I have friends who are lawyers but don’t want anyone to know they are lawyers. It’s not because they are ashamed to be lawyers. It’s because, once people know they are lawyers, they start asking for legal advice. Usually it’s “something small”, so the asker never seems to think it’s much of an imposition.
Lawyers aren’t alone in this. How many times have doctors heard, “I’ve got this little pain right here.” or “can you write me a prescription for …”. Contractors, plumbers, electricians, you name it. They’ve all dealt with people interested in them only for their ability to give free help.
Now, imagine for a minute what Jesus must have gone through. Back then, there were no doctors or medical practices anything like what we have today. Yet along comes this guy that heals people on the spot! He’s so good, that you’ve heard stories that if people just touch him they are healthy as a horse. Sure, Jesus was a Rabbi, a preacher, first and foremost. But most people seemed to forget that. A lot of people were amazed at how much better of a legal mind he was than their other legal experts, and they followed him around waiting to see what kind of zinger he had to rebuff the next challenge. But most people just wanted to see the show.
Jesus, Son of God, preacher of renown, was, first and foremost a circus act in the minds of most people. Reading through Mark’s Gospel in Chinese, I had this perspective driven home to me by the way some of the passages were translated into Chinese. Here is Mark 3:10
Because he made so many people well, everyone with any kind of ailment pushed through the crowd towards him, hoping they could touch him.
It speaks of people with 病痛 (bingtong) following Jesus around. Bingtong are things like the common cold, a sore muscle, a cough, a hangnail, indigestion. It tells us that people were 挤过 (jiguo), forcing their way through the crowds, which we are told earlier had Jesus and the disciples so surrounded that they didn’t even have room to eat. And they were forcing their way through just to touch Jesus. It’s hard to imagine the press of people, unless you were in one of the tragic stadium collapses in European football where hundreds suffocated to death.
Can’t you just imagine what Jesus was dealing with. “Hey Jesus, heal my sniffles.” “Hey Jesus, I’ve got this big bunion, what can you do about that?” “Jesus, can you bless my food, my child, my new gown?” Fights break out among those struggling to get close to Jesus. In chapter five, Jesus decided to go to the wilderness to get away, but, when the crowd see the disciples sneaking off they figure out that the circus is leaving town and they chase it far out into nowhere, not even thinking about how they are going to survive out there without food, water, or shelter. Fortunately for them, Jesus had compassion and treated them to another show — feeding tens of thousands of people with a handful of food.
Now, we have our sports idols and our music idols and our rich movers and shakers. And people like to get close to them for the same reason they wanted to get to Jesus. They are the stars of the shows. So we can understand how the people must have felt, especially since Jesus was pretty much the only show in town. But, of course, Jesus was much more than that. Unlike our modern headliners, Jesus had a lot more to offer than a ticket to an event, or a handout, or even physical health and wellness. For Jesus, healing people, as wonderful as that was, was just an opening act. The real show was one in which he would make a way for everyone who would receive it to be stars in an eternal show. The physical healing that he was providing was only to show that he had the power to grant spiritual and eternal healing. As he said to the crowd when a paralytic was lowered through the crowd to him. “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘get up and walk? But so that you may know that I have the power to forgive sins, I tell you, get up and walk!” All the miracles pointed to the greatest miracle of all. Jesus came to remit payment for everyone who ever rebelled against God and did his own thing, which is all of us. He came to give us back the glorious, perfect and eternal life that we were intended to have when God made Adam his chief creation.
So, as you take a look at Jesus, what do you want to see? A side show? Or a savior?