Chapter 7 Hold My Heart

“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately…”
-Mark 7:33a

I wonder why it took me so long to get this.

I mean, I grew up in Christian school, I went to church every Sunday,
I stayed away from smoking and drinking,
and yet, for the first twenty some odd years of my life,
I managed to miss the point entirely.

Him.

Rules.
Regulations.
Obedience.
I got those down just fine,
but somehow I missed the “why” behind it all.

Him.

I’m not quite sure why I was so blind for so long,
and I’m not really sure why its still so hard for me to remember,
but I do when the sunlight started to shine through.
It was five or six years ago, at a Student Venture high school camp
when I heard a guy from California speak.  Chuck Bomar was his name,
or, still is, I guess I should say.  In fact, I just had coffee with him last week.
Strange.

Well, Chuck started telling this story from Mark 7
that I had somehow never heard in all my Christian upbringing.
But you know, I can’t say that I was too surprised, because after a quick
read, there really doesn’t seem to be much there.
Just another story about a deaf man who receives his hearing.
A mute man begins to speak. Nothing that out of the ordinary for Jesus.
And like I said, I’d heard enough “Jesus stories,” in my time to be thoroughly
unimpressed by a miracle as nominal as this one.

But as Chuck spoke, he pointed out eight little words
that suddenly spun my world on its head.
Just eight little words and the heart of the gospel was revealed.

“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately.”

I know, I know.
So what?
So He took him aside, what’s the big deal?

That’s what I thought anyway, until I got the bigger picture.
You see, to be impressed by that statement,
you need to envision what was going on historically.
You got Jesus coming into town, into the midst of an increasingly excitable crowd.
He’d been doing a lot of miracles at this point, so it’d probably be an understatement
to say that people were getting excited.
Having Jesus come to your town back then, was like going to Cirque de Soleil for us.
Only on a whole nother level.
Feeding 5,000, Walking on water, lepers cleansed; when Jesus showed up,
people were ready for a show.  And so, here He comes, posse of disciples at his side,
and this whole town of people start going crazy at his arrival.
And its right at this moment that a couple random guys get it in their heads
that they should bring their deaf and mute friend to Jesus for some healing.
Not an unusual request at this point I’m sure,
what with his history of the amazing and spectacular,
I’m sure people asking for a miracle was fairly commonplace at this point.
But this is when everything gets stranger than ever,
because Jesus does something altogether
different in response to their request.  With the whole throng of followers pressing
in, one would expect Jesus to either blast them for their lack of faith,
or just zap the guy with a simple statement of healing.
I’m sure He had “bigger fish to fry,” as it were.

But He doesn’t.
Instead, He does the utterly incredible and wonderfully unusual.
And I’m not talking about the healing, although that is indeed supernatural.
What is truly remarkable about this story is how Jesus goes about the healing.

“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately…”

Jesus could have simply looked at the guy.
He could have wiggled his nose or raised his eyebrows,
shoot, He could have just thought it, and the man would have been healed.
But this isn’t what happens.
This isn’t what Jesus does.
If you read the story, what you see is Jesus taking this man aside from the crowd.
The crippled outcast, who,
by that culture’s estimation was nothing more than a burden to society,
is brought into a personal, intimate encounter with God himself.

Seriously, try to picture this.
This guy has absolutely nothing to offer Jesus.
He’s deaf, so He can’t listen to Jesus’ teaching,
and since he’s mute, he certainly can’t
tell Jesus how great He is either.
So, in his mind, he’s got nothing to warrant Christ’s affection.
He’s got nothing to bring, nothing to give,
nothing but poverty to hold up before the King.
And what does Jesus do?
He takes him aside!
He puts his hands on his face, and touches the man’s tongue with his own spit!
Talk about intimate!
I mean, I’m married, and I love my wife dearly,
but I don’t know that I’d even be comfortable doing this with her!
“Come on baby, have some saliva!”
What in the world!?
But Jesus is making a point here.
That’s the only logical conclusion.  Otherwise, it’s just plain gross.
Think about it.  He could have just pronounced healing, but He didn’t.
He could have ignored the man altogether, but He doesn’t.
No.  He draws the man in, touches his face, touches his tongue,
and with a sigh from his chest, He whispers words of healing up to heaven,
“Ephphatha,” which means, “be opened.”
And Mark 7 says that the man began to hear and talk plainly.

And the only question I have left to ask is,
“Have I encountered Christ this way?”
I know for a fact, that for the first twenty years of my life,
I didn’t even know it was an option.
I just thought being a Christian was, “do your duty, be a good kid, say your prayers,
memorize the stories, pay attention to the felt board….”,and that’s it.
I had no idea that I could actually interact with Christ Himself!
I had no idea that God wasn’t looking for my accomplishments,
but was actually asking me to bring my poverty to Him.
I had no idea that I am the deaf and mute man with nothing to bring but my need!

So now, I’m not asking if I’ve been good enough for God lately,
I’m asking, “do I believe that He’s been good enough for me?”
I’m not asking, “How is my relationship with Christ doing?”
I’m just asking, “Do I have one at all?”
Have I met with Christ today?
Have I let him hold my face in his hands, and stare into my eyes?
Have I let him get so uncomfortably close
that I can smell his breath and taste his spit on my tongue?
Have I felt him sigh over me?
Have I heard him whisper those words up to the Father?
Or am I content just following a belief system?

This is my point kids.

Christianity is not about having a bunch of right answers to tough questions.
Not that its bad to search for them but, quite frankly,
there are some questions you’ll never have answers to anyway.
Christianity was never meant to be a belief system,
it’s meant to be an encounter with a person.
It always has been, and it always will be.

Jesus himself said, “You search the Scriptures because you think
that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me,
yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” -John 5:39,40

So which are you?
One who looks merely for the answers to your questions,
or are you one whose heart longs for the face of his beloved?

“and taking him aside from the crowd, privately….”