Blessed to Be a Blessing: Reflections on Mark 1:40-45

This is the first time we encounter the "Messianic Secret" in the gospel of Mark. The so-called "Messianic Secret" was a theory proposed by William Wrede, a German Lutheran Theologian in 1901. It refers to the motif of secrecy about Jesus' Messianic identity found primarily in the gospel of Mark. Wrede's theory was that it was the creation of the evangelist to explain why Jesus was rejected and put to death. More recent scholarship offers a number of reasons why the "messianic secret" may have come from Jesus himself.

Jesus may have employed it in an attempt to avoid political violence. Jesus may have employed it because he did not want to be known only as a wonder worker, of whom there were many in his day. Jesus may have employed it because he wanted to teach people what his messiahship really meant in a gradual progression.

We have to learn and live into deep and difficult truths gradually. And the chief theme of Mark's gospel is certainly deep and difficult. "The crucified Messiah is the fulfillment of God's promise . . ." The kingdom in its glory comes at the end of a path of suffering and service. Jesus is a servant king we are to follow (Thurston 9-11). Says New Testament scholar Helmut Koester, "The 'messianic secret' of Jesus is that God's revelation in history is not fulfilled in the demonstration of divine greatness, but in the humiliation of the divine human being in his death on the cross" (Thurston 10, quoting Koester, 291).

The leper's premature and truncated "good news" portrayed Jesus as a wonder worker and caused him to mobbed before he could be heard. The leper's disobedience hampers Jesus' ministry. He now has to stay in the country, because going into a town would mean being mobbed by the sick and the curious (1:45).

The cleansed leper's disobedience foreshadows the failure of just about everybody in the gospel of Mark to obey Jesus (Aaron, 39).

The one who performs miracles and healings that restore people to community and to wholeness also, at the same time, calls people to take up their cross and follow him along a way of sacrifice and possibly, death.

To be a disciple in Mark's gospel is to "follow" Jesus (akoloutheo). This is not just a spatial following, but is, rather, a technical term for discipleship. The healed and exorcized are to "follow" Jesus as a mark of their full restoration (Thurston, 11). The leper accepts his cleansing but fails to accept his commissioning. He confused bragging about his blessing with living out the good news of sacrificial love for others in imitation of Jesus Christ.

If we're going to truly have a blessed day, it will necessarily involve being a blessing to others.

Sources Consulted:

Charles Aaron, Your Faith Has Made You Well: Preaching the Miracles, CSS Publishing Company, 2005.

Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Preaching Mark, Fortress Press, 2002.

Wendy J. Cotter, CSJ, The Christ of the Miracle Stories: Portrait Through Encounter, Baker Academic Press, 2010.

Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Trinity Press International, 1992.

2/6/2012 5:00:00 AM