Instead of visual images on the screen during my sermon, I have ….. an oversized set of stacking rings!
I know they rings usually go on the centre post that comes with them, but let’s see if someone can stack the rings without it ….
there may be someone who can do that ….
but even if you can, is there someone who likes pushing things over?
Can this stack be easily pushed over? Probably!
Is there someone who can put the rings on the centre post?
Let’s see if our pushing-over person can make the same mess with all the rings being stacked on the centre post …..
Not so easy, I think.
You may now be wondering what this has to do with Jesus’ conversations with his disciples that we heard read to us today.
It struck me that the rings are like the aspects of Jesus actions and his teaching that the disciples saw up to this point in his ministry.
Let’s have a quick skip through the first 7 ½ chapters of Mark to see what Jesus did. (This quick skip is a great technique sometimes to get an overview, or the context of a reading – give it a try if you are stuck with a passage.)
So, in Chapter 1, there’s the healing of the mother-in-law of one of the disciples, Peter, close to home, and pretty impressive; then Jesus’ prayer routine, solitary, and first thing in the morning; the healing of a man with leprosy, a long lingering disease, instantly.
In Chapter 2, he teaches about forgiveness and healing, he made the teachers put their thinking caps on about the nature of the Sabbath and healing, he taught about fasting then ate with outright sinners.
In Chapter 3, he challenged the accepted teaching – or were they just rules? – about healing on the Sabbath.
In Chapter 4 he uses parables to teach.
In Chapter 5, he continues his healing ministry, then …
in Chapter 6, sends the apostles out to try it for themselves. There is the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000, and then, a different kind of miracle, walking on the water.
More teaching in Chapter 7, as well as honouring the faith of a foreigner,
and in Chapter 8, another miraculous picnic, another challenging conversation with the powers that be, and another healing.
What a range of activities and teachings!
But after all that, a question to the apostles: “Who do people say I am?” But then the real crunch question, “But what about you, who do you say I am?” And Peter replies, “You are the Messiah”.
You see, all those things that Jesus has been doing and teaching are like the rings from our stacking set. They were all individual actions, but they may not seem to have a central point.
Well, they did, but the disciples didn’t necessarily see it. Peter’s reply shows he sees it, he gets it, Jesus is the Messiah, the one who they’ve been taught to expect through the Old Testament scriptures. So of course Jesus has come to heal and forgive and challenge the rule-bound teachers of the day – that day and this one too! Instead of the actions and teachings being individual and not having a central point, now they do – the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. When he is at the centre, the teachings have an order, it is the central belief in who Jesus is that ties them together. And when they are tied together, stacked on the central point, they make sense, they are more cohesive, harder to split apart. This reading is in three parts, that is the first, but the most central