In October of 2018 my husband Steve started bleeding. Bleeding in a place where you don't normally like to see blood. At first it was easy to deny the signs. "Ah, a little blood. Probably just a hemorrhoid! No biggy!" people would say. It would have been easy to brush aside the evidence of something amiss, something a little "off" with his body. But, he decided to see the doctor and after a few months of tests the "little bit of bleeding" turned out to be a BIG sickness: Steve was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. If Steve would have denied and ignored the signs of cancer, the seemingly insignificant bleeding that was surely not as bad as it looked, he would have died from the tumor silently invading his lymph nodes, invisible to our eyes but wreaking havoc on his body. He looked great from the outside, but inside he was full of cancer.
In the book of Mark there is an episode where Jesus, God-come-in-the-flesh, likens himself to a physician who has come to gather up people to Himself who realize they are sick. He has diagnosed the human condition and found that people's hearts cause them to be sin-sick and separated from relationship with their Creator. But the people Jesus is talking to in this episode of Mark chapter 2 are people who think they are healthy. They are in denial of their symptoms. They are the ones who, in societies eyes, have it all together. Respectable and morally upstanding, seemingly checking all the boxes on the "good person with God's approval" list, they just don't associate with "those people." But like the best doctor's tools, Jesus's words disect the outward conventions and reveal the deeper problem under the pristine surface. Like an invisible cancer, they have a more insidious problem that from the outside is really hard to diagnose. Because of it, they are about to miss the wonder of God right in front of their eyes.
The religion scholars and other religious folk see Jesus eating with a collection of disreputable guests. They balk. "What kind of example is this? Acting cozy with the riff-raff?" (2:15,16). One of the reasons the religious folks have such a hard time believing Jesus is God-in-the-flesh is precisely because Jesus spends His time connecting with people whom the religious establishment has banished to the outer circle: the poor, prostitutes and other women, the uneducated, the sick and diseased, demon-posessed, ethnic minorities.
Fill in the blanks for today. Who do you think Jesus's love wouldn't extend to? The liberals? The Democrats? The conservatives? The Republicans? The LGBT community? The addicted and unstable? The religious? The pro-lifers? The pro-choicers? The feminists? The homeless? The wealthy? Whoever disagrees with you on Facebook? God-come in the flesh goes out of His way to connect with the outcast, the "sick." The ones who don't think they count. Even our enemies. And Jesus wants those of us who think we know God best to realize that we are sick too. That we won't be able to connect with God and experience the health and wholeness He offers as long as we believe ourselves to be well. Connecting with God, the doctor of your heart and soul, and loving others requires an ongoing honest diagnosis: admitting that you are just as sin-sick and in need of God's healing love and grace as any other human being. Without this understanding, you, like the religious scholars and teachers Jesus is talking to in Mark 2, will miss Jesus.
Jesus, as we depend on you to heal our sin-sick hearts, give us your mercy so we can be mercy-full. Give us grace so we can be grace-full. Help us to have a right diagnosis of ourselves so we won't miss you. We want to connect with you and walk with you. Teach us how to love you and others with your love, a love that came to Earth and died even for your enemies. Write your words in Mark 2:17 on our hearts.