October is a little different as writer, Sarah Alice Allcroft, reflects on the passage of Mark 12: 28-34
When Jesus and the disciples are departing Jericho they came across a Blind man named Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the road. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus for help, to be healed, and even though the crowd tries to silence the man, Jesus goes to him. What happens is that Jesus completely disregards what the crowd thinks and heals the person they considered completely unworthy.
Unpacking the text and looking at what’s really happening is a complicated thing. How much do we understand the culture, the law of the day, and the way in which people with disabilities were treated when these things were taking place? If we look solely at the performing of a miracle, in this case making a blind man see, then we ignore the act of civil disobedience and liberation taking place quietly underneath it. If we look at this purely as an act of mercy, we risk reinforcing the notion that there is an impossible to cross divide that separates humanity from Christ, and this betrays the demonstration of how not-so-impossible that divide is to cross in Peter’s walking out to Jesus on the water.
But read together as a whole, it’s hard not to see that all things are connected, woven with a thread to link Jesus’ discussions with the disciples, His constantly being challenged by the Pharisees and temple priests, and the miracles He would perform along the way speak not just to the liberation of the oppressed as individual through healing, but also the healing of a society that had become so unjust and broken through the things that it had become “blind” to.
How many of these miracles can we unpack in a similar fashion to find that there may have been more going on beneath the surface? Another example would be to look at Jesus’ healing of the paralysed man at Capernaum where the tension between Jesus and the powers that be are more in focus. The act of a multifaceted liberation is more obvious as He calls out the forces of oppression employed by the Pharisees in segregating people based on sickness and perceived sin where his response to the anger of the Pharisees was to ask if it’s easier to forgive a person their sins whatever they be or tell them to get up and walk?
There is a lot here that should make us want to reflect on ourselves and our relationships, but also how we give a pass to not just churches, but organisations and politicians who need to do better toward the marginalised and those on the fringes. Being a Christian isn’t just about being “saved” or redemption because you yourself made the choice to become a Christian; it’s about living out the mission of Christ.
Whether you advertise it or not is completely irrelevant, it’s what you actually do with the knowledge and examples given. What’s the point in being a Christian if we’re only going to use it as a license to say we’re better than someone else, or to continue the cycle of liberation and oppression we see carried out through not just the Bible as a whole, but history that repeats afterward? These things matter in who we vote for and why, how we spend our disposable income, who we donate money to. Are these in any way kingdom building things, or are they oppressive empire things with the thin veneer of sanctity?
These are hard questions for hard times, but imagine for a moment being someone who is impacted by actions and policies carried out by people who advertise themselves as something and completely fail to live up to the expectations that the declaration comes with.
Hopefully in the midst of the upheaval resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of the effects of climate change becoming more apparent we rediscover our capacity for selflessness and grace. These are times when we should be looking to not just claim to be followers of Christ, but actually reach out and live that mission.
Music reference, Pink Floyd’s ‘On The Turning Away’ was an integral part of this coming together. Maybe worth a listen/read of the lyrics.
Sarah Alice Allcroft is a Lay Preacher