One of the things that I want to do as I work through the Gospel of Mark is to look at Jesus with as fresh eyes as I can muster—which is more difficult than you might imagine, Dear Reader, because I have read Mark a lot! The value of this is that it allows me to see Jesus as his first century audience would have seen him. I am convinced that Jesus would have seemed just as radical had he walked the earth in our day as he must have appeared to those who interacted with him in his day.
- Jesus had no category for “outcast.” – We all, every one of us, have a category for outcast. Those people who rub us the wrong way, whom we do not like, whom we cannot stand, whom sometimes we even hate. If you’re a Democrat, this might be all Republicans and vice-versa. If you are a conservative evangelical this might be liberal protestants. If you’re the 99%, it might be the 1% and if you’re part of the 1% it might be the 99%. If you pride yourself on being tolerant of [almost] anyone and everyone, this is the intolerant. If you can see only the color of one’s skin, then this includes everyone who doesn’t have your particular skin color. If you are intelligent, this might be those of average or below average intellect. If you’re a redneck, an outcast is an east coast liberal. We could go on, but you get the point. We are all guilty of this.
Jesus had no category for outcast. He interacted with the poor and marginalized of society (see John 4, I love that story). His disciples included businessmen, the politically suspect, the proud, the impetuous, one with a shady reputation as a tax-collector, and even one whom Jesus knew would betray him. He drew Nicodemus—a member of as socially high a class as could be found in Palestine at the time, one of the Sanhedrin—to faith by telling him that he must be born again. A wealthy man turned away because of Jesus’ command to sell all and come and follow him. Jesus knew no outcasts, he had no prejudice, he hated no one, he loved and ministered to all. This is out-of-this-world inconceivable.
- Jesus acts as if illness and disease ought to obey him. See here.
- Jesus has zero interest in fame and publicity. After performing a truly amazing miracle, Jesus sternly charges [a very strong word in the Greek] the ex-leper to tell no one, but go and obey what the Mosaic Law instructed when a leper was healed. The man can’t help himself [and who can blame him?]. He gabs about freely to anyone who will listen, no doubt demonstrating by showing off his clean and pure new skin. Jesus? He heads out to “desolate places,” but it doesn’t do much good. People come from everywhere to see him.
Jesus was not seeking glory and fame as a result of his incredible miracles, he had something more important to do. He had to preach the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God to all who would listen.