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Does God love good people more than bad people? Answer: the lost sheep. Jesus leaves the 99 good sheep, righteous sheep, to go after the rebel, the one who is going to do his own thing. When he finds the renegade, he throws a party.
The Bible answers questions so this is my question this week. Why is Jesus going to Jericho? Why take the long route to Jerusalem? The Jordan Rift is a godforsaken desert. There is a much better road with palm trees and villages along the way. Lots of people along the way would be more than happy to provide Jesus with hospitality. Why are you going so far off the beaten path where there is no food or housing? Answer: there is a blind man in Jericho that needs the Lord. One person. He goes out of his way for one person.
This is not the first time Jesus goes out of his way to help someone. Recall the man possessed with Legion. After Jesus and His disciples got out of the boat, a man who was possessed by a legion of demons came out of the cemetery. Michael Jackson’s video, “Thriller,” comes to mind. The demons said to Jesus, “Please, we do not want to leave this place, let us go into the swine. What they were trying to avoid was a one-way ticket back to jail. So Jesus said, “Fine, enter the swine.” So they entered the swine, and the herd jumped off the cliff and fell into the abyss. The “abyss” is a biblical place that serves as the devil penitentiary. I guess the devils did not outsmart the Lord. They thought they were going to roam freely around the world—not really.
After the swine drowned, the now-unemployed swineherds return to the city to report the bad news to the owners. They were not so happy either, now that they are unemployed. Rumors of the event spread and the people of the town needed to see what happened. When they saw the possessed man for the first time without Legion, they were struck with fear, and they asked Jesus to leave their land. Jesus honored their request by getting back into the boat.
I always wondered why Jesus listened to the folks on this particular occasion. Jesus never listened to the synagogue leader who told Him not to cure people on the Sabbath. Jesus never listened to the scribes who said to Him that He couldn’t eat with tax collectors or sinners. He didn’t listen to Sadducees who told Him He couldn’t forgive sins. He did not take their advice for a good reason. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. There was a lot at stake. Why is Jesus taking advice now? Why leave after one person is freed. The answer is obvious. He had finished what He had come to do.
What you should then be asking is this: “You mean Jesus crossed the sea in a violent and life-threatening storm to arrive at the other side to assist just one person?” One would think that Jesus had plans to stay at least for a few days and cure a few of the sick and have an opportunity to preach. He leaves after helping a single person. Does that make sense?
As Jesus gets in the boat, the man who was possessed asks if he may join the disciples in the boat. He wants to follow Jesus. I can understand his request. “Lord, I do not belong here anymore. I have no part in a pagan culture, and I do not feel at home in a place like this.” It is a sound request, but the Lord tells him no. Instead, he instructs him to go back to his family and show them what God has done.
When they arrive on dry land, and the Lord steps out of the boat, it says in Mark’s Gospel that immediately people of the Decapolis recognize Him. Remember, this is the same place where they asked Jesus to leave. Now they want Him? Why the change of heart? They bring their sick and needy to encounter Christ. How did all these people — ten cities of pagans — recognize Jesus as a savior, and greet Him with a favorable reception? Answer: one person. The man Jesus sent back to his family. How was this man so successful? How did he change the perception of the people in a way that they recognized Jesus? Allow me to digress.
I have a good friend who is a Shakespearean scholar. After he had published a book on the Bard, he was interviewed by a newspaper in Cambridge. At the end of the interview, the journalist asked him, “Why do you like Shakespeare so much?” He answered: “If I could write just one poetic sentence like Shakespeare, one line like ‘O! learn to read what silent love hath writ,‘ for instance, then I would consider my entire life an absolute success.”
I have wanted to be a priest since I was in second grade. If you asked me why I wanted to be ordained, I would answer: “If I could just bring one person to Christ, I would consider my entire life a success.”
You are one person. You may say that you do not have an awe-inspiring track record. Neither did this guy in the Gospel. You may question your credentials. You may not be a bishop or cardinal, and you may not have studied theology. Neither did this guy. Remember, God goes out of his way to find us because one person can make a difference.Back to All Homilies