Artwork: Daniel Bonnell, Resurrection I
Friends today, on this Third Sunday after Easter, we celebrate St. Mark, the author of the second Gospel, the second book of the New Testament, the second of four stories about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Feast of St. Mark (April 25th) always falls within the Easter season – the 40-day celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. That coincidence is a bit odd perhaps, because of the four Gospels, Mark has the shortest account of the resurrection – just those 8 verses we heard just now. So it may seem as though Mark has the least to say about the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us – but that would be a mistake, I think.
As we’ll see, Mark’s Gospel is about the power of resurrection from start to finish. And we see this in the pattern of the healing miracles that Mark records. Mark dedicates more of his story to Jesus’ miracles than any of the other Gospel writers. For Mark, these miracles were demonstrations of Jesus’ power—His power over disease, the forces of evil, demons and unclean spirits, and even over nature. But I want to focus specifically on His healing miracles.
In first half of Mark’s Gospel, every time Jesus heals an individual, He heals a different body part, or a condition having to do with the body:
If you take all five of these together, you have a completely restored body; and this series of bodily healings culminates with Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead (or near death) (5.21-24, 35-43). So the daughter of Jairus sums up all of these healings of the body.
Then at the beginning of the second half of Mark’s Gospel, we hear of the beheading of John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way of the Lord (6.14-32); and in the next series of Christ’s healing miracles, each one has to do with the head:
So His messenger John the Baptist is beheaded, and Jesus sets about healing heads. And this second cycle of healings culminates with the story we heard today: the resurrection of Jesus Himself, who is the head of the church, as we heard in today’s reading from Ephesians.
So if you take all of these healing miracles together, you have a completely healed body, a completely healed head, a completely healed total person – all summed up in Jesus rising from the dead.
How does all of this relate to us?
Well, another fascinating feature of the stories of the healing miracles is that they follow the stories of Jesus calling His disciples.
So in chapter 1, four disciples are called - Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John (1.16-19) – and those calls are followed by four healing miracles. Then in chapter 2, one disciple is called – Levi/Matthew (2.14) – and that call is followed by one healing miracle (3.1-12). Then later in chapter 3, eight new disciples are called (3.16-19), and those calls are followed by eight healing miracles. So for every disciple named and called, there is a healing miracle to go with it.
And friends, there is great significance in that for us: when Jesus calls you to be a disciple (a student-follower), He also promises to heal and restore you. And the healing takes place in the course of your discipleship. So following Jesus, obeying Him, learning from Him – these are the means of your healing and restoration. Jesus calls us to a new life of holistic restoration. Disciples of Jesus are healed and those healed by Jesus are disciples.
So friends, ask yourself this morning, where do you need healing?
I want to tell you a true story of healing – and it’s actually from the life of St. Mark himself, as told in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Mark was an early Christian who accompanied Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. But at one point Mark left to return home to his mother; and Paul was not impressed with what he saw as Mark’s lack of commitment. On a later journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark, and Paul said no; and as we read in Acts 15: there arose a sharp disagreement [between them] so that they separated from each other (Acts 15.39). So Barnabas took Mark on his journey and Paul set out in a different direction.
This reminds us of so many sad instances of church division and bickering in our time. And we know the wounds that this can cause. Perhaps you have experienced the pain of church division or the acrimony of a fight within the church.
But later on in the New Testament, we see that the relationship between Paul and Mark was healed. At the end of his 2nd Letter to Timothy, Paul says, get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry (2 Tim. 4.11).
The one who was once perceived as turning his back on the work of the church is now commended for being useful to the ministry. We don’t know exactly how Paul and Mark were reconciled, but so they were.
This is a beautiful example of what we heard in our first reading today from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In this passage, Paul speaks of the unity of Christians as being part of one body that builds itself up in love – and as we know from our own lives, forgiveness and reconciliation is a particularly special form of love. That’s because it is a love that finds its source and perfection in the love of Jesus – who is God-in-the-flesh; who lived among us, took upon Himself our human condition and afflictions; who suffered, died on a cross and rose again, so that we could be forgiven, healed and reconciled to God, the Father of all, by the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.
This forgiveness, healing and reconciliation happens as we are joined in the body of Christ. Paul uses this image of the body to show how closely we are joined together, not just to one another, but to Jesus who is our Head. As the various parts of His body, we are knit together in a living, dynamic relationship with Jesus, just as the various parts of our own bodies are one living, breathing organic whole with our heads.
Paul says, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV)
So in all we do, we are to have the mind of Christ, He is to be the source of our thoughts and actions, just as the brain gives direction to the rest of the body. And the energy flowing through the central nervous system of the Church is the love of Christ.
So friends, today we see a striking connection between Paul’s image of the head and body and the healing miracles in Mark’s Gospel which are grouped according to body and head. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and His healing power, we are healed and joined together to Him in one body.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:12–13)