Praying through Mark

March 11, 2014
Mark 1: 29-34

Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law – his first miraculous healing – and suddenly he is inundated with people coming to him for a miracle of their own. It is a testimony to our brokenness and neediness. We who would like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient are called to see ourselves in this story. If we were truly honest about ourselves, and if we were truly willing to recognize the power of Jesus demonstrated in this story, we too would be flocking to Jesus with our needs.

As the old hymn puts, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pains we bear, all because will not carry everything to God in prayer.”

But this story ends with an interesting twist: Jesus forbids the demons he exorcizes from speaking about him. This is the first episode in what will be a pattern for Jesus in Mark’s gospel. Scholars call it the “messianic secret” – this idea that Jesus wants to delay the full revealing of his true identity.

With the advantage of hindsight that we enjoy as modern readers of the text we can see that this pattern is connected to the cross. Jesus’ true identity and the true nature of his mission cannot be understood until after the crucifixion. Yes, Jesus has power over all things, including sickness and demons, but his purpose was to be more than just a divine genie in a bottle who has come to fix whatever is hurting at the moment. He came to take all the sin and brokenness of the world and bear it on the cross. The miracles Jesus performs along the way are important; they tell us something important about who He is. But his work will not truly be complete until he has suffered and died for the sins of the world. Only then will true healing be possible.

Sometimes God answers our prayers in the way we hope. Sometimes diseases are healed and crises are solved. Other times they are not. But the gospel calls us to see all these events in light of the ultimate triumph that Jesus wins on the cross. Whatever your needs are today, in this moment, you can rest assured that the God has power over them. Just as importantly, you can rest assured that risen Christ has already triumphed over them.

Lord Jesus, help us today to be honest about our needs. Save us from the foolish pride of believing that we have the power or the wisdom to fix our own lives, for without you we are truly helpless. At the same time, help us today to see our present needs in light of your eternal victory. Help us to see how your cross transforms our suffering. By your power we pray, Amen.

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