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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 4:31–44

He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” And a report about him began to reach every place in the region. After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea. (NRSV)

This is the Jesus I like the most, the Jesus I crave. Superhero Jesus. Giving people good news, driving out demons, healing the sick. It’s the Jesus that is easy to get behind. When friends or strangers challenge why I bother with being a Christian, I can point to a passage like this and say, “This guy. This guy is my hero.”

But the passage leaves me full of longing and, frankly, anguish. Why can’t Jesus be like this now? Why did he have to die after only three years of this? Or if he had to die and rise again, why did he have to leave after he rose again? I know I’m supposed to say “Jesus is alive,” but he’s not literally here in flesh and blood. Why can’t we have the hero, the one with authority, who will teach us, who will fight evil spirits and cure people of all kinds of diseases?

My friends with degenerative eye conditions who will be blind before they are forty; my friends in chronic pain every day; my graduate school colleague paralyzed by a car crash; the many people who suffer from cancer, AIDS, strokes, Alzheimer’s, ALS; my friends with clinical depression and debilitating anxiety: I want Jesus here to literally heal them.

The people of Capernaum wanted the same. Don’t go, superhero Jesus! Stay here so we never have to suffer again! But off he went. They didn’t get to keep him. They’re back to being responsible for themselves. Like us.

Reconciling the fact that Jesus saves spiritually, struggling to allow his love and mercy to empower me, inspire me, comfort me, and to journey on with my community is hard. But on I go, to lend my small help toward God’s kingdom. Without superpowers.

Lord, I long for you to be more literal, but my longing blinds me to your presence. Help me feel your presence in my fellows, in the world, in myself. Help me see you in small and large acts of kindness. Help me find you in connective moments of fellowship. Transform me in moments of forgiveness. Amen.

Written by Kat Evans, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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