The healing passages in the gospels are tricky and to be honest with you, sometimes
I would rather not even deal with them. It’s not that I don’t believe that Christ is still
healing and even doing so dramatically; it’s more that it seems like he’s doing it to a lesser
degree and in different ways. In the gospels his healing ministry is a huge part of who Jesus
is: he’s just come from healing a person in the synagogue, to healing Peter’s mother-in-law,
to healing the crowds that have gathered outside the house. But, even in today’s passage
there are hints that he’s got other priorities. Mark tells us that they “brought all who were
sick or possessed,” and then he tells us that Jesus healed not all, but “many.” Maybe it’s just
semantics, but you get the impression that some came for healing and maybe didn’t get it,
which begs the question, “Well, why not?” Didn’t Jesus care about them too? The next
morning when everyone’s asleep Jesus slips away for some prayer and solitude, and though
the disciples track him down to tell him how much need still remains, Jesus decides it’s time
to move on because he’s called to proclaim the message to other towns as well.
Clearly, healing matters to Christ’s work, but healing everyone doesn’t. And, for me,
that’s confusing. What are we supposed to think? What are we supposed to pray for? How
are we supposed to understand what God is up to when results vary, when miracles
happen for some and not for others, when Christ keeps moving on?
For years I had a weekly appointment with a man named Bill. One side of his
business card said “psychotherapist” and other other side said, “spiritual coach.”
Interestingly, Bill was a disciple of M. Scott Peck, author of that famed book, “The Road Less
Traveled,” and when “Scotty,” as Bill called him, stopped seeing patients Bill inherited most
of them into his practice. Anyway, I suppose there were times when Bill was my
psychotherapist and times when he was my spiritual coach. Either way, he was a source of
great blessing and wisdom in my life.
I remember thinking with him about these questions. What is it that God is trying to
accomplish? How are we supposed to know? What are we supposed to expect? Bill’s
advice was simply that we can’t know, and that all we’re really asked to do is trust. And, it’s
not that we’re asked to trust in any particular outcome. We’re not asked to trust that God
will do this thing or that thing. We’re simply asked to trust – period.
Part of me wants to fight that advice because I think of trust as an action that’s tied
in some way to desired results. But, Bill’s suggestion was that trust was a state of being, a
way of positioning yourself before an ineffable God in an unfathomably vast creation. Trust
was a kind of surrender to what scripture calls the fear of God. Fear, of course, isn’t terror,
but rather reverence and awe, which combined with a sense of beauty amount to an
acceptance of God’s transcendent love that’s not caged, or captured, or contained, or even
Isaiah says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings
out their host and numbers them, calling them by name; because he is great in strength,
mighty in power, not one is missing.” It reminds me of Job when God speaks through the
whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? …Where were
you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements – surely
you know! Or, who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? Have you
commanded the morning since your days began? Have you entered into the springs of the
sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?…” God goes on for 6 chapters, starting
in chapter 38, if you want to check it out. The effect for Job is an entirely new orientation
before God. To say Job is humbled is a bit of an understatement, and though in the end he’s
vindicated and shown not to have warranted the calamities that came upon him, the real
gift is that this God – this God who is bigger than Job’s human mind could consider – is the
God who comes for him and to him, the God who knows him and who has brought him into
this mysterious project of God’s creation.
So, trust is a kind of positioning that’s tied not so much to outcomes but perhaps
instead to actions. In reading Mark’s passage for today we can get caught up in who is
healed and who is not, but when we do we end up paralyzed. Instead, I think we’re meant
to see the motion of the passage and to be caught up in that. Mark’s narrative rushes us
along and invites us into the action of Christ, to move along with him. Look again at the
verbs: They leave the synagogue and enter the house; He comes to Peter’s mother-in-law,
takes her by hand, lifts her up. He cures the many, casts out many more. He goes out. He
prays. He goes some more and then proclaims.
This Jesus Christ, this man of God, this Word that was with God and Word that was
God, is a man on the move. And, that, my friends is important to know because if our job is
to trust, if our job is to surrender to the wisdom and ways of this whirlwind who’s with us,
then I think our best way of doing that is to move along with him and to move along like
Here’s an example of what I mean. Her name is Maggie Barankitse and she was a
survivor in war-torn Burundi when so many others weren’t. She saw orphaned children
who were among the casualties of the unspeakable violence and she acted with love,
gathering a group of 25 children into homes that eventually became Maison Shalom, a
network of schools, and homes, and hospitals all over the country that cared for over
20,000 child victims of the massacres.
I share the video not so much for the results of Maggie’s work, but for her witness.
Maggie didn’t know what would happen, what God would do, when she acted upon love.
But, acting upon her love, she experienced the movement of God’s love. She experienced
the God in whom her actions participated, and she became more and more the kind of
person in whom there was no room for fear because so much of the space was taken by
The task for us, I hope you know, isn’t for us to find our own hero’s role. It’s for us
to find the places where we might join our love with Christ’s. It’s not to know what Christ
will do; rather, it is to experience what Christ will do when we move along with him. It’s to
become a people of trust because we’ve seen a trustworthy God at work through the work
of our love expressed in a million different ways wherever there’s room.