power to choose
Feb 21 2018


I love the Gospel of Mark. It is one of the books of the Bible I have studied most in depth. It reads like an action movie script. Jesus bursts on the scene destroying the works of the devil and setting captives free! He preaches good news at hand, casts out demons, heals the sick, feeds the multitudes and raises the dead.


People keep wondering, “Who is this?” and “What kind of authority is this?”, but Mark has told us from the  beginning.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1) God confirms it out of heaven at his baptism and in his transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son!” (1:11 and 9:7).  Even the soldier in charge of his execution gets it when he sees how he dies, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (15:39)


Interestingly, the people who really don’t get it are his disciples, his family and the people he grew up with. Of course the Pharisees and religious leaders don’t get it.  Neither do the politicians. But don’t we kind of expect that? It’s seeing his closest friends still clueless about his servant leadership and missing the point about his laying down his life that strikes me as strange. Then his mom and brothers thinking he is psycho and trying to stage an intervention is kind of funny. When all his boys abandon him (though the women stick around), it is just sad. He can’t even do miracles in his hometown because the people don’t believe.


That’s the strangest thing about how this gospel portrays Jesus. He has power over everything but people.  He has power to heal bodies, move mountains, curse trees, change weather, create food, silence demons, cast out unclean spirits, forgive sins and more.  The only thing he can’t control is people. What they think of him, how they respond to him, and what they do to him is completely out of his control. He can “loosen the tongue” of a deaf and mute man to make him able to talk, but once he does he can’t get him to shut up!


Demons and trees; bread and bodies all obey him. Only people don’t. The irony of this comes through with the original ending of the book in Mark 16:8. The angel at the tomb announces the good news that he is risen and commissions the women to go tell Peter and the gang the good news. “But the women run away and say nothing because they are afraid.” That ending was so uncomfortable that someone added to it. But it is surely the original that makes the point the book has made all along. Jesus has the power to do anything except make you believe and act on it.


That part is up to you. It has always been up to you. Everything is voluntary. I can announce the good news to you but you must believe it. We can call you to repent, but you must choose it. Jesus can offer you the bread of life, but you must receive it. That is the power in your hands.

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