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Unafraid to Reach the Untouchable

This week’s adult Sabbath school lesson centered on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, noting that in the book of Mark, emphasis is placed on “action.” Saturday’s lesson states, “The Gospel writer likes to use the word immediately to illustrate the fast-action movement of Jesus’ ministry.” Reading this made me wonder, how do we know that? “Immediately” could also denote Jesus’ immediate power and presence in our everyday lives.

Sunday’s lesson went in-depth into the story of the call by the sea. Jesus tells Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Him and make them “fishers of men.” The lesson makes an interesting point. Mark doesn’t mention any fishing gear, indicating that they were poor. It reads: “Jesus calls to discipleship both those who have less resources and those with more.” This beautiful statement invites the question: does the church extend a call to all people like Jesus did, regardless of resources, gender, class, or status? Sunday’s lesson ends with this powerful statement: “He calls, and willing fishermen answer, and their lives, and the world itself, are never the same.” Regardless if the church approves, Jesus still calls.


I am grateful for the way you expanded the word “immediately.” Considering that Christ is ever-present in all circumstances fills me with comfort. Your question about the church’s role in extending an invitation is sobering. Sadly, not only do churches sometimes lack generosity in its invitation, they frequently display a lack of graciousness in accepting those who feel the call of Christ. Personally, I think we are stingy gatekeepers of the Gospel. Christ flings the gate wide open, saying all are welcome without stipulation. Often it feels like the church requires a secret password, and once you enter, you must act like those already inside.

In Monday’s lesson, we see the disciples who gave up everything familiar to follow Christ. It must have been exciting and terrifying all at once. While Jesus taught in Capernaum one Sabbath, a demon-possessed man approached Him. Jesus silenced the spirit and cast it out. The man was set free. Something noteworthy about this story was how Jesus didn’t seek out the possessed man. He lived His calling and the unclean spirit recognized Him. Christ was not aggressive in the way He silenced the demon. Mark repeatedly emphasized how Jesus spoke with real authority, unlike the teachers of the law. I believe, within the context of faith, authority is often conflated with aggression. We veer into being demanding and oppressive as a means for conversion. In doing so, we damage and repel. Here, we see Christ’s authority rooted in His relationship with His Father. It’s captivating, inviting, and freeing.

Jesus continues healing in Tuesday’s lesson. This time, it’s Peter’s mother-in-law who is sick. Mark sets up a powerful juxtaposition. In the previous verses, Jesus’ authority is on display. But healing Peter’s mother-in-law exemplifies His intimacy. Mark 1:31 says, “And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she served them.” The act of taking a person by the hand highlights proximity. With the demon, He commanded it to leave, and it left. In this case, He chose to use personal touch. This portion of Mark 1 highlights the relational nature of Jesus.

As highlighted in verse 30 of chapter 1, when their mother was sick, Simon and Andrew immediately spoke to Jesus about it. I am reminded of an Ellen White quote I find on repeat in my mind: “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy’ (James 5:11). His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, and He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice” (SC 100.1).


I love your point, Ezrica, about Jesus’ authority being absent of aggression. You correctly characterize it as “real” authority. Jesus was so grounded in His identity that He had no need to control the outcome. I also love the point you made about the intimacy of Christ. When there is real authority grounded in love, intimacy is a natural component.

Wednesday’s lesson is titled, “The Secret of Jesus’ Ministry.” We read about the ingredients to how Jesus stayed grounded in a life of intimacy and true authority. The lesson makes a great point that personal prayer for Jesus was not something done to check off a box at the end of the day. Rather, the Greek word used for prayer in the text denotes “. . . an ongoing process. He was praying, He kept on praying.” Perhaps living in a state of prayer was how Jesus stayed grounded not only in healthy authority but in slowing down, being present to the needs of the person in front of Him. This example could benefit us all.

The story of the leper found in Mark 1:40-45 is featured in Thursday’s lesson. It points out another example of Jesus’ authority combined with intimacy. Jesus touching the untouchable did not make Him unclean, revealing both authority and intimacy. Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone what He did, but go to the religious leaders to be accepted by the community again. Here, the lesson makes a point I’m not sure I agree with. It says, “If he were to tell of his cure by Jesus, it might prejudice the decision of the priest in bias against Jesus.” This doesn’t align with what we’ve seen of Jesus so far. He isn’t about saving His own skin. Jesus operates on the authority given by God, who doesn’t play political games. As we’ve seen, Jesus sees the intimate needs of all. I would suggest Jesus’ command was more about the man’s protection. He didn’t want to harm the leper’s re-entry to the community. This is a great reminder to today’s church that Jesus’ authority trumps theirs, despite the bias deeming others “unclean.”


I think your phrase “living in a state of prayer” beautifully articulates what 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says: “pray without ceasing.” Growing up, that verse felt daunting. But, as I matured spiritually, I understood that “pray without ceasing” is nothing more than maintaining a deeply intimate relationship with God. In His life on earth, Jesus exemplified this verse by being in moment-by-moment connection with His Father. The byproduct of this connection is displayed through His miracles and His presence among the disciples and followers.

Your statement, “His act of touching someone who no one else would touch,” encapsulates this week’s lesson. Jesus was as powerful as He was proximate. Jesus could cast out demons with a simple word, but when it mattered, He always chose to touch them. There is a song I sang growing up (I spent considerable time this week trying to find it, to no avail), but the lyrics still linger with me as an adult: “God is so big and he’s so small, big enough to rule the universe, small enough to live in my heart.”

This week’s lesson reminds us that power is not limited to speaking, which in modern times is often done from the pulpit. The power of God is the ministry of proximity. With all the resources at Jesus’ disposal, His preferred course of action was always to touch the untouchable.

About the authors

Ezrica Bennett

Ezrica Bennett graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oakwood University. She has worked as a book editor for the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and has written for the Adventist Review and the Southeastern California Conference. She is a writer, public speaker, and coach, passionate about working with young adults to help them navigate life and faith, and a youth elder at the Loma Linda University Church. More from Ezrica Bennett.

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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