Mark is the perfect go-to gospel for men. This action-packed account of Christ’s life unfolds like a Hollywood blockbuster. One writer described this rendering as Jesus revealing Himself more by what He does than by what He says. John Mark was quick to get to the point in his factual and focused account. As a female, who happily has a higher word count per day, I prefer John’s gospel. I love its expanded discourses and intricate narrative detail, it would be fair to say it is my gospel go-to.
Recently I finished a study and I was deciding what to do next. I felt a little prompting to read the gospel of Mark. My reaction was – really? Mark?
Obedience can be a difficult pill to swallow. Even more so in the smaller daily doses. After some mental gymnastics over it, I thought, Why not? Giving into the nudge, I opened my bible and began.
Mark 1 kicks into gear quickly, no birth story or elongated prologue – he jumps straight in to the heart of the matter. As I read I ticked off a mental list of the key gospel highlights:
Jesus appears on the scene and interacts with John the Baptist – tick (1:4-11)
Jesus calls his disciples – tick (1:16-20)
Jesus performs miracles – tick (1:21-34)
Crowds start following Jesus – tick (1:35-39)
People are healed – tick (2:1-12)
Pharisees get annoyed with Jesus – tick (2:16-17)
Ok God, what do you want me to see here that I haven’t seen before?
The thought sat at the back of my mind like a small pebble in the bottom of a shoe as I kept reading.
By the time I got to Mark 3, I started to feel frustrated. Digging my mental heels in I grumped at God. I am not moving on until you show me something in here that matters or going back to John!
While I pouted, I was drawn to a miracle I had never noticed before. Only recorded in the synoptics - not in John, it sits at the start of Mark 3 and is a short account of Jesus healing a man on the sabbath who had a shrivelled hand. While brief in words - Mark’s specialty- it is a powerful encounter between three groups of people, Jesus, a man in need to a miracle, and the Pharisees.
Uncertain as to why it had captured my attention, questions began to arise. What is the focus here? I pondered. Is it about Jesus’s actions? His authority over the events of the Sabbath? No, that is not it. Is it the man? His obedience to Jesus? Nope, not that either. Then it struck me, it was the Pharisees attitude to Jesus and what had just taken place, that made me stop.
As I read and re-read the passage, I realised that the Pharisees cared far more about the method than the miracle. They had come with the intent of testing Jesus, to see if he would break Sabbath regulations by working. How could they have missed the mark? I thought.
‘Missing the mark’ is a common theological description of sin. It denotes that when we sin we are missing the right mark because we follow the wrong one.
Indignant, I reasoned what my reaction would be if I saw a limb totally restored in front of me! I could not fathom how they had witnessed such a miracle and not been in awe. With one command, one action, Jesus had restored this man. How could they not believe that Jesus was the Son of God – the long awaited Messiah?
The answer is found in verse 5. John Mark records that it happened because of their “hardness of hearts”. The Greek word for hardness is porosis; a medical term used to describe a hard substance that can calcify. Or an object in the eye that eventually leads to blindness. When we are blinded, we miss what is happening right in front of us, we miss the mark that we should be aiming for.
Jesus chose this miracle as a point of decision for the man and for the pharisees. There were two healings he offered, one for the man’s arm and the other for the pharisees hearts. The challenge was laid before them to do evil or to do good (v4).
It was at this point that the Holy Spirit punch landed and I realised that I was (sadly) like the Pharisees.
How many times have I attended a service, only to judge the method and miss the miracle?
The calcification of my heart was evident in my response to reading Mark. The motion of ticking off the method and not looking for the miracle was profound. With the Holy Spirit as my guide, I was in for a miracle expedition but my blurring vision had missed the invitation to intimacy.
As the man stepped forward, Jesus tells him to stretch out his hand and he is healed. In verse 5 it says “his hand was restored as whole as the other.” When we follow Jesus, He restores us. David eloquently reminds us of this in Psalm 23. Jesus keeps us whole in the midst of fear, hurt, and disappointment. Our obedience to Him and our trust in Him keeps our hearts soft and repentant, this ensures that we will hit the mark He has set for us.
The next time you feel offended by the method or the messenger, consider asking yourself why? Do a heart check and see how hard it feels? Are you missing the miracle that you should be rejoicing over? Remember, it is never too late to be restored – it is what Jesus does best.