Thursday, December 17, 2015

When Jesus Walks Away

This is one of the best passages I've ever read on Mark 1 from Laura Story's When God Doesn't Fix It:

“Our desire is for God to fix broken things.

But God's desire is to fix our relationship with him.

There is a troubling passage in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark that illustrates this. Jesus had the opportunity to heal people, but instead he seemed to turn his back on them. It happened not long after Jesus started his ministry with his disciples. They were in Capernaum, Peter and Andrew's hometown, where Jesus had healed Peter's mother-in-law along with many others. Mark said, “The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases” (Mark 1:33-34).

The news of Jesus' healing had spread outside Capernaum. Early the next morning, ailing travelers streamed into town and headed toward Simon's house, as the disciples rubbed their hands in expectation of what the day ahead would bring.

Then someone noticed that Jesus was missing. They set off in a search party. Where was he? They had to find him! The crowds were growing restless. They wanted to be healed.

The disciples found him and exclaimed, “Everyone is looking for you!” (v. 37). They expected that Jesus would return with them. But his response was not at all what they predicted. Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (v. 38).

It's hard to understand why sometimes Jesus heals and sometimes he doesn't. When it feels as though he's turned his back and walked the other way, it's hard not to be disappointed. Maybe even angry.

But when we're focused on the unhealed sickness, hurt, and pain in our lives, God is focused on a bigger picture. Something else is broken, and it has eternal consequences if it doesn't get fixed.

It's our relationship with our Creator.

While doctors can heal physical ailments, emotional wounds can be soothed, and grief lessens with time, our broken relationship with God continues to cause us pain even when our life is going well. God wants to restore our relationship with him more than anything else. Though he loves us, he'll allow us to feel the pain of this world's unhealed hurts if it brings us closer to him...

Have you ever felt bewildered, disappointed, or angry that you didn't get what you thought you deserved? Looking around, you see others have gotten what you wanted, and you don't understand why you can't get it too. Someone else received your cure, your fix, your apology, the life you wanted, or the baby you prayed for. What you had hoped for, what you earned, what you thought would be mended, what you were waiting on, is now gone. That one thing that was almost in your hands, that you rearranged your schedule for, that you stood in line to receive, and that you made an appointment to get, can no longer take place. Though someone else may have been involved, it still feels as though God has turned his back on you.

Imagine the disappointment those sick and hurting travelers from the surrounding villages and towns must have felt when they arrived in Capernaum that morning and heard that their hope for healing had snuck away under the cover of darkness.

What kind of God-man leaves town so he doesn't have to heal those who need it most?

Jesus didn't say good-bye or promise he'd be back soon. He didn't even tell his friends that he was leaving; they had to go out into the countryside and hunt him down. When he said he wasn't coming back, his disciples were as shocked as the crowds. When he left town, the hope of healing departed with him.

If there is anything to learn from the Mark 1 passage, its that God's ways aren't our ways.

A God who leaves physically sick people to preach the good news to spiritually sick people is a God who cares more about our soul than our body. That is who our God is...

Those sick travelers waiting outside of Capernaum...wanted physical healing without spiritual healing. Restoration without redemption. But Jesus wanted them to understand that he was the Savior who had come to restore their relationship to his Father.

Yes, Jesus could have healed all the broken legs, ear infections, strep throat, breast cancers, and indigestion that was coughed up before him. But that would only have been a temporal healing. It wouldn't have healed their relationship with God. Jesus wanted more for them. He wanted to rescue them from their sin, not just from sickness. He wanted to restore their souls and put them back in relationship with his Father. Jesus had a much bigger mission than torn ligaments and athlete's foot. He was God's representative on earth, and he only had a short time to reach as many people as he could and to train his disciples to carry his message of redemption after he left.

Jesus didn't slink out of the city. He avoided the crowds because he knew what they needed more than they did. He went to be with his Father, so that he could be reminded that despite his love for and his desire to heal all those hurting people, he had a bigger mission.”

In a later chapter, Laura Story poses some great questions that we can apply to our difficult situations. Instead of Why? we can ask How?

How might my Father's glory be displayed through this situation?

How does my story fit into God's greater story of redemption?

How might God use my current trial to glorify himself?

How might God use my weakness, infirmity, or disability to display his power?

How might God use my pain for a purpose?

How might God make this mess into a message?

Where will I turn when Jesus walks away?

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