“Who is for Jesus”
In Mark 9:38-50 Jesus continue to teach his disciples about the implications of following him. John tries to stop somebody who is not one of the group from using Jesus’ name to drive out an evil spirit. Jesus shows him that what the person had done showed that he was following him already. A true disciple of Jesus must never believe that only the members of his group, or his movement or his Church belong to Jesus and are ‘saved’. Wherever we see people doing good, healing others, liberating them from any kind of spiritual or social oppression, the Spirit of Jesus is at work.
“Jesus teaches his disciples”
The Gospel of today comes after the transfiguration of Jesus, witnessed by Peter, James and John (Mk 9:2-8). Jesus is now travelling through Galilee, but Mark tells us that he does not want people to know because he is instructing his disciples. He will tell them again about his coming suffering, death and resurrection which they miss completely once again, and he will have to take time to instruct them what it means to be first in the Kingdom of God and how they should welcome him, the messenger of the Kingdom.
This scene is very important in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus never asked what people thought about him. Now he does. He must teach the disciples to understand him better and especially to understand what type of Messiah he is and what type of disciples they are supposed to be. He is a Messiah who will suffer death but who will rise and they, his disciples, will have to follow the way of the cross too. As the blind man who learned to see only gradually so they too will only slowly come to understand who Jesus is.
Today’s Gospel reports something that happened while Jesus was on the non-Jewish side of the lake of Galilee in a place referred to as the Decapolis, that is Ten Cities. It was a region that was very influenced by the Greeks, who were a people from another culture. A deaf and dumb man is brought to Jesus who heals him by touch and word. The healed man now hears and speaks and is told not to tell anyone who Jesus is. In spite of this, the new spreads.
For the past five weeks, the Gospels have been taken from chapter six of the Gospel John, Jesus’ teaching about the bread fo life. Today we return to chapter seven of the Gospel of Mark and we discover what, in the eyes of Jesus, true religion is all about. For the Pharisees, the emphasis was on the observation of the law both written and oral. For Jesus, however, what matters is the heart. More external observance without a corresponding movement of the heart does not please God. We are invited to see what is really important for our lives.