A sermon on Mark 1.21-45
This passage in Mark is kind of confusing.
The stories themselves are pretty straightforward.
Somebody needs healing.
Jesus heals them.
But there seems to be this overarching theme of Jesus healing people, which is great,
and then Jesus swearing them to secrecy, which is strange.
Telling them not to spread the good news that he healed them.
Silencing demons so as not to let them spill the beans of his identity as Christ.
The secrecy piece is especially strange when you remember that the first line of last week's reading, and the first line of the entire gospel is:
"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
There it is.
Jesus Christ, Son of God.
We already know.
What's the point of all the secrecy then?
We've all been reading the Gospels backwards.
By no fault of our own.
They were written down that way,
because that's how you write a story.
But that's not how you tell a story.
This is one of those times, where yet again, we have to remind ourselves that these stories were spread by word of mouth.
Those who knew the story of Jesus first didn't pick it up at a Barnes & Noble.
No, those who knew the story of Jesus first, heard about it.
The same way we discuss current events,
or the way we hear about people on the news.
When the story of Jesus was told the first time, the storyteller wouldn't have started with the birth story,
because that wouldn't have made sense.
No, at that moment, the current event was the news of the resurrection.
It would have probably gone something like this:
Have you heard the good news? Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!
Jesus Christ, of Nazareth.
How did he die?
He was crucified.
Whoa. What did he do?
Well, he preached with authority, and said a lot of things that made people in the temple angry so they told the officials that he thought he was a king.
Where's this guy from?
Well, he was born in Bethlehem, because he was born during the census that year. But his parents were from Nazareth.
Who are his parents?
His father is Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, part of the line of David. His mother's name is Mary. You should hear the story about his birth, it's actually really interesting. You see, in the days of King Herod of Judea...
So when authors like Matthew and Luke went to write down the story, they chose to start from the beginning because that's how you write a story.
But not Mark.
And that's why it's important to know that we read the gospel backwards.
Because Mark assumes his audience already knows the ending.
He's not concerned the the birth story, and frankly, he misses some of the events of the crucifixion as well.
If Mark had to chose a cause, it's was telling the story Jesus' ministry.
It wad all of the stuff in the middle.
It's like when we hear the story of the Titanic.
We don't spend the entire story wondering what will happen to the boat.
We already know what happens to the boat.
What we don't necessarily have it the entire story leading up to that moment.
And that is Mark's focus.
He doesn't concern himself with telling the birth story.
For Mark, it's all about stepping right into the ministry of Jesus,
that's where the good news begins.
In Mark's own way, he's telling us that this is what he thinks the gospel is.
The gospel is healing people.
And the gospel is connecting communities back together.
And the good news is that Christ has the authority to do these things.
For many of us, the idea of demon possession and unclean spirits just isn't a modern concern. Because we better understand things like mental health and disease, no one is being diagnosed at Sanford with "Unclean Spirits." It's old, outdated language.
But, it's not irrelevant.
We all have ways we believe we are unclean, we just don't use that wording.
We use words like guilty, and jaded, and angry...
Perhaps it's something that you did or said to someone else, which you feel guilty about.
Perhaps it's something that was done or said to you, that has always stuck with you.
Whatever it is, it's the reason you feel like you have to act as though you have it all together.
It's the thing that causes you to step away from community come days.
It's the thing you're compensating for when you tell yourself to put on a smile,
or when you make the conscious decision to have a good day, when otherwise, you wouldn't.
What is that things, that lives there, rent free in your head and in your heart?
Don't you know?
Haven't you heard the good news?
Christ has the authority to cast those things out!
There's forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ.
There's a future you that includes real smiles and genuinely good days,
in Christ, through love and prayer and conversation and forgiveness.
Because Christ has the authority to restore community,
the authority to heal the broken,
whatever that looks like.