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 Network

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. 



Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer
Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115