Crowding Out

Written by Nathan : July 16, 2008

It is easy to miss things when reading the Bible, especially when Jesus comes into play. Not only are His parables both simple and complex, revealing and obscuring, but even the shortest pericopes about His words or actions operate on so many levels. So too the stories we are given as background.

Take Mark 2:1-12. We are presented with a beautiful story about the faithfulness (and faith!) of four friends who scandalously break the law in order to help their paralyzed companion. Much can be, and has been, said about the amazing example of these four men who refused to give up in seeking the Good. They ignored social convention, physical obstacles and the law for the sake of love. What would our churches, communities and homes look like if we followed their example? This is an easy take away from this story.

On the other side of the story, we have the scribes who sat “reasoning in their hearts” and questioning the words of Jesus. Given the usually negative actions and words of the scribes and Pharisees, it is likely that we assume these men are present for similarly nefarious purposes. But their questions aren’t unreasonable, especially for a first-century Jew. I think its possible, even likely, that they weren’t there hoping to set Jesus up like the Pharisees in 3:1-6. In verse 12, we are all told that “they were all amazed and were glorifying God,” including the scribes. Here we have an example of honest questioning but also being open to the work of God. They were not about to follow just any teacher. Both their caution and their openness in turns are exemplary.

When reading this passage in the past, I have all too often focused on one of these groups, seeing the examples both positive and negative. But this time, something else struck me, something started to question this story. ‘Why did the four men have to go to such extremes to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus?’ We have our answer in verse 4: the crowd. The crowd of people standing around outside straining to hear. The crowd inside sitting, waiting to hear a word from the Teacher, either in hopeful expectation or in order to find something against Him. Let us err on the side of goodness and assume all were there because of the amazing words coming from Christ’s mouth. His teaching astounded them, opened their eyes to the presence of the Kingdom and left them yearning for more. They were present at the start of a revolution of cosmic proportions and wanted to hear about this upside down economy, this unparalleled freedom and hope. Pure, clean and inviting hope.

But in their eagerness they blocked the way for someone in even greater need. Their tenacity for the healing words of Christ almost prevented the healing work of Christ. I will not call them selfish or render any form of judgment on those in the crowd that day. How could I? Were I one of their number, I don’t doubt I would have made a similarly immovable object. But I think we are required to ask ourselves if our desire to hear more about Christ might be preventing people from encountering Him. I can think of many modern ’stances’ by Christians that may keep people from the Healer, but the two primary ones that come to mind are the church’s attitudes towards women, especially women in leadership, and homosexuals.

These are complicated issues that resist easy analysis and quantification, but I am sure of one thing; we cannot block the way out of a single-minded concern for ourselves. A way will be found and it may cause some damage. The owner of that house wouldn’t have had a leaky roof if the crowd had simply made a little way.

Author Bio:: Nathan is a husband and father who recently passed his nursing boards and is enjoying having a life again now that school is over.

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Viewing 4 Comments

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    Language can exclude as well; it's very easy for someone who does not "speak the lingo" to feel put off by a religious setting that barricades them unless they know the terms and protocol.
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    This is a very good reminder about what we are doing with Jesus. It makes me wonder if our desire to fill our churches is such a good thing. There was a church I knew that consciously maintained two morning services (even though one would fit the congregation) because then they would have room for others. This did not provide the kind of energy that a full service would provide, but they were committed to it none-the-less.

    I am not saying that this should be done, but since people often encounter Jesus through their friends or others they get to know personally, does a huge crowd of people help them see Jesus, or does it hide him?
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    Regarding women in leadership. It would do us good to re-think the whole concept of "what is the leadership that our Lord desires to see in His Body?" Much of the frustration which is expereinced by women and men in church gatherings stems from "the right to speak (minister), to do the verbal one anothering in the ecclesia. This ministering by men as well as by women is quenched and supressed, when only the hired, chosen, or approved ones are allowed to speak. The idea that one must pass through the many man-made hurdles, just to share or pray out loud in the church is the main problem here, simply put, the right to minister in the gathering of the saints. It is the gross denial of the "priesthood of all believers" which is in play here. Many want to become elders or the "head" elder in order to merely gain the right to speak (there is nothing Biblical about this practice). This should never have become an avenue to "the right to speak". If the Biblical requirements for the office of Elder were held in high regard, that is, adhered to, few would be clamoring for this most holy office (one must become a servant-leader who guards against sin and helps others grow to the point of being able aslo to "feed the sheep"). Instead, among those who understood it would be busy gaining the requried qualifications,or qualities, which can take, decades, such as producing adult children who are solidly in the Faith. To desire the office of an Elder, is a noble thing, but a thing that few will truly accomplish in this present culture because, it seems that, most think that becoming an elder is about winning a popularity contest of ones peers, which is the farthest thing from the truth. I would like to see the women in leadership topic morph into a men and women in ministry (able to share, speak, use their gifts, their voices) issue. As we more just meet in homes, ditchingt the a Basilica heirarchy structure, and begin to openly mininister to one another we eill begin to get releif from these sorts of anxieties, I am convinced.
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    Someone has been reading "Body Politics"...


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