Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Immediately (part 2 of 4)

As we move to the second chapter, Jesus addresses a paralyzed man, and declares to him that his sins are forgiven.  Some scribes, upon hearing that, thought to themselves, “He is blaspheming!” (2:7b)  The author informs us that Jesus perceived what was being thought about Him, “And immediately…said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts?’” (2:8)  Having said that to the doubters, Jesus turned to the already forgiven man and said, “rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (2:11b).  What was the response?  “And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out” (2:12a).  It seems that the one to be called “Lord” had instilled in him a sense of urgency as well. 

As we continue to trek through Mark, we find Jesus healing a man, in the synagogue, on the Sabbath.  With Jesus having done this, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him” (3:6).  As was already said, the forces that were arraying themselves against Jesus had a clear sense of urgency as well.  Jesus would go on to deliver the parable of the sower, speaking about the seed that would be scattered as the “sower went out to sow” (4:3).  Some of that seed, Jesus said, “fell on rocky ground, and immediately it sprang up” (4:5), but because “it had no root, it withered away” (4:6b).  That is an immediacy to be avoided, which we find out as Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. 

In the explanation, Jesus likens the seed to the preaching of the word of the Gospel.  When some hear the word, “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them” (4:15).  For others, “they immediately receive it with joy” (4:16b), but because the word has no substance, because it is shallow, ambiguous, vague, filled with platitudes, lacking in a variety of necessary contexts, or offered with no sense of narrative flow so that it has no roots to penetrate deep, “immediately they fall away” (4:17) when persecution and trials arise.  The immediateness of the message of the Gospel cuts both ways.  However, when that seed takes root, it “sprouts and grows” (4:27).  This seed produces the fruit that Jesus desires, which first and foremost is the preaching of Him as Lord and its correspondent bent of action towards the establishment of God’s kingdom along the lines preferred by the Jesus of the Gospels, and “at once He puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (4:29b).  The proclamation in word and deed of the unadorned Gospel message is what brings forth a harvest.     

Then we find Jesus arriving in the country of the Gerasenes.  “Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit” (5:2b).  This unclean spirit called himself “Legion” (5:9), indicating that it was a large number.  Jesus responded by casting the “legion” of demons into a herd of pigs, which subsequently ran into the sea and were drowned.  This is full of a great deal of imagery, as the symbol of the Roman legion that was responsible for that territory was the pig.  Having been freed from his captivity, the man begged Jesus to let him become one of His followers.  Jesus said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (5:19b).  The man responded by preaching the Gospel, essentially proclaiming Jesus as Lord (in contradistinction to the Roman legionnaires that represented Caesar who was at that time recognized and hailed as the lord of all), as “he began to proclaim…how much Jesus had done for him” (5:20b).  A harvest was reaped, as “everyone marveled” (5:20b).   

We then come upon the familiar story of the woman with the issue of blood.  We find that as she touched Jesus garments, “immediately the flow of blood dried up” (5:29a), as she was healed of her disease.  Having felt a surge of His healing power, Jesus “immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’” (5:30b)  This had occurred while Jesus was on his way to the house of a man named Jairus, whose daughter was “at the point of death” (5:23b).  When He finally reached the young girl, Jesus touched her and spoke to her, “And immediately the girl got up and began walking” (5:42a).  All who witnessed this “were immediately overcome with amazement” (5:42b). 

In the twenty-fifth verse of chapter six, Herodias’ daughter, having pleased King Herod with a dance, “came in immediately with haste to the king” and asked to be given the head of John the Baptist.  Though the king was vexed by this request, “immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head” (6:27a).  With this, it seems possible that Mark points us to the fact that the immediate nature of Satan’s kingdom of darkness stands in stark contrast to the kingdom of our God.  That which we are charged to do and to preach is a serious charge because it is serious business.  The Gospel must be preached, quickly and boldly, because lives are always and immediately at stake.    

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