Mark 1: 21-39
When we imagine Jesus’s 24 hours from today’s passage, Jesus worshipped, taught, exorcised, and healed. More healing. More exorcisms. And prayer. For one thing, his life was a flurry of activity. That’s a lot of action to cram into 18 verses of life! Thus, two of Mark’s favorite words are “and” and “immediately (40 times).” Yes, Mark portrays Jesus as a person of action.
How did Jesus manage to keep his pace calm, still, and strong? I think the answer is found in what might be called “the bookends” of Jesus’s day. Mark begins his 24-hour window into Jesus’ life by showing us Jesus going into the synagogue to worship and teach. One bookend. He brings his day in the life of Jesus to a close by showing us Jesus going out to a lonely place to pray. The other bookend.
Bookends are remarkable devices. Without them, we can try to stand all of our daily responsibilities side-by-side, but sooner or later they’ll all come tumbling down around us. However, with two sturdy bookends, namely, time spent in worship and Scripture, and time spent in prayer, it’s amazing how many volumes of responsibility you can place back-to-back-to-back
and still remain sane and steady.
As Mark reports this, no matter how busy Jesus was, he was always open to interruptions. He went into the synagogue to worship and while he was teaching, a man with “an unclean spirit” interrupted him. This reminded me of when the late Henri Nouwen said, “My whole life I’ve been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
Mark’s Jesus is a lion, a Savior with his sleeves rolled up, and a lifeguard who jumps into the water fearlessly. Yes, Jesus is a man on a mission--and that mission is a mortal struggle with the forces of evil. To follow Mark’s Jesus is to do battle with demons.
In the Middle Ages, the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger, and lust were depicted as frightful-looking demons with evil eyes. How about today? Are those “unclean spirits” be transformed appearing in the concept of all kinds of –ism, especially individualism or capitalism—"Me-first; I can do and buy things whatever I want to do; even God does not stop me.”
The Good News of Mark’s Gospel is that God has sent the Lion of Judah in the struggle against every “unclean spirit” that would deface, demean, divide, or destroy human beings and the human family. The Lion we know as our Lord and the Son of living God is looking over his shoulder with a look in his eye that says, “Are you coming?”
For this week, I invite everyone to check your bookends of daily life, pausing our rat-race-like-life or spinning heads with lots of “ands” and “immediatelies.” Rather, let us keep listening for a roar of the Lion of Judah more carefully. Let us keep having a time setting apart for prayer, thanksgiving, fellowship, or even checking-in and reaching out to those who are suffering from their ongoing struggles. This is the Good News according to the Gospel of Mark. Let all who would live and learn from the lion say, “Amen.”