Mark’s 9th chapter, a small but hearty portion of which is the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, speaks directly to fear. Here’s how it goes.
Jesus and his close friends were walking to school one day. You could tell by the way they walked that Jesus was the leader of this would-be gang. Thomas hung behind a bit, not sure if he should join. Judas snuggled in close to Jesus’ shoulder, feasting on every word (and every envious glance from others) that this new-found friend provided. James and John walked a little ahead tripping each other at the feet. Peter and Andrew both fiddled with a pocket knives and some shaveable wood…they were always doing something. Doers, those two. And the rest? Well, not much else of note for the rest of them.
And as they were walking, he kept on telling his friends about how anyone who wants to save this failure of a school system needs to break away from the need to be popular, take a risk to propose some new, innovative, even scandalous ways of doing things. And though it would get negative attention and probably even get them expelled, the new life that would follow would be worth it.
Honestly, his friends were only half-listening. They’d been hearing this all year from Jesus and they still couldn’t make heads or tails of what he meant, though his presence certainly made life more exciting at school. But if you could look into the recesses of their hearts, some of them actually did start to understand what he was saying…they were just afraid of what it would mean for them and chose a convenient ignorance on the whole matter.
Besides, soon they’d rule the school the way things were going. And even teachers and administrators listened to the most popular students. In fact, as they rounded the block past Peter’s old house they started having hushed conversations about which one of them would be “the enforcer,” Jesus’ right-hand guy. And also who would be the “gate-keeper,” you know, the one everyone had to get through to get to Jesus.
This was important stuff!
First period began. Half of the friends headed toward Algebra II where they would ponder invisible integers in an attempt to come up with real-world answers (for some of them this would be their life’s work). A few others skipped class to smoke in the bathroom, warming themselves with nicotine before heading into the classroom. And a few other stuck by Jesus in the opening class of the day.
As the shop teacher unrolled a scroll of blue-print paper for the day’s project, Jesus turned to John and asked what they’d been talking about.
The shop teacher began passing out smaller copies of the blue-print, interrupting John’s halting explanation of their hushed conversation over greatness. As the paper landed on the desk Jesus spied it: two beams of wood joined at the center with long spikes. It was to be an example of an impressively massive marking post to let everyone know that “something important happened here.”
They’d each be constructing their own.
At the back of the class was a little boy. Smart. He was known by Jesus, but John and Peter and the rest didn’t pay a lot of attention to him. He was different than they were in many ways. But he was smart, and that day he’d just happened to throw together an imaginative example of a clock built from ordinary parts. No sun dial, this. It had a motherboard, wires, and a digital display with a tiger print face.
He was proud of it.
As the class period was drawing to a close, barely anyone had finished their assignment. Some had abandoned the project altogether; others just figured it was too hard to start and didn’t.
The little boy himself had been working on a different project, though similar in scope. It was strange to some people, but that was nothing new for the boy.
As the bell rang everyone got up to leave. The young brown boy with the clock in his bag who had been working on a different project walked up to the teacher, proudly displaying his gadget.
The teacher looked at the boy, and the clock, and just wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was it dangerous? Was this boy dangerous? He did, after all, work on a different project than most everyone else…
The boy was escorted to a different room where the chief principal and the secretarial scribes interrogated him with the school truancy officer. It became clear that a different official outside of the school would have to be summoned, and in walked the Stateys.
It was deemed that the boy would be too dangerous for the good of the people, and he was cuffed and showed the door, leaving his clock behind.
Meanwhile, Jesus and his friends were standing by their locker, having seen what was going on. As the boy passed by, Jesus turned to his friends and, in a bold move, pulled the young boy into the middle of them.
“If you want to be the greatest,” he said, “you must be willing to stand with, no…more than that…become this one that the world writes off.”
As he was saying this a Statey pushed Jesus out of the way, causing him to tumble backwards, the contents of his backpack spilling out. Amidst the pencils, pens, and planner that came tumbling out was that blue print of two crossbeams gathered at the center. It landed square on the floor as if to mark that something important was about to happen.
And Jesus fell straight back onto it, hands splayed out.
And then the friends got it…though the rest were confused about what they were seeing.
Let all who have ears to hear, hear.
wow. Just, no words to describe how this makes me feel. Thank you. WOw.
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As a retired teacher of young children, thank you for this. Over the years, I have seen a negativity growing in the church toward anyone that was different. They must learn that if we act as Jesus did, we would all be welcome. Even those who believe differently and look differently. My religious beliefs are suffering, except for what I have read about Jesus in the new testament.
Do his friends get it? Today or in Mark’s Gospel? It can be really hard to move beyond the fear and prejudice that the world pours onto us. Especially if we drink it in.
I pray they do. I pray I do…and have a steady diet of confession and forgiveness when it becomes clear that I don’t get it.