People matter to Jesus. Individual people — men, women, and children; young and old; rich and poor; educated and ignorant — mean a whole lot to Jesus. We find Jesus in the gospels calling crowds and feeding multitudes. But the main image is of Jesus with individuals. He heals individuals. He comforts and encourages individuals. Nothing’s abstract with our Lord. It’s not theory. It’s not impersonal. The Jesus Way is clearly a very personal way to be.
We’re carefully considering the Gospel of Mark here at Central. And I’m impressed by this picture Mark paints of a very personal Jesus.
On the opening page he presents Jesus as taking Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and helping her up. He touches the man with leprosy. He calls Levi and then eats dinner with him at Levi’s house. The bleeding woman touches him and he calls her “daughter.” He takes the dead girl by the hand, it says, with her mom and dad there in the room with him. “Little girl,” Jesus says. On and on Jesus is touching people, hugging people, eating with people, meeting with people. Jesus’ Way is personal.
And we don’t always think about it. We write checks. We build buildings. We create programs. We serve on committees. And those are all really great things. Praise God for those wonderful things! But I feel like there are fewer and fewer visits in one another’s homes. I think there are fewer and fewer face-to-face conversations. Fewer touches and hugs. Fewer confessions. Fewer prayers lifted up together through streams of tears. Fewer and fewer deep, close, personal relationships.
The way of Jesus is in bearing the burdens of others. Carrying the pains of others. Sharing their hurts. Not avoiding it. Not shielding yourself from it.
You can never go wrong showing up at somebody’s house to pray. That is always the right thing to do. You can never go wrong showing up at a funeral to cry. That is always the right thing to do. You can never go wrong showing up at a hospital to sit with somebody. That is always the right thing to do. And you’ll take it home with you. You won’t be able to shake it. It’ll keep you up at night. It’s heavy and it’s hard. It will burden you. It’ll impact you.
But it’s so like our Lord.
It’s so like Jesus who did not one time shy away from entering your mess and carrying your burdens. He walked toward you and your mess, he never walked away from you. He came to us and waded right into the middle of the tragedy of our lives to love and heal and restore. And it cost him. It cost him his life.