Today is Super Tuesday. It is sure to be full of grand announcements. The opposite is the case in the gospel of Mark today. Rather than grand announcements, we see the power of secrets and hidden messages. The messianic secret is at work. In fact, secrets and revelations about identity run throughout all our readings today.
In Genesis, the much anticipated revelation of Joseph to his brothers finally occurs. It turns out it is Joseph’s lead in this, driven by Judah’s poetic plea and summary of the love of their father. Joseph realizes his love for his family, that has been there all along.
In Mark it is a different sort of revelation. Jesus, after many healings, teachings, and miracles, he makes his way back to Nazareth. The people there were in disbelief, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”
Jesus discovers that prophets are not generally welcome at home. But what I love about Mark’s version of these events is the focus on disbelief. They know it looks like Jesus. But what is this wisdom that has been given to him? He looks and acts different.
One of Mark’s themes is the messianic secret, with demons and people finding out about his power and him silencing them to keep the secret. During this time, evidently the power of God was growing in him and taking root in the world. Because now, even the people that know and love him best barely recognize him. He is rejected by his own people.
No need to silence them! They don’t even believe. “And he was amazed at their unbelief.”
In revealing himself, Jesus also reveals the mission to the twelve disciples. They are to go around and shake the dust off their feet at the places that do not welcome them. It is an odd form of evangelism, to say the least.
There are no flashing banners, ads in papers, candidates on TV boldly declaring they will make America great. There are no efforts to cajole or entice. They go, and share in the messianic secret. And those who don’t care or listen, the disciples are to shake the dust off and move on. They are to focus their attention on those who need or want their attention.
As the church of today works to reveal itself, and the Lord they follow, I only hope we can retain the humble love of Joseph and the tenacity of Jesus. So often I see churches putting all this energy into building programs for which there is no interest among the members, in hopes someone will show up. Often burnout occurs. They go out of their way to welcome visitors, but then ignore the message behind the welcome.
Call me a crusty old Presbyterian, but I believe in the power of God’s Word. I believe if we preach the Word and truly hear it, we will naturally end up “kingdom-building” – feeding the hungry, giving money to the poor, and reaching out to the afflicted and destitute. The kingdom will grow. It’s amazing what happens when the power of God is unleashed and miracles are allowed to break forth.