Devotions on Mark 1:21-45
December 28, 2015 – January 3, 2016
Monday, December 28, 2015
“They were astounded at his teaching.” (Mark 1:22a)
Rob Bell in his video “Lump” http://nooma.com/films/010-lump tells the story of what happened when his oldest son lied to his wife and him. When he was busted the boy ran up to his parents’ bedroom and hid under the covers. The boy waited under the covers for his dad to come home. He fully expected to be severely punished When Rob did arrive home, he found his son and said, “There is nothing that you can do that will cause me to love you any less.” The assurance of his father’s love was the good news that Rob’s son needed to hear. Though the son still would experience the consequences of his lying, he would do so knowing that he was loved.
We can only imagine how astounded the people were as they listened to Jesus. They were accustomed to hearing their religious authorities tell them that they were sinners and needed to be more disciplined in keeping all the laws so that they could please God. Jesus came and invited the people to believe and live in the reality of God’s kingdom. Instead of a God of judgment who would punish them for their sins the people heared the good news of a God who loved them. Jesus told them about a God who loves them so much that nothing they did would ever make God love them less.
Every day we frequently hear that we need to do more. We need to spend more time with our spouse and kids. We need to work harder to make the goals for our place of work. We need to exercise more and eat more healthy foods. Translated all of these “more” messages tell us that we aren’t good enough and we are failing. In the middle of all this negative communication we hear the Spirit speak to us of the good news of Jesus Christ. God love us as we are and there is nothing that we can do to make God love us any less (or any more). This is a life giving, life renewing proclamation.
Loving God, thank you for your steadfast love and unconditional forgiveness. Empower us to demonstrate these characteristics in our relationship with others. Amen.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
“For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22b).
There are times when we question a person’s ability to give advice. Jody was a college junior, single with no siblings. Jody had absolutely no experience raising children, but that didn’t stop her from giving advice to aunts, uncles and older cousins as they worked with their children at family gatherings. Amal and Jayleen were a middle aged couple who had rarely been sick. When their friend Connie developed colorectal cancer they sought to help her by offering advice on what they would do if they ever had cancer. Fred a retiree who had never witnessed the horrors of war was quick to advise that the United States should send more young men and women overseas to win the war.
The scribes were religious lawyers who prided themselves on their knowledge of all things religious. In their religious and theological discussions they would rarely express their own ideas or thoughts. Instead, they would quote various authorities in order to make their point. The religion of the scribes was mostly academic—head knowledge—very little if anything came from their hearts—their personal experience.
Jesus was different. He intimately knew the Father. Jesus most clearly revealed who God was and how God moved in the lives of God’s people. Jesus didn’t need to quote authorities. He was the authority. Jesus speaks the truth and it is a truth based on his own experience. Jesus invites us to respond to the truth and to experience the truth in our own lives.
Revealed God, give us the hearts and minds to discern your truth, the faith to live in that truth and the love to share that truth with others. Amen.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
“There was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23).
The sky was darkening and a storm was brewing as Binh drove down the almost deserted highway. He was running late for an important meeting at one of the company’s branches in a small town. Binh was trying to make up a little time when he crested a hill. A car had pulled off to the side of the road. From its list to one side, it was obvious that it had a flat tire. An elderly woman held a car jack in her hand and looked confused. Binh knew what he had to do. Even though he would be late, he had to help the woman. Pulling up behind the car Binh offered to help the woman and his offer was quickly accepted.
Jesus was in the synagogue with his disciples, worshiping, keeping the Sabbath and probably teaching. On that day of rest, in that holy place Jesus was confronted by evil and human need. Jesus was not upset that the man was upsetting his day of rest. Nor did Jesus ask the man to meet him the next day so that Jesus could keep the Sabbath. Jesus acted decisively, without hesitation. He ordered the evil spirit to come out of the man.
Human need can be encountered any time and any place. It is no respecter of schedules or plans. In fact we are often confronted by human need at the most inconvenient times. If we waited for the right time and place and an open schedule, we would never offer assistance or use our gifts and talents to carry on Jesus’ ministry. As disciples of Jesus, we have the same priorities as Jesus did. His greatest priority was love. Love trumped crowded calendars, clothes that couldn’t get dirty or comfort zones that needed to be expanded. Acting in love, the good news of Jesus is shared in our words and deeds.
God of Steadfast Love, you have loved us even when it was inconvenient and uncomfortable. Prevent us from allowing our own needs to keep us from sharing your love and grace with others. Amen.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
“He can and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mark 1:31).
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is the first example of discipleship in Mark’s gospel. Jesus touches her life and she responds by serving others. It might have been tempting to sit back and watch Jesus heal all of those people and cast out the demons from those who were possessed, but she didn’t yield to that temptation. Like Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law saw the needs of people in front of her and she acted to meet those needs.
The year 2015 is drawing to a close. Through this year the Spirit has moved in our lives in a variety of ways. Our prayers have been answered. God has rejoiced and laughed with us at our celebrations. The Spirit has stood beside us during our struggles and has given us the will and the ability to withstand and overcome. The Lord has blessed us richly with family and friends and has blessed us with opportunities to use our talents and abilities in service. Because of the Spirit’s presence and movement in our lives we are not the same people who entered 2015 a year ago. We hope that we exhibit a few more characteristics of God and that our light shines brighter in the darkness of our world.
We enter a new year. We have been touched by God—forgiven, healed, saved and empowered. Stepping into 2016 we ask the question, “How are we to respond to what God has done in our lives?” There are people who bear burdens that we can help carry. Others are ill and need tender loving care. Some are overwhelmed by the forces of evil and need others to assist them in fighting it off. There are those whose needs we can meet—the hungry, thirsty, homeless, poor, marginalized and neglected. There is no better way to acknowledge the touch of God in our lives than to touch the lives of others.
Sovereign Lord, we are not only your disciples, we are also your apostles—people who have been sent out. Your Spirit has impacted our lives. Empower us now so that we can impact the lives of those around us. Amen.
Friday, January 1, 2016
“In the morning, while it was still dark he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
Important decisions needed to be made. Jesus’ ministry had started. He had called his disciples, healed the sick and cast out the unclean spirits. People were coming to hear Jesus, to see Jesus and to watch him accomplish miracles. Jesus didn’t know, however, if he should stay in his home base of Capernaum and have the people come to him. Perhaps he should go out, visit other towns and bring his message and his ministry to the people. Jesus sought guidance and the answer to his questions by getting up early in the morning, going to a deserted place and entering into a conversation with God.
Jesus’ actions show that he placed a high priority on being alone with God. We assume that Jesus really didn’t need this because we envision that Jesus had some direct line to God. Evidently that was not the situation. It is odd that when Jesus placed such value on being along with God many of us easily allow the demands of daily life to crowd out the time we spend in God’s presence. The Lord doesn’t judge us nor does God turn God’s back on us. Rather God patiently waits for us to enter into God’s presence and welcomes us with open arms when we do. God knows how time spent with God is vitally important as we carry on Jesus’ ministry today.
Welcoming Lord, work within us that time spent with you is as important to us as it was to your son, Jesus. Amen.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
“A leper came to him begging him and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean’” (Mark 1:40).
Leprosy is a repulsive disease. It deforms the body. The isolation and social stigma attack the emotions and darken the mind. There is the stench of rotting flesh with an odor of death. People who suffer from this disease live in dire poverty with all its ramifications. There was a reason for people in that age to drive out the lepers from the city and forbid any interaction with people. All of this did not keep Jesus from ministering to those afflicted with this disease. When he was approached by the leper Jesus did not shrink away. Instead he felt pity for the man, reached out, touched him and healed him.
We may not suffer from leprosy, but we do have periods in our lives when we are rather repulsive. Those are the times when we throw our hissy fits, pout because we don’t get our way, hurt others with our anger and diatribes, or reveal the hidden bigot in us. Usually our family and friends continue to love us—because they see beyond these words and actions even though they may not like them. God doesn’t shrink away from us either. God’s love continues, while the Holy Spirit moves in our lives to heal us and mold us into God’s image.
The broken world and the broken people to whom we are called to minister are sometimes repulsive. There are times when our first reaction is to run away—to get back to where we feel comfortable and safe. At other times our work is hard and we want to give up. The Spirit inside us won’t let us. We have been touched by God’s love and grace and now we have been called to share that same love and grace with everyone we encounter.
Divine Healer, show us where we are sick and heal us. Move through us during our daily lives, touch the lives of others and heal them. Amen.
Sunday, January 3, 2016
“’See that you say nothing to anyone but go show yourself to the priest’” (Mark 1:44).
Jesus’ instruction to the healed leper to tell no one what had happened is called “The Messianic Secret.” Through the centuries scholars have argued why Jesus spoke those words. Even though we may not understand the reason for Jesus’ admonition, many of us follow it and say nothing. We’re mum when it comes to telling others what Jesus has done in our lives—how God has forgiven us, made us new people, adopted us into God’s family and filled us with the Holy Spirit. When good things happen to us we call it “luck,” and when things come together and an opportunity presents itself we call it a “coincidence.”
A widely accepted reason for the messianic secret is that Jesus wanted people to see the real proof of who he was—the resurrection—and not be distracted by the little miracles. We have seen the resurrection. We celebrate the truth that Jesus has been raised from the dead on Easter and every Sunday. There is no longer any need to keep the secret. We can shout it from the mountain tops that Jesus lives. The leper showed himself to the priest so that they could declare him clean. We can show ourselves to the people around us so that they can see what God has accomplished in our lives and realize what God can do in their lives, too.
Almighty God, give us a loving boldness to share what you have done with those around us. Amen.