Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Entertaining a Contrast

This post builds on my previous post Navigator in Focus in which I suggested that discipleship is summed up with the concept of “landscape a blur, relationship in focus.”  We trust Christ as our navigator to steer our lives despite the uncertainty of the path.

Entertain – From the Latin entre (among) and tenir (to hold) conveying a sense of capturing one’s attention, mesmerizing one’s focus. 

Columbus Day weekend was one of those rare glorious autumn weekends in Central New York.  Sunny skies, mild temperature, and autumn leaves near peak splendor all converged at the perfect time.  So my kids made plans for the perfect way to spend this long weekend.  They would bask in the glorious hues of…television.  They had hours upon hours of the whole Disney Channel lineup on DVR ready to hypnotize them with an endless loop of laugh tracks.  As exceedingly cruel parents, we set limits on how much they could watch.  Minutes after the television was turned off, a consensus was reached.  The kids were bored.  There was nothing to do.  Nothing.  Ride bikes, fish in our pond, walk the trails around our house, draw with sidewalk chalk, jump rope, lay in their hammocks, play hide and seek, catch bugs, collect leaves, and a litany of other suggestions all amounted  to “nothing to do.”  Their hearts were set on “I’m In the Band” and “I Carly.”  They wanted to be entertained.  They’re not alone.

There is a chunk of material in Mark 1-2 that lands between the calling of the four fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James and John (Mark 1:16-20) and the calling of the tax collector, Levi (Mark 2:13-14).  In part, this interruption serves as a contrast to the calling of the disciples, a foil to the principle of “landscape a blur, relationship in focus.”  Sandwiched between these episodes of Jesus calling individuals to follow him is this highly concentrated dose of miracle stories.  Jesus

-        drives out an evil spirit (1:21-28),
-        heals Simon’s mother-in-law from a fever (1:29-31)
-        heals many who gather at her house ((1:32-34)
-        heals a man with leprosy (1:40-45)
-        heals a paralytic, (the one who is lowered through the roof into the house due to the large crowds)

He’s putting on quite a show.  A show that elicits great enthusiasm.  Three times the text mentions the people’s amazement (1:22, 27, 2:12).  Four times it mentions the swelling crowds (1:33, 37,45, 2:2).  There is a growing excitement surrounding Jesus’ ministry.  He is creating a stir.  People are clambering for a piece of him.  His fame is on the rise. The circus has come to town.

And yet, Jesus is attempting to quiet the buzz.  He withdraws to an isolated place (1:35), he tells the demons not to speak because they know who he is (1:33), he instructs the man with leprosy not to tell anyone after he is healed (1:44).  This all seems counterintuitive. He’s snubbing the reporters, avoiding the paparazzi, squandering this opportunity for exposure by riding the brakes.  As if this is not his intent. 

He recognizes that the burgeoning swarm is full of observers, spectators, crowd sitters. They crane their necks to get a better view.  They come for the spectacle.   They will go back to their routines in a moment.   This is built on curiosity, not allegiance.  For them, this has nothing to do with a journey, it is an event.  This is not about a navigator, it is about a showman.  This is not what Jesus is interested in. 

For all the enthusiasm in these episodes, there is a decided lack of intimacy.  In contrast to the calling of named individuals surrounding this text, none in these hordes of people are mentioned by name.  The only names that crop up are the four that have already responded to Jesus call, James, John, Simon, and Andrew (1:29).  Everyone else is nameless.  These crowds are not interested in relationship – they want to be entertained. 

There is contrast between the calling of the disciples, invitations to intimacy, and these episodes of box office success with people who are entertained, but never follow. 

And this is where I am convicted.  For all my finger pointing, I’m no different.  My kids learned it from someone and I would be hard pressed to build a case against the charge.  I tend toward inertia, preferring to watch rather than participate, taking my cues from those around me rather than taking initiative. 

I see it in countless ways.  Ways that I’d like to develop in my next post. But not now.  I need to catch up on the programs I've DVRed.

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