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The Gospel of Mark (Part II) - Jesus defies Culture

In this current Church year of 2015, we hear most from the Gospel of Mark on Sundays. About two weeks ago, I posted an article explaining that the greatest gems of this Gospel are found in the details. If you would like to read 'part I' click here. For the purpose of this short article, I'd like to continue looking seeking out the treasure of this Gospel by highlighting another unique Markan detail.

Dismissing Cultural Norms

What you find very quickly about Mark's version of the Gospel is that Jesus very rarely plays by the rules. I don't mean that He is breaking laws, but He plays by a whole different set of cultural norms. Let me highlight this idea for you.

In our Gospel from the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year -B), the Gospel has Simon Peter leading Jesus to His sick mother in law. They trust that Jesus can heal her because they've already witnessed some of His miracles. So what does Jesus do? The Gospel tells us: "He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them." (Mark 1:31)

This might just look like a whole bunch of actions, but Jesus is doing something here that would make most good Jews during Jesus's time gasp with shock. The treasure is in the detail and this particular detail involves Jesus grabbing the hand of Simon's mother in law. For 21st century westerners, this doesn't make much sense; however, for some cultures including Jesus's Jewish culture, touching a woman who wasn't your family member was a big cultural "no-no." A man never touched even the hand of a woman who was not his direct relative. To make things even worse according to Jewish cultural standards, Jesus touched someone who was sick. People were not to touch the sick otherwise you too would be considered unclean. Basically, Jesus broke two cultural norms with one simple action.

What does this mean for us? Very simply put, it means that Jesus doesn't play by the rules that any culture puts in front of people. Jesus's primary concern was for people, especially the most vulnerable. These are the people whom Jesus sought out. His love for His people shined forth very vividly through His public ministry. Often, I think we can identify with some of these characters in the Gospel, because just like many of them, we yearn for the healing touch of Christ. The people in Mark's Gospel did not know that He was the Christ, but they knew that there was something different about Him. The benefit that we have today is that we know the whole story. Are we willing to trust Him with our life?