In high school, we had one of those thick literature books with pieces of different stories in them that we would read over the semester. There were lots of different kinds of stories, from Beowulf to Canterbury Tales to The Raven. There was one author that my high school English teacher absolutely loved, however, and that was Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor was a prolific author who wrote sometimes grim stories that explored the less happy side of humanity, but one thing I remembered my teacher saying about her was that, after her death, they found an absolute trove of unpublished works in her house. She had written far more than she made public, and apparently these weren’t throwaway duds because they won O’Connor several posthumous literary awards.
People have an odd habit of sometimes taking really, really good things, and hiding them. It’s not always for the same reasons—sometimes people will hide things because they’re convinced no one would want to see them like Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, or because they don’t want anyone else to have it, like buried treasure. But sometimes we have things that the world needs to see, that the world needs to experience, that really shouldn’t be hidden away from the world.
Look at how Jesus acted in today’s gospel. We’re still in the opening scenes of Mark, just at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and it’s already setting the tone for how Jesus intended to bring this good news of God’s salvation to the world.
It started with a fever. Now, with the benefit of modern medicine, it’s possible we don’t think much of fevers. You get hot, you take some Tylenol, drink fluids, and you’re better. But in Jesus’ day, a fever was a risky, scary thing. Almost without a doubt, the way Mark describes how Jesus immediately went from the synagogue to Peter’s house gives the impression of Peter and Andrew urging Jesus to hurry so that Peter’s mother-in-law will survive the day. And in this really toned-down miracle, Jesus took her hand, and somehow just his touch miraculously healed her. She felt so good, in fact, that she immediately got to hosting her houseguests.
This miracle happened in a very intimate setting. This was Peter’s home that he shared with his mother-in-law, and like most homes of the time, there were maybe two rooms, probably with a courtyard. For the rest of the Sabbath, it was really just them (Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Peter’s mother-in-law, and Peter’s wife), their discussion swirling around God’s imminent kingdom and how something as simple as healing a fever changed an entire household’s life. But then evening came, and the Sabbath ended, and Mark tells us “the whole city” was outside the door! That feels like an exaggeration, but imagine if a bona fide miracle happened in Ellsworth. Capernaum wasn’t much bigger than that. Someone’s house would be full of people!
So this amazing good news was changing lives all evening as Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick. It was life-changing and I expect the longer it went on the more the town buzzed with talk of this amazing miracle worker staying with the fishermen. Jesus probably stayed up late healing and casting out demons, preaching the good news and shaping the experiences these people were having deep into the night. Eventually, people had to go home—they had to work, after all, so they had to sleep. But Jesus got up really, really early, before the sun was up, so he could have some time to pray by himself. Yet, even as early as he got up, people were still looking for him right away!
Now Jesus had a decision to make. There were so many people in Capernaum who still wanted healing, who still wanted demons cast out, who still wanted to hear the good news. Peter, Andrew, James, and John all lived in Capernaum, so it would be easy to carry on his ministry there. Jesus could stay there, and if people really wanted to hear his message, they could come to him. But that’s not what he did. With everyone asking after him, a whole town ready to claim him as their hometown hero, Jesus told the disciples they were going to leave, and carry the good news to the other towns in the region.
The good news is a treasure. It’s the kind of news that changes lives, heals hurts, rights wrongs, and changes whole societies. But it can also be easy to treat it like so many other treasures we may have. Like the townspeople of Capernaum, like the disciples, it can be tempting to keep this news “in the home.” Hearing Jesus, being changed by his miracles and teachings, letting ourselves be shaped by the ways God calls on us to live our lives—sometimes we may keep these things to ourselves. And there may be many reasons why we do this. Perhaps it’s fear of what people will think of us if we share the life-changing ways Jesus has entered our lives. Maybe we don’t want to share it, to keep Jesus to ourselves. Perhaps we are not sure we have the right words to share. Maybe we wonder if our actions will be good enough to tell the story.
But one thing is clear, and that is that Jesus shared this good news with the world. He didn’t stick around in Capernaum expecting those who wanted to hear his news to come to him. And Paul followed that example to a fault. Paul used whatever means he could find to help people understand this gospel message. If that meant appealing to Jews by their sense of the Law, then he would show them Jesus in the Law. And if that meant convincing Greeks by arguments to reason, then he would summon his classical teaching to show them Jesus.
Paul understood that this good news is just that--good news. People need to hear it, because the world is hurting. Y’all know. There is worry about a world disrupted so fundamentally by the pandemic, by jobs that aren’t so secure, by sudden shifts in the very culture we live in, by personal hurts and soul sorrow that all cries out for something, anything to be a rock to rely on, a way out of the chaos, some meaning behind all this that’s going on. And when the world finds an answer to all these problems, it looks like a small home in Capernaum, packed to overflowing with people who are hunting for Jesus.
It looks like a church putting in the hard work of organizing, volunteering, and providing a food stand at the fair and a lutefisk supper in the fall to raise money for dozens of local aid organizations.
It looks like marching for the rights of the oppressed, showing the world that Jesus cares for the least of these, and his followers do too.
It looks like telling others about how Jesus carried you though the death of a loved one, when there was nothing else to cling to for hope, he was there.
It looks like Christians handing out meals for farmers who are so often forgotten for the ways they consistently put in the work to feed the world.
It looks like a world changed for the better by hope that does not disappoint.
So share this good news. Be open about the ways that Jesus has changed your life, brought you healing, given you meaning and hope for the future. Share the way this news has drawn you closer to your neighbor and made you seek justice for the oppressed. Hear the ways that your neighbor is in need, and show them Jesus in your words and your deeds. This is good news for the sake of the world, and the weary world is waiting for it. So show the world. Leave Capernaum. Jesus has gone ahead of you.
Thanks be to God. Amen.