The Finger of God

Sermon preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church and Oxford Lutheran Mission 2012 on 26 August 2012, Trinity 12.
Text: Mark 7:31–37

A recording from Our Saviour is available here.

Image courtesy of Brooklyn Museum under Creative Commons Licence 3.0

As is well known, the Gospel according to St. Mark is the shortest of the four gospels by quite a margin. Of all the evangelists, Mark is the most economical with words. Where Matthew has the Sermon on the Mount and other long discourses of Jesus, where Luke records long parables and John gives us nearly chapter-long sermons by Jesus, Mark hardly ever quotes anything longer than short snippets and summaries of Jesus’ teaching. He leaves out many of the events and details that we find in the other Gospels, as if in a great hurry to get to the Passion Narrative, the description of Jesus’ death. So breathless is Mark’s account, that one of the most common words in his Gospel is the Greek word e)uqu’s: immediately. Mark uses it 41 times, whereas in the rest of the New Testament it only appears ten times. Jesus was baptised and immediately he was taken to the wilderness by the Spirit. Immediately, Jesus went into the synagogue. Immediately, immediately, immediately. Hurry along.

One effect of this breathlessness is that when Mark does slow down, we need to sit up and pay attention. When he gives us more than the bare bones, when he pauses to dwell on some detail, we need to slow down with him and follow his gaze to that detail. If it wasn’t important, Mark if anyone would pass over it. In Mark’s account of Jesus, it’s not the devil that’s in the detail but the Gospel!

We are before one such moment in this morning’s Gospel selection. Most of this passage is not unlike other healings by Jesus. Mark records several of them in the short space of his Gospel. But unlike at other times, here he draws us in to observe in detail how Jesus heals, what the Lord actually does: Continue reading The Finger of God