In our gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13 ) we continue to reflect on the two questions that lie at the heart of Mark’s gospel: “With what shall we compare the kingdom of God?” and “who is this man?”
In returning to his home in Nazareth Jesus meets all the preconceptions that prevent people from seeing who he really is. They know him. He had grown up among them. The son of a carpenter…maybe. Son of Mary, yes. Son of Joseph – people are not so sure. They know who he is and where he fits in their community. And this intimate knowledge prevents people seeing who he truly is. They/we were unable to see the new thing happening in him.
Paul had a similar problem. He did not measure up to people’s expectations of what a super apostle should look like. He is not as good a speaker, he is less spectacular with his signs and wonders. So people are not listening to what he has to say. Instead he offers his radical thought – “9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
The expectations around who the messiah will be and how that messiah would operates prevented even the discipiples from being able to be part of the kingdom of God. People were clear in their expectations, and Jesus was not ticking many of the boxes. One of the people I read offers these thoughts.
“I think this is an incredibly important moment. Here’s my not-quite-developed opinion of the so-called ‘messianic secret’ in Mark. The “messianic secret” attempts to name a motif that certainly is central to Mark’s gospel – the repetitive ‘don’t say anything’ moments right where we don’t expect them. For me, however, it is not so much a secret as a re-direction. By attempting over and over to make him ‘the Messiah,’ people were missing the point of his message, which was that the Reign of God was present and that they all were invited to participate in it. As long as they had the Messiah to embody the reign, they were missing the participation part. To ‘follow’ is less to point, observe, marvel, or coronate and more about joining along, taking up the message, and doing the deeds. My point is, I don’t think the “messianic secret” is a literary device by Mark, but a theological point, that Mark saw Jesus trying to re-direct his message away from himself and toward the participating followers. The message in Mark’s original ending, “Go to Galilee and there he will meet you” is a way of sending the followers back to this village-based activity-message.”
Today we are redirected away from our deeply held ideas about Jesus and the Kingdom. They are never enough. We are invited to have bigger ideas, and to take part in a bigger kingdom. I wonder how our familiarity blinds us: blinds us to the people around us, blinds us to the work of God around us? How do our preconceptions prevent us from participating in the Kingdom of God? May we continue to let go of all that blinds us and prevents us being in the Kingdom.