Today’s reading was Mark 3:7-17:
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”),18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
A few observations. I find it interesting to see the contrasting reactions to Jesus in this first part of the story. The sick, the diseased, the demon-possessed, flock to him, knowing that in Jesus they will find healing and help. The evil spirits fall down and can’t help themselves declaring who he truly is. And yet, they are under his command, and when he tells them to be silent, they obey. I can’t help but think that their falling down is either involuntary, or out of fear. They, who embody evil, are confronted with the purest essence of holiness, and it elicits a response.
I contrast this with the common reaction of people today towards Jesus, which is much less drastic in most cases. They are either uninterested, or mildly complimentary about Jesus as a teacher of ethical truths, but it’s generally a somewhat passive response. Would the increased holiness of Christians make a difference? Would those in need flock to us, knowing that we will provide healing and help? Would demons cry out in fear of our holiness and our position in Christ? I wonder if the Christianity many have rejected is not the real faith at all, but a watered-down, domesticated, diluted version of it, that is neither hot nor cold, and therefore only worth spitting out. I used to have a quote on my bedroom wall when I first became a Christian, which went something like this:
The world has not yet seen what God can do with a man fully devoted to Him.
There’s our challenge.
So there are those who are drawn to Jesus, those who are appalled at Jesus, and those Jesus calls. We are glad to be numbered among the called. And yet, did you notice who he also called? Judas the Betrayer. Jesus certainly knew that he would betray him, yet he still calls him into the inner circle and gives him every chance. We might think Jesus a fool for this, since he, above all others, knows human nature generally, and Judas’ specifically.
But I think on reflection, I’m glad that Jesus calls those who sometimes betray him, because I’m certainly in that category. I hope my betrayals are more accidental than intentional, but grace even has room for the inconsistent, the struggling, the “getting it right some of the time” rest of us, as we strive for holiness.