Last week’s reading from Mark told about the challenge from the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter had been possessed by a demon. Remember Jesus’ response? He said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Harsh!
But the woman didn’t skip a beat. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Mark said Jesus praised her for her faith, but I think her chutzpah played a part as well!
That healing was followed by the restoration of hearing and speech for the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. After Jesus took him aside and touched his ears and tongue, “… immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”
I’ve always felt sorry for the man and his friends when “… Jesus ordered them to tell no one…” Imagine being able to talk for the first time and somebody tells you to keep quiet! Harsh!
Evidently no one paid attention because Mark says “… but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” They weren’t about to hide their proverbial light under a bushel basket.
Today’s reading from Mark is, of course, Jesus’ famous “… who do you say that I am?” discussion with his disciples. Good old Peter nailed it! “You are the Messiah.” #1 answer! Followed by “… And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.”
Isn’t it funny how many times Jesus tells recipients of his grace and mercy to tell no one? He tells the two blind men for whom he restored sight to tell no one… but they did anyway. He healed a leper and told him to tell no one.
There are lots of explanations for this prohibition: Jesus didn’t want to put an impediment between a healing and the Law; Jesus didn’t want people to react to his miracles and miss his message; and so on. Frankly, clear skin, 20/20 eyesight, keen hearing, and articulate speech are pretty hard to keep a secret, but Jesus had his reasons. What fascinates me, in our current culture, is that this command from Jesus is the one which many Christians seem to follow meticulously.
Ten Commandments? All of ‘em? Mmmmm…
Love your neighbor? Even the neighbors who bring down property values? Mmmmm…
Tell no one about you, Jesus? Got you covered!
Friday was the 14th anniversary of 9/11. I lived in Houston then and I remember churches being packed for the many special services that were held. Sunday attendance at my church bumped dramatically. People were unashamed about praying and, between the proliferation of flags (even on balconies of high-rises that were notoriously prohibitive of decoration of any kind) and the rejuvenation of outpourings of faith, even those horrible days were precious as people came together in prayer and patriotism.
Fourteen years later, flags flew at half-staff – at least the flags that people have been allowed to keep – and many faith communities have shrunk back to 9/10 numbers. Many Christians are diligently keeping the Lord’s command to “tell no one” and the Christian message in comfortably ensconced under a bushel basket lest anyone be offended.
Doctor Stabile, the doctor I went to years ago in West Trenton, had in his waiting room a poem that I have remembered to this day… and which is particularly appropriate for our times:
God and the Doctor we alike adore,
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o’er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.