelistic’ barrage of Jesus-jabber that most people want to avoid. Sensibly, they have the sensors set up about three or four layers deep to give them ample time to escape from such dangerous territory.

    • Chris, you (and I) have discovered in experience what Paul has been showing us all along in his epistles. That people don’t have too many problems when it comes to professing faith and hope, but they tend to fall flat on their faces when it comes to showing and sharing love. That is where the crisis has always been in the church, from its earliest days. The problem is people, you and me included.

      • I haven’t been to church for a couple of years now except for Christmas mass. I’m not actively a part of any problems but not part of any solutions either. Not sure when I’m going back. It’s been a real relief to tell the truth but always seems wrong somehow. Not that I lose sleep over it. C’est la vie! I do not mean to be dismissive. It’s more exhausted.

  4. Robert F, you out there?

    Dana

    • Yes, Dana, I’m out here. I still read iMonk every day, but find myself with less and less to say. My wife and I, however, are doing okay so far in respect to all the turmoil roiling our country and world. Hope you and your husband and family are well.

  5. Michael Bell says

    Last night I split what I had compiled into two parts. Given what you read here, is there a better title that I could have used in the part presented here rather than “The Healer”? “The Healer” might fit better for the next post.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In Jesus’ time they would write off these marginalised people, saying “It proves I am a godly person if I have nothing to do with that person.” “It proves I am a godly person if I avoid the leper.”

    What do you mean “In Jesus’ time”?

    That attitude is alive and well today. Especially with today’s Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation, where proximity to Those Heathens/Heretics/Apostates/Backsliders (and their cooties) can jeopardize YOUR Salvation (and/or seat on the Rapture evac flight).

    “BEWARE THOU OF THE MUTANT.”

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