Lenten Reflections: Foiled! | Mark 1:29-45

This probably won’t happen every morning, but something I am trying as a Lenten discipline is to take a little time each morning and write a brief reflection on the gospel text from the daily lectionary cycle. Today’s reflection is based on the reading from Mark 1:29-45.

This Sunday I’m preaching on a passage from John’s gospel. As I’ve been reading over the passage, I keep being struck by how otherworldly Jesus seems in John’s portrayal.

And then I read Mark.

There is a lot of debate among New Testament scholars about what exactly is going on with Jesus in Mark. All throughout this particular gospel account, Jesus is quick to tell everyone he encounters not to say anything about who he is to anyone. Its as if Jesus is absolutely determined to keep his identity a secret.

Scholars refer to this as the secret messiah motif.

There are lots of theories and explanations among scholars for this motif in Mark. But in this story at least, it strikes me as being very pragmatic: Jesus wants the freedom of mobility that comes with flying just below the radar. If he gets too popular, the crowds will restrict his movements. He wants to stay in indie land just a little bit longer before moving up to stadium concert headliner.

Something of Jesus’ personality comes out in these stories. After a few days in one place, he disappears in the middle of the night. And when his disciples find him praying by himself, instead of addressing their concerns about his disappearance, he says “It’s time to move on.” He can’t be tied down, he’s got too much to do and too many places to go.

And he has this whole plan worked out for an itinerate trip through all the towns and villages proclaiming his message and healing and casting out demons.

And then along comes this leper.

And Jesus has pity on him.

And then the leper foils the whole plan.

You can almost sense the disappointment coming through in the ending of the writers’ account: “Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country.”

Sometimes it’s good to remember that Jesus was human.

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