I’m not sure about you, but I can hardly believe that it is 2020 already. I mean, how did that happen? This year feels like a new chance, the beginning of something fresh, and as my dad says, “a new 2020 vision,” especially with it being a new decade. I’ve heard some of you have started cleanses for your bodies or are making resolutions. Maybe you want to start a new routine for this year. Looking at the new year as a chance to again figure out who you are, who the best you is.
Although Mark 1:21-45 is not the start of the new year, it was indeed, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in this Gospel. And as we travel with him in this “day in the life of Jesus” was get a sense that he is trying to figure out his best identity and how this will form his coming ministry. Is Jesus teacher, healer, who are others saying he is? Even though, right there in the writers opening words of this Gospel we can read, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. We hear who Jesus is, but following Jesus’ ministry helps us see how Jesus understands what that means for him. This lesson, although not the story of Epiphany, of the Magi coming to see the toddler Jesus and offer their gifts, is quite clear about the announcement of who Jesus is and what he is doing. Afterall, that is what Epiphany means, the manifestation of the revelation. In this non-epiphany, epiphany text we discover the one sent to be Emmanuel, God with us.
In this opening chapter, Jesus develops a routine for his ministry. In between these miracle or healing stories, Jesus takes times to be alone in prayer. When we first join in the reading, we hear of Jesus exercising his role as teacher. He’s in the synagogue and teaching with authority. In fact, those that heard what he was saying were astonished! He begins showing this religious side and the understanding that the message he has to bring is an important one.
But soon, he is recognized for more than Jesus is ready to claim, and when a man with an unclean spirit calls him “the Holy one of God”, Jesus tells him to be quiet. Jesus then heals him of the spirit and the man is set free. Word of Jesus’ authority, and the miracle itself begin to spread so that others are beginning to wonder who Jesus is.
Keeping in the theme of Mark’s immediacy, right after this, Jesus moves to the house of Simon and Andrew. Jesus moves from his religious ministry into a very private, personal and relationship-based ministry. Simons mother-in-law receives her healing and turns around to serve. Some would even say that she is the first deacon, serving out of the compassion that she was offered.
This very same evening, a very public ministry of healing and casting out unclean spirits became on Jesus’ schedule. We don’t know how many people came; all we know is that they brought Jesus “all” who were sick. And that “The whole city gathered around the door.” On the other side of the door from the home was the public square, where people would gather for festivals and feasts, for a market and trading business. Right in the hub of the crowd, Jesus was healing people. When just earlier in the day he asked to keep quiet about who he was or what he did, that hope was gone. Word had spread, and just like that, people recognized him as set apart for something different.
Jesus moved very quickly between religious, private and public ministry during this day. In terms of understanding and seeing the foundations to his ministry, he was not limited to one “kind of speciality.” Not just a teacher, or not just a healer, not just someone who stood before crowds, but also someone that had a personal relationship and reached out to touch a sick woman by the hand.
But was also read, that the next morning, before the day of ministry began all over again, Jesus was by himself in prayer. Verse 35 says, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” In this instance of prayer, you and I are not “let in” on what it is that Jesus is saying. We don’t know the tone or the pleas or even the time of silence. All we know is that he took this time away from his disciples to start the day in prayer.
In this foundational time of his ministry in Marks Gospel, this helps sets the stage for the future of what Christs ministry will be. This may be the first instance amidst his ministry that Jesus takes time to pause, but it’s not the last. In the short first chapter of Mark, we have already heard about the 40 days in the dessert following his baptism, but here, in what we read today, he was already ministering publicly and in need of physical and spiritual rest. We also read in Chapter 6:46 after the feeding of the 5000, Jesus put his disciples on a boat, and he retreated up a mountain to pray. And again, in chapter 14:32, just after the Passover Jesus moves with his disciples into the garden of Gethsemane and takes time alone. Jesus exemplifies in his own life the rhythm of work, rest and prayer. Although we read more about Jesus in prayer in the Gospel of Luke, it is important to see that this is part of his beginning identity in Mark’s Gospel as well. This helps all of us relate to his Jewishness and the need for private prayer, but also his full humanity; in times of stress, temptation, and decision he turns to God for strength and guidance.
But Jesus does not stay in this retreated space. He takes the strength that he has received from this time and goes out yet again. From this time in quiet prayer he moves with his disciples onto neighbouring towns, and in his words, “so that I proclaim the message there also.” Jesus lowers his power for healing and exorcism to the greater need for sharing what the Kingdom of God is like. He does this because it’s his primary task. He also does this because sharing what the kingdom of God is, is the only way, the only context in which the power of healing gains it’s true meaning.
And we read that Jesus along with the disciples do go out proclaiming the message and healing the sick, including the leper who is touched, all still within that 24hour period. Jesus’ ministry here is only beginning. He is just getting started to show the people in his own time, but also for us, who he is and why he came. With the lack of a birth narrative in this Gospel, chapter 1 gives us an idea of who this man is without giving us all the backstory behind him.
And although we are privy to the knowledge right at the beginning that this is indeed the son of God, we see that as he leans into that calling he too finds the need to balance his public and private ministry. That he too takes times to pause and center for the task at hand. And so I ask you, in the beginning of this new year, this new decade, where do you get your energy from to go out and minister to others? Do you need that time of pause to gather your own thoughts and prayers, to be reminded of who you are?
Let’s take a moment to take a time of silent prayer. A time at the beginning of the new year to focus on what we are being called to in this next year of our own ministry. Whether that is in our personal lives our own private worship, or in our public ministry on the streets and in the community surrounding us, or maybe even here, in our religious ministry. Where the direction of our own church and congregation is moving. Let’s take this time to pause and offer our own silent time to God.
Perfect Light of revelation,
as you shone in the life of Jesus,
whose epiphany we celebrate,
so shine in us and through us,
that we may become beacons of truth and compassion,
enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy.
Give us the courage to step away and find you amidst the work and life of our own ministries. Amen.