“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately…” –Mark 7:33
I wonder why it took me so long to get this. I went to a Christian school all the way through high school, went to church every Sunday- even worked in the nursery, I stay away from smoking and drinking, and yet, for these nineteen years of my life, I managed to miss the point entirely.
Rules, regulations, obedience: I’ve got those down just fine, but somehow I missed the “why” behind it all.
I’m not quite sure why I was so blind for such a long time, and I’m not too sure why it’s still hard for me to remember.
I was reading Mark 7 today during my break from cooking in the kitchen at camp. I didn’t really pick this for a significant reason, just kind of turned there and said, “Hey, why not.” I don’t ever really recall reading Mark 7 too many times before. It isn’t one of those famous stories you hear about in Bible class or too many sermons are based on. If you skim it, there really doesn’t seem to be much there. Just another story about a deaf man who’s hearing is restored. A mute man begins to speak. Seen Jesus do it before plenty of times right? But as I read, I came across eight little words that suddenly spun my world. Just eight little words and the heart of the gospel was revealed to me. Simple as that.
“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately…”
I know, I know. So what? So he took him aside, what’s so world altering as that?”
That’s what I thought the first time I read over it, until I understood the bigger picture. You see, to be impressed by that statement, you need to envision what was going on at that moment. Jesus is coming into town, in the midst of an increasingly excitable crowd. He’d been doing a lot of miracles at this point, so it’d probably be an understatement to say that people were getting excited. Having Jesus come to your town back then was like your favorite actor coming to your small town. Only on a whole nother level. Feeding 5,000, walking on water, lepers cleansed; when Jesus showed up, people were ready for a show. And so, here He comes with his twelve disciples at his side, and this whole town of people start going crazy at his arrival. And its right at this moment that a couple random guys get it in their heads that they should bring their deaf and mute friend to Jesus so he could be healed. Not an unusual request at this point I’m sure, what with his history of the amazing and spectacular, I’m sure people asking for a miracle was fairly common at this point. But this is when everything gets stranger than ever, because Jesus does something altogether different in response to their request. With the whole throng of followers pressing in, one would expect Jesus to either blast them for their lack of faith, or just zap the guy with a simple statement of healing. I’m sure He had “bigger fish to fry,” as it were.
But He doesn’t. Instead, He does the utterly incredible and wonderfully unusual. And I’m not talking about the healing, although that is indeed supernatural. What is truly remarkable about this story is how Jesus goes about healing the man.
“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately..”
Jesus could have simply looked at the guy. He could have wiggled his nose or raised his eyebrows, shoot, He could have just thought it, and the man would have been healed. But this isn’t what happens. This isn’t what Jesus does. If you read the story, what you see is Jesus taking this man aside from the crowd. The crippled outcast, who, by that culture’s estimation was nothing more than a burden to society, is brought into a personal, intimate encounter with God himself.
Seriously, try to picture this. This guy has absolutely nothing to offer Jesus. He’s deaf, so He can’t listen to Jesus’ teachings, and since he’s mute, he certainly can’t tell Jesus how great He is either. So, in his mind, he’s got nothing to warrant Christ’s affection. He’s got nothing to bring, nothing to give, nothing but poverty to hold up before the King. And what does Jesus do? He takes him aside! He puts his hands on his face, and touches the man’s tongue with his own spit! Talk about intimate! I mean, I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that. But Jesus is making a point here. That’s only the logical conclusion. Otherwise, it’s just plain gross. Think about it. He could have just pronounced healing, but He didn’t. He could have ignored the man altogether, but He doesn’t. No. He draws the man in, touches his face, touches his tongue, and with a sigh from his chest, He whispers the words of healing up to heaven, “Ephphatha,” which means, “be opened.” And Mark 7 says that the man began to hear and talk plainly.
And the only question I have left to as is, “Have I encountered Christ this way?” I know for a fact, that for the first half of my life, I didn’t even know it was an option. I just thought being a Christian was, “do your duty, be a good kid, say your prayers, memorize the stories, pay attention to the board,” and that’s it. I had no idea that I could actually interact with Christ Himself! I had no idea that God wasn’t looking for my accomplishments, but was actually asking me to bring my poverty to Him. I had no idea that I am the deaf and mute man with nothing to bring but my need!
So now, I’m not asking if I’ve been good enough for God lately, I’m asking, “do I believe that He’s been good enough for me?” I’m not asking, “How is my relationship with Christ doing?” I’m just asking, “Do I have one at all?” Have I met with Christ today? Have I let him hold my face in his hands, and stare into my eyes? Have I let him get so uncomfortably close that I can smell his breath and taste His spit on my tongue? Have I felt him sigh over me? Have I heard him whisper those words up to the Father? Or am I content just following a belief system?
This is my point.
Christianity is not about having a bunch of right answers to tough questions, not that it is bad to search for them, but quite frankly, there are some questions you’ll never have answers to anyway. Christianity was never meant to be a belief system; it’s meant to be an encounter with God. It always has and it always will be.
Jesus himself said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” –John 5:39-40
So which ar you? One who looks merely for the answers to your questions, or are you the one whose heart longs for the face of his beloved?
“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately…”