Friday, July 17, 2009

Jesus' gut reaction

Passage: Mark 30-34, 53-56

I was hoping I would be able to post earlier this week but life has been busy.

We all have weeks when we yearn to withdraw into a quiet place with Christ and rest away from the noisy crowd with its odd demands and ever-pressing needs. And yet, those needs press in just as much in the quiet of the wilderness as in the busy city, office, or home. It is as if need runs ahead of us and meets us at the next shoreline, stoplight, or front door. So often my response to need is to hide behind the words of Christ, the poor you will always have with you… There is so so much need. What difference could I make in a world where few people never earn more than a dollar a day, and most of them make much less? What is the point of wearing myself out when those suffering in the death-grip of HIV-AIDS still have no hope of recovery, or the child forced to carry a gun in the Sudan will have nothing to return home to but misery, starvation, and violence?

And then Jesus sees the crowd. Any thoughts of rest are pushed aside in the face of overwhelming need. He is moved with compassion. I like that phrase. In the Greek the word is “splagch-nizo-mai” (σπλαγχνίζομαι) and it literally means that Jesus had a painful feeling in his intestines when he saw the crowd. He saw the crowd and instead of getting back in the boat and going on to a more secluded place his physical reaction was to give these poor, lost, hungry sheep the shepherd their existence yearned for, even if they couldn’t collectively voice their specific need.

There is no way that we can ease the suffering of those we encounter tired and hungry, wandering like lost sheep in our world unless our “gut reaction” is that of Christ who offers (as he does in v.34-44) his Word to guide and his Body to feed and strengthen.

The people’s response in v. 53-56 reminds us that wherever we go there will be need. People are looking in every place and every way for the one thing that will meet their needs and calm their restless spirit. Augustine wrote to God that, “our heart is restless until it rests in You.” We live in a restless world. There are days when we will be overcome with the task at hand. I wish I had a handy remedy of psychological trickery to convince us all that there is no reason to get discouraged; there is no fool-proof mantra. I do see the example of Christ, though: going on before us, pained in his very core to see the need still at hand, and stopping at nothing to meet that need with the only remedy that will truly answer to the issue of human suffering in our world. That answer is his Word and his Body.

We have the Word with us always. We are his Body.

May Christ give us the faith to follow his lead.


1 comment:

Jeremy said...

"I wish I had a handy remedy of psychological trickery..."

No kidding - but as you say, it would be trickery and temporary. Jesus seems to acknowledge this need in his own experience (and by extension, ours) through going to a quiet place many times in the gospels. I do wonder how we are supposed to react, prepare, and digest these moments in our lives. I know I get overwhelmed sometimes! I know I can't truly engage, as Jesus models, with everyone, and I don't expect anyone else to that either.

So what do we do when frustration/tiredness threatens to overwhelm us? I think it's clear we need to lean on close friends and God. Does it need to be more complicated than sharing your feelings with a friend? Does it need to more elaborate than going to God in prayer? Maybe it would be more consistently comforting if it was more complicated, so we try to make it so. That way, we don't risk further engagement/connection - which "caused" the mess in the first place.

Hmm...I'll need to think on that one a bit more. Thanks for sharing, Peyton!