Take the perspective of one who is outside
A reflection on Mark 1:21-28
by The Rev. Alan Johnson
Chair, the United Church
of Christ Mental Illness
Take the perspective of one who is outside, marginalized,
put in a category of unworthy or not whole.
From this view, hearing of a person who would bring you into your own
true self in community would be very good news.
Setting aside the seemingly biomedical view (which predominates today),
the “healing” in this story is of Jesus’ restoration of a person into the
community of faith.
This is at least one of the profound messages in this
passage from Mark. The one who would
seem to be “mad” in the synagogue is the one who recognized who Jesus was and
even realized that what Jesus was bringing would destroy what had been taught
before. It is the authority of Jesus
himself, his self-authenticating word that addressed this man and removed the
barriers of the man’s exclusion. Mark puts this story right at the opening of
his gospel so that it is clear right at the beginning that the authentic power
of Jesus will be spread around the region and people will come to know who He
is. This story is also the first in a series of healing stories in Mark. Mark
is telling us who Jesus is and what he is bringing. Jesus is bringing a new teaching, a teaching with
authority, the message is that the excluded are included and the sick are made
well. He embodies the message that “the
time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom
of God has come near.” And it is this message, according to Mark,
that brings on the resistance to His word and presence and is what paves the
way to His crucifixion.
We are not called in this passage to be Jesus, commanding
cures for everyone by our word. That surely did not happen as I experienced
sickness and the death of children as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. Yet
in our words and actions we can embody the message of inclusion. Inclusion and
acceptance can be healing along with appropriate resources of medications and
support. God does heal through us. Those
who are working in the fields of healing can bring to bear the best practices
for recovery and wellness.
This is where faith communities are to be the deepest and
widest places of hospitality and welcome where the new teaching is that
everyone is welcomed and brings their own uniqueness to share. The main point in this story in Mark is not
that the man is now cured, but that which was preventing him from being in
community and living his true self was challenged and overcome. Jesus’ reaching out with His authentic
inclusion is what was amazing. Jesus’
power of naming wholeness means the restoration of what has been left out. The
seeds of Jesus’ prophetic word and action challenges what has been. Now
everything is new and nothing will be the same.