Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Messianic Secret

Mid week communion at St Giles

Thursday 12 January 2011

Reading 1 Samuel 8

Israel Asks for a King

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.

5 They said to him, You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.

6 But when they said, Give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.

7 And the LORD told him: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king.

11 He said, This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.

12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.

15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.

16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.

17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. No! they said. We want a king over us.

20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD.

22 The LORD answered, Listen to them and give them a king. Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, Everyone is to go back to his town.

Gospel Mark 1

Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ was revealed in flesh, proclaimed among the nations
and believed in throughout the world.
All Alleluia.

When the Gospel is announced the reader says

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

A Man With Leprosy

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, If you are willing, you can make me clean.

41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. I am willing, he said. Be clean!

42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:

44 See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.

45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Mark’s gospel is a fast paced account of the ministry and mission of Jesus. The words immediately and at once crop up all the time. We are moved quickly from one incident to another. Remember this is the first chapter of Mark. Jesus’ baptism by John fills the first 11 verses. Then there is the temptation in the wilderness and the call of the first disciples. Jesus’ first healing comes in verse 21. Mark seems to draw little distinction between healing souls and healing bodies. We need both.

Leprosy in the Bible is a particularly nasty affliction. The word covers not only leprosy itself, but many other skin complaints. Sufferers were shunned from society, forced to live outside the towns and avoided at all costs.

The leper’s approach is therefore bold. He uses the words If you are willing… or if you can, you can make me clean. Given what Jesus has been doing, I don’t think this means the leper doubts Jesus’ ability to heal, but his preparedness to touch the leper or have any contact with him at all.

Jesus heals him with the words I am willing. Be clean. But before saying these words, he reaches out and touches the man. Jesus, Mark says, is full of compassion.

What theologians call the Messianic Secret follows. The man is warned not to tell anyone what has happened. The leper of course ignores the warning. Who can blame him? He broadcasts his joy to everyone.

One practical reason for the warning might be the crowds that inevitably turned out. Jesus was followed about and could hardly move for the crush. Hardly the best conditions in which to preach his gospel.

Another explanation might be that the crowds might get the wrong idea of what sort of a Messiah he was. Not the military leader, but the servant of all.

The result of all this was that Jesus tended to favour lonely out of the way places, and this is especially the case when he prays alone.

You can contrast today’s gospel with the demand for a King. Prior to Samuel’s anointing of Saul, Israel was a theocracy, with prophets interpreting the will of God for his people. Jesus’ incarnation returns us to a direct relationship with God. No longer is there any need for mediation, by a King, a Messiah, a church, a priest or anyone else.

The trouble with this for some people is that faith revolves very much around ‘me’ rather than ‘us.’ Whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer, it’s wise for us to recall that the disciples were taught Our Father and not My Father.


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