I’m reading through Mark 3 this week with a friend. Each day we are to attempt to read this passage, and today, while reading, I found myself in there.
I need here to note that usually when reading the Bible—or any other book, for that matter—I tend to somehow end up identifying most with a heroic character. I am Jesus or Gandalf or Dumbledore (I still claim he is the true hero of the Harry Potter books); I am the knight in shining armor; I’m the prince, the king . . . I get the girl, slay the dragon, heal the lepers.
As heroic as I think myself though, I still fight with my wife. Yep, I’ll throw little fits around the house if I don’t get my way or have times of woes-me self-pity.
And I like gossip. Just today I found out about a situation back home, and I had to call at my first free moment to “get the scoop.”
I lie. Sure, not on anything that serious and not overtly. Just little white lies that make me look better or sound more important or funnier or whatever angle I’m trying to play.
Honestly, I could go on and on with all the negative little peccadilloes that infiltrate my everyday life. I’m selfish, and cowardly go about indolently ignoring all that is wrong in and with me, preferring to rationalize myself into some wondrous hero.
That is why today stuck out. It was different. While reading Mark 3 I wasn’t Jesus (gasp!). That’s right. He is the obvious hero in the scenario, yet I didn’t see myself in him. I wasn’t thinking WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), but rather IRNTW (I’m Really Not That Way).
In the scene, Jesus is healing a man with a withered hand. And that is the thing—I wasn’t that man either! I mean, if you aren’t going to be the rescuer in the scene, the next best thing is to be the rescued. No one ever hates the victim. We root for the victim to be saved; we long for the victim’s peace and retribution. But nope I wasn’t him either.
And I wasn’t even Mark, the writer. Sometimes I can go there. Okay, I’m not the hero . . . I may not even be the victim . . . so I’ll settle with being a savvy witness with a pen or Twitter account. Don’t we all love this in a way? We say things like, “I saw the whole thing,” and then proceed to wax poetic about the car accident on I-70 or the funnel clouds or the discount pretzels at the mall. Yeah, being that person isn’t so bad.
But I wasn’t that person. I wasn’t the writer, I wasn’t the victim, I wasn’t the hero.
In the scene, the Pharisees are watching Jesus like a hawk (cause we all know how watchful hawks are, right? I mean we’ve clichéd it, so they must be pretty dang watchful). They are hoping he will see the victim (the man with the withered hand), take pity on the man, and heal the man on the Sabbath—when no work was to be done. So they cower and cackle and look on, ever hopeful.
They aren’t hopeful to see Jesus do a great work. They aren’t hopeful to see a man regain the use of his hand—and likely his livelihood and a place in society with it. They aren’t hopeful that the crowd would learn and grow and trust in this.
No, they are hopeful for destruction! For a reason NOT to love, NOT to condone, NOT to approve . . . and hence, hopeful for a chance to condemn. The scene closes with this, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him (Jesus), how to destroy him.”
That is what they were excited about! Destruction! “Oooooo, no we’ve got him!” they said before cackling an evil laugh. What a bunch of punks! What a brood of cowards!
Yet that is where I saw myself this morning.
Ever meet someone who seems really great and your first thought is “Well, I hardly know them. Just wait. They’ll let me down.” Ever have a conversation with someone with, like, 88 good things in a row going for it, but that one thing you don’t like turns you totally against them. You find out they don’t line up exactly with your little worldview, and totally write them off (and sort of hope they get destroyed a little . . . then they’ll see).
I totally do this! I do.
All Jesus saw in this situation was the good he could do. “Hey, look, a man I can help,” and BAM he helped him. There wasn’t a background check. There wasn’t a conversation that was actually an interview. He saw the best possible outcome (“on earth as it is in Heaven” sort of thing) and strove for that. He didn’t fret about policy or outlook or perceptions. He saw a need; he met the need. He loved.
I’d say the Pharisees did the exact opposite. They put up barriers for good. They made love hard. They were the opposite of Jesus here, and the opposite of Jesus—the opposite of love—is hate. They saw a man with a withered hand and they hated him. And when we hate those in need, we hate Jesus; and, like them, we seek to destroy Jesus—what he did, what he stood for, who he is.
It is like reading Harry Potter and instead of being Dumbledore in my mind, being a Dementor—seeing myself as a weird creature who sucks out the soul and hope and joy from life. How gross is that? I don’t want to be that in relationships. So quick takeaways for me this morning were these:
- Look for ways to make earth more like Heaven.
- See the good and do it.
- No matter who is (or isn’t) watching.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Choose love.
- Be okay with being predictably good (as Jesus was to the Pharisees).
- Believe the gospel, and live out of that belief.
I’m going to read Mark 3 tomorrow, and I’ll still be like the Pharisees. But hopefully tomorrow, and each day after, I’ll be more and more like the hero, living out of my standing of being a victim who has been healed.