When they [Jesus and the disciples] had crossed over,
they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.
When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,
and rushed about that whole region
and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.
And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces,
and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak;
and all who touched it were healed.
When I read this text the only current-day-scene in which I can imagine a similar circumstance, that is, people running around following one person hoping for a touch, a glance or a word is our culture’s obsession with the famous among us. Whether rockstar, movie star or simply rich and famous these are the folks in our culture that draw on what seems to be an almost primal neediness. The willingness to ‘follow’ them to the ends of the earth. What inspires us to stand in long lines and flock to their appearances?
Was Jesus the rockstar of the Gospel era? Did people long after him because he was famous? Rich? Powerful? No, it doesn’t seem so. The text tells us that those who came desperately seeking his attention and ministry were the sick, the powerless, the broken. They were drawn to Jesus not for his earthly power but for his holy capacity to heal, to proclaim peace.
Often times we talk about the decline of church in the same way we talk about marketing a product or a superstar. We consider our ‘target audience’. What might ‘sell’ we ask ourselves? Our culture has shaped us to believe that our only way into relationship is transactional. We are overwhelmed by the consumer experience and the consumer story. What do you have that I need? How much is it going to cost me?
But what of the sick? What of those who seek wholeness and healing? Where do I go if I need to tell my story? What are my options for a community that will accept me, feed and nurture me? Where do I turn to ask hard questions about brokenness, despair, about God? How do we know that we are marked by God? Loved and protected by that which is bigger than just one of us?
Jesus offers a timeless counter-cultural narrative. What Jesus offers isn’t for sell. It’s free. You can’t earn it and it can’t be used up or worn out. It’s infinite. It can’t be bought or sold or selfishly hoarded. It belongs to everyone. It crosses every social, political and religious boundary. No one is left out.
The healing love and infinite grace of Jesus was the word on the street in the Gospel of Mark. Is it the word on the street of the neighborhoods and communities where we practice our faith? How do we become conduits of healing? How do we make for peace in a violent world?
If you are in need of the healing love of Jesus,
May you reach out and touch the fringe of his cloak,
May you move towards wholeness
and have loving companions for the journey.
May you also be a conduit of the healing touch,
The bold and unbidden forgiving love of Christ,
And the deep and boundless grace of God.