IN the cauldron of politics in our country, it is to be expected that some people mistrust so many others and are downright maleficent toward those perceived as dangerous to their vested interests. From the beginning of Christianity, one has to be firmly centered not to be distracted into the vortex of political partisanship. Saint Mark (1:29-39) intentionally portrays Jesus as indeed the awaited messiah but without the political patina people have been associating the figure with.
The true Messiah
The gospel narration of a typical day in the public ministry of Jesus pictures Him fulfilling the prophetic expectations (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1-2) of what the “day of the messiah” would be like. The images of hope and healing, of feasts and freedom become concretized in the healings and exorcisms, the teaching with authority and dedication by Jesus. But Mark is obviously muting down the public enthusiasm regarding the wondrous powers of Jesus; they are signs of the reign of God, not of some political agenda. There is the contrived “secrecy” about His true identity, with a command silencing the demons, not because they know the truth, but because they, as the people also, know only half the truth, the seductive falsehood. Jesus is truly the messiah, God’s suffering servant.
Jesus is disassociating Himself from the centuries-old political hopes of His people. The people have been looking for a wonder-working messiah by whose political might the power and glory of Israel might be restored, a messiah who would lead them to victory. For Mark, the greatest wonder performed by Jesus is paradoxically the mystery of His suffering and death on the cross (15:39). This necessary distinction is highlighted by the particular verb he employs in describing how Simon and the others were searching for Jesus. “Everyone is looking [zetein in the original Greek] for You.” It indicates a misguided search, looking for a wrong person in Jesus, misunderstanding and misconstruing Him.
A man of prayer
Jesus, however, is intentionally portrayed as a man praying. After the cures and the recognition by demons, Jesus retreats to pray. This is a consistent action by Jesus when He is confronted by people’s misconception and distortion of His mission (6:46; 14:35, 39). From such a prayerful pause from His activities in intimacy with His heavenly Father, Jesus emerges focused as ever in the direction of His ways and the goal of His efforts. He is not intoxicated by the popular reaction to His power; He refused to bask in their admiration and to tarry with them, forgetful that He is to serve all and has still many others to reach out to.
If Jesus as a man of prayer living in the presence of God stands firm in His mission of salvation for all peoples, the mother-in-law of Simon grasped by the hand and helped up by Jesus from her sickness personifies a true disciple. After being healed, the woman at once began to serve Jesus and His followers. Again, the actual verb used by Mark is egeiro (so, literally, Jesus “raised her up”), the same verb to describe the resurrection of Jesus Himself (14:28). The woman’s simple cure, told in starkest simplicity, becomes a foreshadowing of Jesus’ mission for all humankind. He heals in His power over sin and death; as the Risen One He raises up to new life all believers.
Alálaong bagá, as Jesus refused to be drawn to the messianic politics of His people wishing for ascendancy over their enemies, His followers, too, as community must be most careful about such political partisanship. It is the right and duty of every Christian to be politically active and responsible (i.e. involved in the political world), and the Church must be the Gospel-driven leaven for the transformation of the people, never a seduced or cowed adjunct to a political party with its vested interests. The breaking-in of God’s reign is precisely against the perennial politics of greed and corruption, the obstruction of justice and the obfuscation of truth, the blatant violation of human rights and the opportunism of so many politicians. Our politics stand in urgent need of Jesus’ teaching, healing and exorcism.
Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.