A Corinthian Response

Scriptures Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:27-39, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

Paul has been a thorn in my flesh for most of my Biblical academic life. His dialectical style of writing is brilliant, he stands in the gateway between Jewish and Hellenistic worlds, understanding and somehow ministering to both of them – or at least trying to – but also because every now and then in his letters he comes out with something that to me is completely theologically incorrect. Like today’s statement in First Corinthians: “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some of them.”

Paul, you are not the Christ, you are not the Savior; Jesus is the Christ and the Savior. I thank you for your ministry, your example, and all you did on behalf of Christ’s kingdom during the early years, but did you have to leave that legacy to us – challenging us to be all things to all people by your example and sucking us into the morass of trying to please everyone…or even more dangerously, helping us to deceive ourselves, thinking that we might actually save people? Ah, no. That is not our role. The role of Savior is for Jesus to take up, not for me. I mean, think about the kinds of things Jesus did! How on earth are we suppose to carry on that kind of tradition in an age grown strangely silent in the realm of miracles and healing like today’s story? I cannot even begin to imagine that any one of us could do what Jesus did, can we?

Today’s reading from Mark is just one example. Last week’s story continues in its fast-passed narrative: That very night after synagogue, following the amazing teaching of Jesus, after the exorcism of the unclean spirit, Jesus and the four fishermen leave the synagogue and go to Simon and Andrew’s house. I can only imagine they planned to stay the night there. When they arrive, their mother-in-law is sick in bed; Jesus takes her hand, lifts her up and the fever leaves her. Healed by Jesus, she waits on them.

I wonder what that must have been like for the others of the household; presumably there is a Mrs. Simon Peter, Andrew’s sister in law and the daughter of the one healed. I am making a guess they all live together in a multi-gernerational household as was the custom in those times. Being of the fisher folk community there in Capernaum, I imagine they must have been close to the docks, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, never far from the smell (or perhaps stench?) of fish. They already must have known James and John, the sons of Zebedee within their community and spent time together since all four of them went to Simon and Andrew’s house after synagogue.   What must it have been like when they brought the traveling Rabbi whom they had just met that day in to spend the night?

Reviewing the story, Jesus had just called out to the fishermen “Come follow me,” earlier that day. And they got up, left their nets and livelihood, and followed Jesus to the synagogue. Arriving home afterward, catching up on the news and happenings of the day, What must their womenfolk have thought? “You did what? You didn’t finish your chores today? You left your nets to follow the visiting Rabbi to synagogue? What are we going to eat tomorrow if you don’t sell fish in the market place?”

Or, what is something else entirely? Imagine: maybe the very moment Jesus walked in the door with the fishermen, the presence of the Holy One of Israel was felt… could that have been something similar to love at first sight? No questions asked, no worries left; all is swept aside at the miraculous presence felt but not understood, seen but hardly believed walking among them. This was the man who commanded unclean spirits to be silent and who taught as one with authority. Maybe some lingering countenance of light and healing is seen upon his face even still as the household gathers to welcome them in and hear the news. “Oh, you heal, too? Come to the inner room and see Simon’s mother-in-law, she’s been in bed with a fever, you see…”

And Jesus comes. The woman, laying in her place of sickness, perhaps senses in her spirit the approach of a scent from heaven when he appears in the doorway. She raises her hand almost as if in supplication, to see if he is real. And he comes as real as you or me: he reaches out and takes her by the hand and lifts her up effortlessly; as she rises she immediately feels in her body a healing, the fever lifting. Maybe not only that! Maybe even all her infirmities are simply lifted away, maybe she feels completely restored, almost as if youthful vigor has returned from an age long ago. Gladly she goes about serving them, maybe even singing a hymn of praise under her breath. Who is this that comes to our house and brings the very scent of heaven with him? Oh, let me serve him always!

Is that what it was like? From the very public gathering of the synagogue and it’s outstanding public teaching followed by a spectacular healing – to an inner room in a very common community of fisher folk by the sea, witnessing a very private miracle of healing as family and close friends crowd into the room. Of course, as happens in small communities about the size of this one, word flies out the door once she begins to serve, and at sundown that day all the townspeople bring their sick, ailing, and those with unclean spirits to the home of Simon and Andrew, and Jesus heals them all.

What does this say to us about this itinerant rabbi; the one Mark names in the first verse of his gospel? Mark writes, in his first verse, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Here, then, begins this good news: From the larger community of the synagogue to the inner rooms of the common people, Jesus has come for all. His message, his actions, his servant love is extended to everyone at every level of life, on every path of life. And he meets them where they are and lifts them up to be more then they thought they could be.

And Paul writes, “I have become all things for all people, that I might by all means save some.” Let us pray:

O Lord, give us strength and courage to become what you would have us become, and be what you would have us be; for in you, we are more than what we could ever be on our own. Amen? May it be so.


About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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