A teacher with authority – that’s the Jesus that the gospel of Mark presents in the text this week. Authority… a tricky thing for our independent culture today. He is described as a teaching with authority – not as the scribes taught…
In the epistle, a letter to the Christian church in Corinth, Paul speaks with similar authority as he teaches the importance of love – even over knowledge…. for “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
The gospels present the scribes as teaching with an emphasis on knowledge and strictly following the law. Often the gospels challenge these key religious leaders to have mercy and compassion on the people – to lead them with love.
I am the second of three children – I have an older brother and a younger sister. Both my older brother and I find ourselves drawn to academics (he is currently in law school). However, in our zeal for knowledge, we have not always shared our information with one another in the most loving of ways. That is to say, we also appreciate a good argument and are both quite passionate. On a good day, these tendencies lead to great and energetic conversation. On our worst days, there is a lot of noise and yelling… and not a lot of listening.
It has taken me far to long to learn that it is better to be kind than to be right. I am grateful for my brother and learning this lesson as it continues to help me in my marriage.
This is a lesson that Jesus already knew. In today’s story as we see him teaching in the sabbath he stopped his lesson – not to simply correct a heckler, but to help a man crying in need. A man who suffered from unclean spirit. This act of mercy shows the character of the teacher, the rabbi, that Jesus was. One who consistently showed that mercy and justice are what the law are truly about.
As we hear messages from pulpits about forming community and living community we must remember the words of Paul “love builds up” and the example of Jesus. We must put these messages into action in our own lives – striving to build our communities with love, with mercy, and with patience. We must make decisions and choices to build up those around us – our families, our children, our young people, our elderly, our poor, our lonely, our imprisoned, and our sick. Instead of marketing strategies that target those who it is easy to see what gifts they might bring to our community, we must invest in and build up all our brothers and sisters.
We are the beloved community of God. That community is open and inviting to all. Our churches are in excellent positions to live that identity out into our neighborhoods, cities, and all of our lives.
My prayer for today: Oh great God, you hold the knowledge of all things. Help us to hear the words of Paul and strive to follow the example of Christ in building each other up in love. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit give us the strength to do all things with your unfailing love. In your holy and unending name we pray, Amen.