The Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany
The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean
Mark 1:29-39

 


Driving down the main street of almost any town today will reveal something about what sort of people we are. Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy’s, one hour dry cleaning, ten minute oil changes, one minute car washes: we know what we want, we want it our way, and we want it now.

This is an age and a society of fast food and fast everything. At home, microwaves promise meals in minutes; At work, computers give us just about anything we want in seconds. We are people in a hurry. We rush through meals, we rush through the day, and we rush through life. We want instant soup and instant success and instant solutions to our problems.

Perhaps that accounts for the enduring popularity of Superman. He’s faster than a speeding bullet! His adventures never involve planning or wondering, uncertainty or waiting. There’s just a hero who swoops in, cape fluttering behind him, scoops up Lois Lane and flies off to safety. That’s how we like all our superheroes—fast and flashy.

And it seems that’s true of religion, too. Many of the churches we see growing so rapidly today offer that sort of approach to faith: fast and flashy – supercharged – but with simple, unambiguous answers: we’ll tell you what to say, and what to think, and what to do. It’s easy. It’s fun. Healing on the spot; guaranteed success in whatever you undertake.

It’s all very appealing. Just give it all over to Jesus, and everything turns to gold, smells of roses.

King Jesus or King Midas? Super Jesus or Superman? We’d just like someone to come and save us, to solve our problems, to erase our sorrows, to make everything turn out right.

The people of Jesus’ day weren’t very different. They too were impressed by miracle workers offering instant cures. They too looked for a hero to save them. No wonder they were drawn to Jesus. Here was someone special–a wonder-worker, a healer, perhaps the solution to their problems. Here was one who could say the word, snap his fingers, and make it all better.

So they came to him: broken and bruised, sore and suffering, lining up everywhere Jesus would go, to see the good doctor, to have their lives made whole, their hopes and dreams fulfilled.

But the evangelist Mark knew that Jesus was more than that, and for that reason he tells us something peculiar about Jesus. He says that Jesus “would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” They knew who he was. Later, he would say to the disciples, “Tell no one.” Over and over in Mark’s gospel, Jesus seems to want to keep his identity a secret. But, why? Why doesn’t he want anyone to know who he is?

Well, the answer, I think, lies in how people tended to see Jesus, as a miracle worker, as a healer, almost a magician. At the beginning of his ministry, his acts revealed him as one with power, a superman doing mighty things; with compassion, reaching out and curing instantly.

But miracles were only part of the story. The lesser part, I would argue. And Jesus knew that those who saw him only as a wonder-worker would miss the real meaning of his life and mission. And therefore he commanded silence until the rest of the story could be told: the part of the story which leads to the cross.

It wasn’t that he wanted to hide who he was, but rather, it was that he wanted to reveal who he was, fully, and that would be possible only after his death and resurrection.

Only then could he be seen as more than a performer of miracles. Only then could he be truly seen as truly the Son of God.

To us, Jesus’ silencing of the demons, and his retreat from those who wanted only miracles, serves as a reminder. For we, too, may look for wonderful cures and miraculous answers and speedy solutions. And, sometimes, those things happen, and praise God for that.

But whether they do or whether they don’t, the Word of God and the love of God always pulls us back to the rest of the story: the fullness of God’s salvation; the promise of everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

To a world that wants a Superman, Christ comes not with a cape but with a cross.

To a world that wants salvation, God offers us not a hero but a savior; not magic tricks but victory over death.

And to a world that looks to “fast food” for sustenance, Christ offers us “real food.” The bread of life. Himself: the body given and the blood shed for us.

That is who Jesus is: Healer, wonder-worker, one with authority, all those things, but only because he is also the one who has passed through death in order to bring us new life. That is the “rescue” that is offered. It doesn’t involve easy answers or instant solutions. Instead, it comes through struggle and pain, but, ultimately, it leads to victory.

Come, then, and eat the meal that is offered. Come, not just to a miracle worker with instant cures and easy answers, but to the one who was nailed to the cross for us. Come, and be fed. For here is real food, food to satisfy, food to give life.

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.