Earlier today I posted this on my Facebook wall: “Reading the Gospel of Mark: Jesus is surrounded by needy people, not people who are not needy. I’m glad I’m a needy
person.” I want to expand on that statement in this blog post.
It is interesting, I have spent years studying hermeneutics; and have even taught a biblical interpretation class to underclassman at my alma mater in years past. But when it comes right down to it, as I continue to read through the Bible, year in, year out, quite often the way I end up reading the Bible is through a lens of travail; through a lens of suffering and tribulation. This doesn’t mean that I have forgotten the christocentric lens of biblical interpretation, or chucked the literary tools I have learned to study Scripture; but what it does mean is that as I read Holy Scripture I encounter Jesus Christ in living breath on its pages (which is the christocentric lens). And in particular moments like I am facing now (I was just laid off of my job at the railroad a few days ago, and don’t know what to do at the moment), when I approach Scripture, I tend to read it with an eye towards being encouraged and comforted by who God in Jesus Christ is for me (pro me). And so this morning I decided to read through the Gospel of Mark (along with my ongoing Bible read through which I’ve been doing since 1995, 35x through), and given the circumstances we are facing as a family (with me unemployed once again) I noticed this time through that the sorts of people hanging around Jesus in the Gospel of Mark look a lot like me.
Take the first chapter for example. John the Baptist was as needy as they come. He lived out in the wilderness on a diet of honey and wild locust; a homeless peripatetic prophet with nowhere to lay his head. And yet his whole existence was consumed by pointing people to Jesus. He didn’t worry about his clothes, or his personal well being; he was concerned with pointing his finger to Jesus. He was seeking God’s kingdom first, and God in Christ was making sure that everything else was being added unto him (like food, clothing, etc. — all of his needs were being met).
The next characters we meet, still in chapter one are: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (vss. 16-20). From a material standpoint they became immediately needy (which would be indicative of their spiritual need as well); they walked away from their livelihood as fisherman to follow Jesus. They no longer had a steady or stable financial situation, and yet like John the Baptizer they were willing to seek Jesus first and be consumed by Him; they were willing to let Him worry about their physical needs (and spiritual). So more needy guys.
Still in chapter one in verses 21-28 we encounter, with Jesus, a guy who is demon-possessed, in the temple of all places; another needy guy. What does Jesus do for him? He casts the unclean spirit out, and brings healing to this spiritually destitute man. Jesus was there, not having any place to call home, to minister the power of God to this man, even as Jesus Himself had his own material and physical needs. In the following pericope in verses 29-31 we meet, with Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law; she had a fever, a physical ailment. Jesus touched her, healed her, and she served Him; as if nothing could stand in the way of Jesus being magnified. It was out of her need that Jesus healed her, met her need, which allowed her to serve Jesus.
And as something like a summary of what has already happened previously in verses 32-34 the whole city gathered at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house and Jesus healed the multitudes of various physical and spiritual ailments. Jesus was surrounded by the needy. Now wouldn’t you know it, here I am, with my beautiful family, not sure what we’re going to do with my job loss, standing as it were at Peter’s mother-in-law’s front door and seeking the healing and ministering touch of this great and mysterious man named, Jesus of Nazareth.
In many ways because of His ministry in the past, in similar situations where I’ve been unemployed, or in even more extreme circumstances, had an incurable/terminal cancer, it is as if I can see Him stretching His healing hand out and moving it in my direction. I can see myself in His story, like the one narrated in the Gospel of Mark, and know that Jesus, my Lord, is the same Jesus who spent time with and ministered to all of these other needy people we just took note of. I find confidence, and hope from all of this; but still wonder just how the Lord will touch my neediness this time. It seems like His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts not my thoughts; and even though I can’t quite see how He’s going to work it out and meet the need this time, I am confident that He will indeed meet it. He has never left or forsaken me or my family yet, and I am positive He’s not going to this time either!
I am needy.