20TH JANUARY 2022
FROM WHERE AND FROM WHAT SHOULD YOU WITHDRAW?
1 SAMUEL 18:6-9;19:1-7
Today's Gospel reading starts by saying that Jesus and his disciples withdrew to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed. To withdraw means to leave a place or a situation. It also means to remove from immediate contact or easy approach, and in relation to the first definition, Jesus indeed left a place - the synagogue. He also left a situation in which some people wanted to accuse him of doing wrong by watching him closely to see whether he will heal a man who had a paralyzed hand as recorded in Mark 3:1-6 that precedes today's Gospel reading.
Jesus therefore withdrew from the synagogue because he faced resistance in it from those who did not want him to heal on the Sabbath the man who had a paralyzed hand.
By withdrawing from the synagogue, Jesus fits into the second definition of the word withdraw which is about removing from immediate contact or easy approach (he no longer has immediate contact with his opponents) but he gets to meet a great multitude from different places who benefit from his power to heal. When you withdraw your money from a bank, it means the money is needed for use somewhere else. When a firm withdraws it's services, it means the services are not needed at that particular moment due to one reason or another. When you withdraw your statement, it means it should not have been expressed in the first instance.
When you withdraw, it means you have already weighed the pros and cons of the withdrawal with a plan B in place.
You do not just withdraw for the sake of it but you withdraw due to a significant reason. When you withdraw from a place or a situation you do so because your presence and all that is related to it are no longer tenable and if Jesus encounters resistance against a good action that he does, why should he remain in that synagogue teaching people who already have a biased perception about him, people who are prejudiced?
From this Gospel reading we see that Jesus has withdrawn from the synagogue which is more organized and orderly to the sea which lacks order, no wonder it is written that the crowd almost crushed him because they wanted to touch him so as to get healed by him. We all like organized places where there is security and things flow in an orderly manner and that is why our choice of learning institutions, places of worship, modes of transport and attendance of events are largely determined by how organized they are.
Is it possible or even probable that we have also banked our faith on what is orderly or organized? Could our yearning for order be the reason King Saul in the First Reading angrily thinks it is not in order for David to be praised more than him after the latter's gallantry in the battlefield? What if today the word of God is giving us the opportunity to withdraw from what for a long time we have considered and deeply believed to be the best order and search for God's power in unexpected places and situations? What if the power of God is also found in places and situations that have no order and our encounter with God's power in such places will be for our inner healing?
Let us notice that Jesus withdraws from an orderly synagogue in which he is opposed and goes to a chaotic sea shore where people are too eager to experience God's power that is in him. Jesus withdrawing from the synagogue does not change, obscure or diminish the essence of his mission but only enhances it. From what negative attitudes of faith do you need to withdraw? From what people, relationship, situation, ideology, place, behaviour, order and rules should you withdraw so as to enhance and continue with your God given power, potential and purpose?