image004 copyIn Mark, the sick and diseased beg Jesus for healing. Friends and neighbors beg for handicapped loved ones. Even demons beg Jesus in Mark!

But not the religious authorities … not the Pharisees. Never. Not once.

They wouldn’t stoop to ask anything of Jesus—other than his compliance and his repentance. They did not consider that Jesus had anything they might need. Jesus should be begging them, not the other way around.

It’s easy to assume the Pharisees were too proud to beg Jesus for anything. And I guess there is truth enough in that. But perhaps a better explanation is that they simply weren’t desperate.

They were doing just fine, thank you very much. Their skin wasn’t rotting away and falling off. Their daughters weren’t dying or demon-possessed. They didn’t go to bed each night with a gnawing in their empty stomachs. They didn’t worry themselves sick about an uncertain tomorrow.

On the spiritual plane, they were so “together.” They had all the necessary answers to all the important religious questions. They knew how to keep the traditions in all their varied complexity. They were well-practiced at pleasing God. They had no pressing need for his mercies. Their pristine obedience put them above the need of mercy.

And so, they could afford to argue about hand-washing and Sabbath niceties and ritual purification habits because they weren’t drowning in a desperate awareness of their own neediness, a desperate understanding of how it felt to be dying and lost, or a desperate urgency to make a kingdom difference in this dark world.

Interestingly, the disciples don’t beg Jesus for anything in Mark’s gospel. On occasion, they are afraid of Jesus and his power. Often, they are amazed by his miracles and his teachings. They rebuke him once (4:38) and are baffled by him frequently. But they never beg Jesus for anything.

Watching all the beggars in Mark’s story, we might wish the disciples had taken a cue from their example. They should have begged Jesus themselves. Every day, they should have been on their knees beseeching him, pleading with him. “Jesus, heal our blindness.” “Jesus, open our stone-deaf ears.” “Jesus, soften our hard hearts and break our stubborn ways.” “Jesus, let us see your glory.”

One of the greatest mercies recorded in Mark is that Jesus did all that (and more) for his disciples without their begging. So great was his love for them, so great his grace, that he gave them gifts they did not implore and blessed them with miracles they did not beseech.

“Oh, God, be as merciful to your pitiful people today!”

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