…When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” … (Read the whole passage here).
For the past 3 weeks, we have been setting the stage with Mark’s gospel. Setting the stage for what starts next week. Next week Jesus will go up the mountain of Transfiguration, with Peter, James and John. He will change before their eyes into dazzling white and God will instruct the disciples to listen to him. And then Jesus will go down into the valley of Lent, down into the wilderness of temptation, down the road to Jerusalem and his journey won’t end until he heads up that second mountain, the mountain of Golgotha, the mountain that ends in a cross.
But today we are still laying the ground work. Jesus has been preaching in synagogues, exorcizing demons and today we glimpse Jesus’ healing ministry. Jesus leaves the synagogue of Capernaum and goes to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew. There Simon’s month-in-law is sick and in a bed. Jesus takes pity on the poor woman and heals her… and in an almost comical moment, she gets up and starts serving her guests.
And then everything gets crazy. The whole town hears that Jesus the healer is there, and they all come clamouring for healing. Everyone with a cough or cold, with a limp or back pain, with short sightedness or epileptic seizures, they are all hoping to have their illnesses cured.
Jesus starts the work of helping the needy masses, and yet we get the sense that this is not what Jesus is interested in. He isn’t playing doctor happily, and by early morning, he sneaks away to get some quiet and space. Jesus must have been wondering where all these people were when he was preaching in the synagogue.
And this is the dilemma that Jesus faces all the way through Mark’s gospel, the problem that Jesus faces all the way to the cross. When Jesus is healing people and exorcizing demons, the crowds flock to see him. But when he preaches the Kingdom of God coming near, people get upset. The authorities feel threatened. When Jesus brings his message to the people, the people get uncomfortable and begin to turn on him. They like it when they are getting something from Jesus, but when Jesus proclaims and declares change and transformation on their end, they back away and get upset. It is all well and good to be healed of a chronic condition, but suggest that the way the world works might change and people get antsy.
As Jesus spends the night healing in frustration, we can see a problem that still exists among people of faith today. God is easy to for us to seek out when we need something. When we need help, healing, comfort, God seems like an easy ask. When are in trouble, or have problems for which there seems to be no easy solution, we turn to God with relative ease.
As people of faith, it is all too easy for the ways we experience God to become about us. God becomes something we expect to be doing something for us. When life throws us those curve balls we turn to God to heal our hurts and pains, to solve our broken relationships and strained families. But even in our day to day, week to week, Sunday to Sunday relationship with God we can start to expect God to be doing something for us. We like to experience God on our terms. As people in the pews our terms might include the right music, entertaining sermons, 60 minute services, comforting bible readings and prayers, cushy seats. As pastors we like to deliver God on our terms, with liturgies planned to our liking, in bible texts that make the points we like to make, in prayers and hymns chosen to fit our themes.
When we don’t stop to think about it, it is easy to fall into the pattern of expecting that God is all about satisfying us, that we come to God waiting to be filled up, entertained, healed, set right and made comfortable.
But that is not what Jesus has come to do. Even still, as he spends all night attending to the masses as they demand to be healed, Jesus can only take so much. Jesus declares,
Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.
That is what I came out to do.
Not to spend his time healing and exorcizing demons. But preaching the message.
Jesus has come to preach the message that Kingdom of God has come near, and that is not what the people are clamouring for. The people want their problems solved, they want comfort and healing, the want to be free from demons and evil spirits, they want things to go back to normal, things to be easy, things to be better. And what is the matter with Jesus? Why couldn’t he just stay a couple extra days, or a week and heal everyone? Is that to much to ask?
The issue that we discover today is this convergence of what the people want and what Jesus has come to do. The people want their symptoms treated, and Jesus wants to address the root of the problem.
It is far too easy for us to make God and faith and church about us. It is easy for us to come to God clamouring for healing and comfort, clamouring for God to approve of us and our ways of being in the world.
And that is not to say that Jesus is not the great healer, or that God doesn’t love us deeply just as we are. But God has bigger plans for us than comfortable pews and our favourite music. Jesus does so much more than make our fevers go away, or relieve us of our back pain.
Jesus has a message to preach. “The Kingdom of God has come near.”
And Jesus’ message cuts right to root of our issues. Jesus has come to deal with the source of our hurts and pains, of our griefs and sorrows. Jesus has come to address the reasons we put ourselves first, others second and God last.
Jesus has come to deal with sin and death. To deal with our sin, with our death. Jesus came come to meet sin and death by coming near. By coming near and joining with us in our sin, by taking on our death. And Jesus comes near to show us that sin and death are not the end. We are not here to be on palliative care, to only be comforted and relieved of our pain. Because that is what relieving us of our hurts and pains is. Because that is what comfortable faith is. Palliative care.
But Jesus has come to do the hard work of saving us. Saving us from ourselves, our self-centred, self-interested, deathly ways. And that is what Jesus has come to do.
That is what Jesus is doing.
Saving us from ourselves.