Relationship with a Risen Christ
In all walks of life, having a personal relationship with somebody can make all the difference. I can remember having meetings by video conference with colleagues in France, Germany and Spain. These kind of meetings would be scheduled for half a day. Often they involved each meeting room stubbornly putting their case again and again, unwilling, unable to listen to anybody else. We in the UK, however, had a secret weapon – his name was Thierry. He was French and had worked in France for many years before his transfer to Bristol. At some point there would be a comfort break. Thierry would go outside to have a cigarette, and would get on the telephone. He would explain to whoever was in the room at the other side of the video conference why they needed to do what we were asking them to. Five minutes later the meeting would resume and everybody would do whatever it was that we had been asking all along. Thierry knew the individuals on the other site personally. That relationship meant they trusted him and that was worth everything.
If we had a greater focus on personal relationships built on trust, perhaps the differences between nations and faiths and cultures would not be so volatile. Building bridges through relationships of trust are what enable groups to move forward together.
Mark’s Gospel is all about relationships. Specifically about us building up a relationship with Jesus. and about the relationships he has with those he encounters. Mark isn’t interested in the fine detail. He doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’ birth and nothing about his childhood. He wants to get on and help us to encounter this Jesus. He wants us to get to know the person, the character of Jesus. And what Mark introduces us to is a person full of compassion and overflowing with love. Of course for Mark knowing Jesus, the Son of God, we will understand that this is the character of God the Father also. Mark tells story after story of Jesus trying to get to know people. This is a Jesus concerned with people themselves. Wherever they are from, whether they are on the edges of society or otherwise, he is interested in them. But when Jesus encounters individuals and builds relationship with them he can’t help but act with compassion and grace. Whatever their affliction, he has to help them.
It reminds me of the television show undercover boss… This is where the senior management of a company go undercover and work alongside the people at the coal front in their organisation. They want to understand those peoples experience of working in the company, but they are also fascinated to get to know these people who work for them. Inevitably they come across personal stories which make them, like Christ, feel overwhelmed with compassion. After they have finished being undercover, as well as making changes to the way the company is run, they often go back to those who they worked alongside and offer to help them personally with whatever is causing them trouble. Jesus is like the undercover boss who each time he meets somebody and learns about them and their life, breaks cover and solves their problems – performing a miracle. Except Jesus doesn’t want it televised. Again and again he tells people not to tell anybody what has happened – because he isn’t some conjurer of tricks. Of course, they immediately run off and tell everybody about this man Jesus who cared for them and whose compassion so overflowed from him that he healed them.
But today we reach the end of Mark’s Gospel. He doesn’t bother too much with Jesus after the resurrection. We have developed a relationship with Jesus already through these stories of his overwhelming love and grace. And here we have the ultimate miracle –
the most significant act of compassion and grace – the resurrection in which we all will partake. Jesus goes into the depths of despair – he hallows the gates of Hell, and so there is nowhere that this Son of God, our friend, has not gone and cannot draw us out of.
Having been told again and again not to mention what he’s done to anybody. The angel in the tomb says go proclaim that Jesus is alive. And it is too much – it is too terrifying – too phenomenal. But this is the Jesus we know personally, who will walk beside us and bring us back to God, no matter where we are. That is the Good News we proclaim – that God so loves us, he sent his son to be among us, to befriend us and to show us the way. And this son rises from the dead this morning and his light can never be put out, his love, like the waters of baptism, flood over us as a sign that we his brothers and sisters. So that we too might share that love with the world through our own relationships.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams