Mega Faith

Day 15

I gave this day the title “Mega Faith” when I originally but this together because my attention was drawn to the Syro-Phoenician woman of whom Jesus said (in Matthew) her faith was “mega.” But as I was with Jesus in Mark 6 and 7 today it was other things that caught my attention. If I were to give this passage a title today I would call it…

Miracles, Tragedy, Conflict and Pressure

Mark 6 and 7 are full of miracles. The Feeding of the Five Thousand. Jesus walking on water. Multitudes healed in Gennesaret just by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. A demon cast out the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. A deaf mute healed in the region of Decapolis.

When we imagine what it would have been like to have been with Jesus during His three years of ministry, we tend to think, “My, it would have been a lot of fun to see Jesus do all those miracles.” No doubt there was tremendous excitement generated by Jesus’ miracle ministry, but we should not ignore the reality that there was always the pressure of conflict and the constant specter of danger. Being with Jesus during His ministry years was not some sort of idyllic utopia where every day is better than the day before. There was always a certain pressure present and some days there was even tragedy. How else could the death of John the Baptist been viewed but as a tragedy?

Remember, Peter is the primary source for Mark’s Gospel. Peter’s brother Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist before becoming a disciple of Jesus. (see John 1:35-40) The amount of space that Mark gives to recording the murder of John the Baptist is evidence that this made a big impression on Peter and the rest of the disciples. Jesus even seeks to take the Twelve on a recuperative retreat after hearing the news of John’s death.

Think about how the disciples viewed John’s murder. They did not see it from the vantage point of history that we have, they were caught up in the events in real time. John the Baptist had been arrested for condemning Herod’s illicit marriage to his brother’s wife. While drunk at a debauched birthday party, Herod was manipulated into having John unceremoniously beheaded in prison. The great preacher and prophet John the Baptist was dead before the age of thirty-one.

From our vantage point we have a better perspective to judge the life of John the Baptist and we think only of him fulfilling his ministry and being the great forerunner of Christ — but to the disciples of Jesus, some of whom had been disciples of John the Baptist, it must have come as a bitter blow. I can’t help but wonder if Judas possibly picked up an offense over this issue. At times of tragedy people often take up offenses in an effort to affix blame on someone. Did Judas think, “Why didn’t Jesus do something before John got his head cut off in prison?”? I wonder.

Jesus tried to take the Twelve away for a time of rest and recuperation, but it was not to be. The multitudes discovered where Jesus and His disciples were going and they followed them there. So Jesus taught them, healed them and fed them.

When Jesus came back into Galilee, the Pharisees were there to find fault. This is what Pharisees do best: Find fault. Refuse to be a fault finding Pharisee! The world doesn’t need anymore fault finding Pharisees. The contentiousness of the Pharisees inspired Jesus to preach a rebuttal sermon on the Word of God versus the tradition of men. It is so easy to allow religious tradition to rule our lives and turn us into fault finding Pharisees. So Jesus confronted the malady of legalism and religiosity head on with a very straight sermon.

It seems there was always an atmosphere of conflict surrounding Jesus. Such things are wearisome. When the disciples questioned Jesus in private about the teaching he had given that day, you can sense Jesus’ frustration when He says to His disciples…

“Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you see that what you swallow can’t contaminate you? It doesn’t enter your heart but your stomach, works its way through your intestines and is finally flushed.” (The Message)

Mark then adds this commentary: “Thus He declared all foods clean.”

Dietary laws have no place in Christianity. Health issues are one thing, but there are no dietary laws under the New Covenant. Can somebody say, “Pass the pork chops, please.”?

When Jesus returned to Galilee He was asked to heal a deaf-mute. Notice carefully what Mark records…

“Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, ‘Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began to speak plainly.”

Did you notice the sigh? Jesus sighed deeply. Try it yourself…sigh deeply. *sigh* What mood does that evoke? Is there not a kind of weariness in it?

What am I saying? That the ministry of Jesus was not always a picnic. His miracle ministry occurred amidst conflict and tragedy and the constant pressure of multitudes demanding His attention. Remember we are in a real battle. And if at times you feel the pressure, remember Jesus felt it too. It’s part of being human and being a Christian doesn’t automatically exempt us from it. But we have the promise that we can cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us.

Thank you, Jesus.