One of the joys of Daily Prayer is following the readings systematically through scripture. As one who does not give a glance to festivals such as the Feast of the Transfiguration it annoys me intensely if I find myself saying Morning Prayer with people who are strict about the lectionary rather than simply working out which readings to drop in. The sequence is broken.
Thursday was a case in point. We have started reading Mark's Gospel. It is a short gospel, perhaps the first to have been written down and worth reading in one go if you ever get a chance. Because it is short (sixteen chapters) almost every word is important. Missing out a section such as Mark 1:29-end (which we did) places you in some difficulty in understanding.
Mark has a question he sets for his readers. It is, 'Who is this man?' he wants us to work out who Jesus is for ourselves. In his account the first person who 'gets it' is a demon-possessed man.
The crowd ask. 'What is this - a new teaching with authority (over demons)?'
So by the end of chapter one, when Jesus has gone to the home of a relative of a disciple to heal her, his reputation as a faith-healer is developing. Next day he gets up early to pray alone. When he gets discovered and is told he is being sought he says, and this is astonishing, 'Let's go somewhere else.'
He eschews healing for preaching. 'That is why I have come' he says.
If we omit these verses we may well feel that setting up healing ministries, doing Healing on the Streets, making healing the focus of our ministry would be a good thing. If we do read them we discover, as we will again and again in all the gospels, that healing is usually a response to an interruption, not an end in itself.
But we wouldn't let ourselves be so duped. Would we?