Thoughts for the Week

Archive for November, 2012

Clean Again

(Mark 1:40-45)

I couldn’t feel the coarse fabric of the cloak I had stolen. I knew it was wrong to take it, but I was desperate. I slipped between two houses. Capernaum was quieter that usual, for which I was grateful. I was also grateful it was getting darker

Speed was necessary. If I was discovered, I could be beaten, driven out of town, or worse.

The person I was searching for taught in the mountainside, but I couldn’t approach him with a group of people surrounding him. My secret would be out.

I didn’t even know if he could help me. But I heard he had driven a demon out of a man in the synagogue a week ago. I shuffled toward the mountainside. I might have cut my heel on a sharp rock, but I couldn’t tell. As I reached a crest, I saw the crowd moving toward me.  They had listened to the rabbi speak all day, but now they were returning home. I slipped behind a dead tree, keeping my eyes down and head covered. No one noticed me.

I peered around the tree and finally saw the man I was looking for. He sat on large stone near a grassy hill, twelve men milled around him. They talked about finding dinner in town somewhere. The rabbi was silent on the edge of the group. I reasoned I could slip up, talk to him and…well, I hadn’t quite figured out the next part.

Now was the time. Either leave and remain alone for the rest of my life, or go to this rabbi named Jesus.

I ran to him, falling at his feet and my cloak slid off. I held my hands up and begged. “Rabbi, please help me!”

His followers noticed me and pulled back in disgust. I knew they stared at the sores and welts on my head and shoulders. A few yelled angrily at me. “Why didn’t you warn us you were unclean? You are supposed to be in isolation!” One approached me with his fists clenched and a scowl painted on his features. “Get out of here, you leper.”

Jesus rose to his feet. “All of you, stop it.” He came closer and knelt in front of me. He was the only one who had not pulled away and glared at my condition like so many others had.

His eyes held such concern and compassion, a depth I had never witnessed before. Maybe he could help. I lowered my head to hide my tears.

“Please. I want to be healed. I want to feel again. I want to hold my baby girl and see my wife. It’s been years, and I know I’ll die alone and deformed if you send me away.”

More tears fell, and I wiped them away with one of the few fingers I had left. “If you are willing, I know you can make me clean.”

Then I noticed a slight pressure on my welt-covered shoulder. Jesus was touching me! One of the disciples objected, “Lord! You will become unclean as well!”

But he didn’t mind them, he only spoke, “I am willing. Be clean.”

In that moment, something miraculous happened. I suddenly felt Jesus’ hand more distinctly. I felt the brush of his gentle, worn palm against my shoulder. I actually felt it! I looked down at my hands and felt my face. They were all healed! The skin was smooth again!

The grass beneath my feet tickled and the cool evening air felt delicious against my new skin.

Jesus helped me to my feet, telling me to go to the priests, saying they could verify my cleanliness. It meant I could go home. I could see my family again.

That night, my skin was new, along with my heart. The healing Jesus had given me also gave me hope. I had been unclean, an outcast, doomed to die alone. But now, I was clean again!

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Out of the Darkness

(Mark 1:21-28)

I strolled down the dusty street toward the synagogue. I relished the fact that I could usually slip in undetected. The Pharisees there were so focused on their petty laws.

Hey, I gave my tenth regularly, and hadn’t needed to give a guilt offering for some time. They couldn’t touch me. I was one of the richest, most powerful men in all of Capernaum, maybe even in Galilee.

I smirked when I remembered the time I booted an older teacher out because he kept nagging me about my attitude. I got the town on my side, and sent him packing.  A week later, I was delighted when I discovered he had been attacked and killed by robbers.

The crowd was larger than usual. We had traveling rabbis, and there must have been a popular one visiting this week. But as I slipped in, I saw the teacher. I didn’t know the man, but something deep in my gut churned. Something wasn’t right. I instantly broke into a sweat.

I was confused. Going to the synagogue never made me nervous. But something about this common-looking man made me feel as if I was sitting on a bed of nails.

“So, who’s our rabbi this week? “I casually whispered to my neighbor.

“I heard he’s a carpenter from Nazareth.”

Ha, Nazareth? I’ve got nothing to fear then. Nothing good comes from Nazareth. 

“But you’ve missed a lot. He’s talking about  the law and with such authority! I’ve never heard anyone like Jesus.”

Jesus? That’s the scruffy carpenter’s name? At that moment, Jesus stopped speaking and looked directly at me. His flashing eyes pierced me deeply. My mirth evaporated into horror. My head pounded and my feet twitched. Everything in me wanted to run. What’s going on?

Before I knew what was happening, he was up and walking toward me. Something inside me screamed. I suddenly couldn’t breathe right. The scream reached my lips, and created angry, guttural words.

“It’s you! What are you doing here?”

I tried to stop, but I wasn’t speaking. Something else was inside. Fear gripped me, and my body trembled. Everyone in the synagogue pulled back in shock and everyone went quiet. The voice speaking through me continued.

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”

I fell to my knees, and my whole body was wracked with pain. It was if a violent storm raged inside of me, battering me from the inside out.

“I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

Jesus stepped closer. “Be quiet!” He called. My throat suddenly clamped shut. He still held that piercing gaze. But I could tell he was not looking at me, but deep inside of me.

“Come out of him! Now!”

In that moment, I had never felt such searing pain in my life. It felt as if my heart and spine were being rent in two. I struggled to stay upright, my body quaking. That terrifying voice was screaming; it strained and it clung like claws digging into my chest.

With one final shriek, the thing inside of me let go. It fell away like a stone, a dead snake. My lungs filled with sweet air. The last thing I remembered is falling, and someone catching me.


“Jesus, are you sure you want to be that close?”

I was aware of someone’s hand on my forehead, the other on my shoulder. I awoke to find Jesus kneeling next to me in the dust. Looking at me with those eyes. The eyes that had been so terrifying, so piercing, were now so soft.

His rough hand on my head eased my tattered thoughts. The entire synagogue had formed a wide circle around me, except for this man.

A friend of Jesus approached him, “Jesus, I think you should move–“

“It’s okay Peter.”

He helped me sit up. “You’re going to be all right.”

Tears flowed freely. This darkness inside of me was gone. I hadn’t noticed it until it had vanished. My heart felt ten times lighter. I looked into Jesus’ soft eyes. “What happened?” I sniffed.

“You had let your heart serve a cruel master. You are free now. But you will fall back unless you let me be your master.”

I said yes. The darkness was gone forever, now replaced with clear, fresh, perfect light.

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Weakness to Strength

We all have them. Weaknesses.

We hate them, try to hide them, and pretend they don’t exist. But they’re as real as our strengths.

Isaiah the prophet had a weakness that ran deep.

In his book, chapter six, he has a vision of God in the temple. There are magnificent creatures praising God. Their voices were so powerful that they shook the temple. But they covered their faces, perhaps as a sign of respect, for they didn’t want to look upon the holy King.

But Isaiah was a mere man, and he’d seen the Lord. He was horrified and said something like, “I’m doomed! My mouth is dirty because of my words, and I live with other sinful people. I’m nowhere near as righteous as God!”

He was ashamed even to be in God’s presence. There’s a side lesson. God’s mighty holiness usually makes us aware of our own faults.

But it was all right. Isaiah wasn’t kicked from the throne room. One of the creatures came over with a live coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips with it. The creature said something like, “Look, this has taken away your sin and guilt.”

At that point, God spoke. He asked for someone to go on his behalf. Isaiah was quick to volunteer! This is where we reach the key point. God asks Isaiah to tell his people a message.

Wait a second. Wasn’t Isaiah’s mouth (or his speech) his greatest weakness a moment ago? Exactly. God seems to love using people’s weaknesses to further his goals. It shows others how powerful He is, and reminds us that He is the strength-giver.

This week, commit your weaknesses to the Lord. He may use them in powerful ways!

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