After Jesus was tempted and resisted the devil’s attempts to sabotage his life he headed off towards the cross. It took him just over three years of walking around Isreal and the surrounding areas to get there, but, then again, God has always done things in a roundabout way. Along the way we gets hints and suggestions of what his life might be all about. We get to realise that this is no ordinary man, that he has a purpose in being here, that all his teaching is leading somewhere and that the ushering of a new way of being might be just around the corner.
First up though people just get amazed. The first few chapters of Mark’s gospel have it all. Jesus kicks off with a call to repent for the Kingdom of God is near, backs it up with healings and heads off to preach, he annoys the extremely religious, he touches the broken, forgives sins, silences storms, hangs out with the unclean, sends demons screaming over cliff tops and raises the dead. Not your average everyday religious teacher then… We’ll get to stunning nature of what Jesus really came to do soon but for now it is good to stop and consider the crazy surprising whirlwind of life on the road with the Son of God.
I miss the surprise sometimes, I read sentences about Jesus talking to Lepers or letting bleeding women touch him and take it for granted. From our late position it seems obvious that Jesus would be all about hanging out with people like that. We miss the impact, the extreme horror of his actions in the eyes of Jewish society back then. It just wasn’t done to talk to people like that, lepers were separated from the rest of society and knew no touch, no comfort for their pain, no familiar voice of love when they came home, they had no home, they were about as despised and rejected as you could get. The Son of God walking on earth knew that, he wasn’t being naïve when he touched the leper, he was filled with compassion. He wasn’t angrily turning around when the bleeding woman touched him, ready to give an earful to the one who took his power. He wanted to know, to hear the whole truth and to treat her with dignity as she is called daughter for the first time in many years.
The thing that really hits me square between the forehead is the difference between Jesus and us. Here was a man who could heal, who could stop storms and raise the dead and yet he was not striving after more, his worth and value were not wrapped up in it, he ran from the crowds at times, he didn’t need the applause, he asked people not to tell everyone about him. He talked to the despised, he talked to women, he hung out with all kinds of people neither having snobbery or inverted snobbery, he welcomed anyone who came to him, from the higher classes or lower, from the outskirts or from the inner circles of power.
Look around at our world and see what happens to people today who have ‘healing ministries’ or who are our ‘preaching gods’ – they are exalted, their pictures are displayed around the internet for all to see, we hang off the words of our Christian celebrities and those who denounce those celebrities, we value the big, the successful, or we value the way we are so different from the rest of the crowds. We’re so self conscious that we’ve lost what it means to live a humble life, a life of self forgetfulness, a life that talks to anyone regardless of their status, be they the most powerful person in the world or the most despised, we’ve lost the value of a life of love and service. I want me to be adored, I want the power to promote me and my ideas, I feel the deep surges of pride, of jealously and envy and I fail to rejoice when others are praised. I fear being overlooked and I worry why more people don’t appreciate the profoundness of my ideas.
How Jesus managed to resist the temptation of pride I do not know. I think it’s got something to do with the voice of his Father declaring his love over him. I think it’s got something to do with knowing that his identity was secure, enabling him to encounter each person as he met as simply that- a person regardless of background, status or privilege. I long for that freedom. I long to believe the voice of my father declaring his love over me, I know that Jesus has made that possible and I long to enjoy that, embrace that and live a full life that doesn’t over analyse my perceived impact on the world around me so much.
What kind of life did Jesus’ lack of pride enable him to live?
Whose voice do we listen to the most? Why?