Category Archives: Sunday

The Red Thread – The Priority of Need

Mark 6:
31b “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
37b “You give them something to eat.”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

Mark sandwiches the grim story of the beheading of John the Baptist right in the middle of this chapter. The same story in Matthew 14 indicates the events of this chapter are recorded in chronological order and the timeline appears to be the same year as the feeding of the five thousand. I wonder why there are no red letter quotes from Jesus? That’s a mystery.

It makes sense that Jesus would recognize their need for rest and maybe even a time to grieve for John. That may have been his goal but neither of those things happened because of the pressing needs of the crowd. I love these disciples because they are just ordinary people. Their heart’s goal was to secure the future of the people around them with the truth that Jesus has taught them but…wait for it…the needs were so big and they had so little. Jesus is teaching THEM about the priority of need over goals.

It sounds like life today. In our goal-oriented society it still sounds impossible that the smallest effort might be enough to make a big difference. Goals are important but needs are the immediate pathway that gets you one step nearer to them. Jesus is trying to teach US about the priority of need over goals today and his solution is still the same…”Go and see.”

The Red Thread – Victims of Familiarity

Mark 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The hometown boy has returned with his disciples, acting like a Rabbi and ready to speak and teach in the synagogue. “Many who heard him were amazed.” Doesn’t that sound like a positive thing? It wasn’t. They were victims of familiarity. They’d watched Jesus grow up. They knew his history and they were certain of what they knew about him. They were so certain about what they imagined Jesus to be that he was unable to show them the reality of who he was.

That reminded me of a not-quite-fictional novel, The Imaginary Jesus, written by Matt Mikalatos. It’s a similar story to this one Mark writes about. Both are meant to challenge us to consider our own preconceived notions of who Jesus is, how much we know about him, how he’s supposed to act and whether we put our faith in the real Jesus or what we imagine him to be. Like those hometown people we can be so familiar with Jesus that we put our faith in what we already know about him and he is no longer able to build our faith on the reality of who he wants to be in our lives, a friend and our Savior

The Red Thread – A Timid Step

Mark 5:24 – 32. You surely know this story of one needy woman in a large crowd following Jesus. With one timid touch her life is changed forever after years of suffering being unclean because of bleeding that no amount of doctoring or money could cure. She was left unable to participate in any of the life affirming rituals of Jewish law. And Jesus says…

30b “Who touched my clothes?”
34b “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

There was a life and death principle to the Jewish purity laws. This woman wasn’t unclean because of anything she’d done. She was impure because her years of continual bleeding were viewed by law as the loss of potential life and kept her perpetually separated from the ritual practices that could connect her to God.

Her need was so great that she was willing to take one timid step to reach out and secretly touch Jesus’s clothes. She knew Jesus would be defiled by her touch and that act could be punishable by death. A timid step and a secret touch was enough for her new beginning!…but when Jesus stopped and turned around to ask who’d touched him she was terrified. Now what had been one secret touch became a far more public risk she had to take…confess. She “came and fell at his feet “and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

We don’t subscribe to ritual purity anymore but this woman’s story is the story of faith today as well. Faith still begins by taking one timid step in belief Jesus has the power to respond to our need. It’s in confessing the whole truth of our need for that relationship with Jesus that we are freed to enjoy the potential of life God intends for us, without depending on ritual.

The Red Thread – Just as He Was

• 35 “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

At the end of the day it was Jesus’ idea they cross to the other side of the lake but the scriptures says “they took him along, just as he was.” What in the world could that mean? It’s likely he was showing the effects of a full day of being surrounded by pressing crowds. The same elements that had been inspiration for his parables, dirt, rocks, and scorching heat had taken their toll. “Just as he was” likely meant he was emotionally drained as well as physically tired, just as they were.

Being human was a condition for those men. Being human for Jesus was a sacrifice. He saved them through the storm. Now his life AND the cross have become the fullness of our salvation.

The Red Thread – In the Presence of God

• 21 “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.
• 23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. 24 Consider carefully what you hear,”
• “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The crowd Jesus was speaking to was accustomed to their connection to God being dependent on a priest in a synagogue where they would be required to sit until dismissed. Jesus knew two important things about them. They were there because they’d heard he was changing lives AND they were free to wander away at any time.

He gave them stories that could become their lightning flash of reality; to discover a heavenly meaning in the seemingly inconsequential events of daily life. They weren’t meant to be studied at length but to cause an immediate response. If people would see and hear them in the actual presence of God they could discover truth of God that was truly their own. God wasn’t only there in the church, he desired a direct connection to their day-to-day lives.

I read somewhere these words of Jesus are sometimes called orphan statements. I don’t know when the concept of God as Our Father began but I do know without God we’re all orphans. “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. Consider carefully what you hear,”

The Red Thread – Ragtag Unity

Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity

•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

ragtag: adjective
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”

What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.

That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.

There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.

The Red Thread – The Unlikely Choice

Mark 2
14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…

Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?

This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.