Today’s Gospel – Mark 1:29-39 – is full of movement. The man at the centre of it all is Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the most obvious thing about him, since we encountered him in v 9 being baptized by John, is that he is a man on a mission. There is a sense of urgency: “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’” (v 15). He calls four young men to join him in his mission (vv 16-20) and he teaches in the synagogue, cures many people and casts out evil spirits (vv 21-34).
All of the above action and movement is preceded by – and born of – two remarkable events: his baptism and his time in the wilderness (see vv 9-13). We are not surprised therefore to hear that, after all this activity “in the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (v 35). Nor is it surprising to hear of the reaction of those young men he had called to join him: “And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you’” (vv 36-37). Jesus reminds them they have work to do: “He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do’. And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons” (vv 38-39).
We do not have far to look, when we ask: What motivates this man? He is attuned to a deeper reality. The reality which he knows is beyond the ordinary reality of those around him. Their reality is generated by culture, politics, ethnicity, history, fear, greed, selfishness and all the other forces at play in human societies. His reality is “the kingdom”. He bears witness to “the kingdom”. For Jesus, “the kingdom” is why he came. He is motivated by the desire to make “the kingdom” available to all. Because of him, “the kingdom” can become our reality.
The cures and casting out of demons and the moments of teaching, do not constitute “the kingdom” but intimate it. They are harbingers of a healed existence that will be wrought through him, with him and in him. Each of these events announces – with the whole of the here and now reality as we know it – “not me, more than me!” It is in fact this ever-present “more than” that motivates Jesus. And it is the constant announcing of “the more than” in every person, event and thing in the stuff of our days that can motivate us. “The more than” is an invitation and an evocation. A primary act for the baptized, therefore, is listening. So wake up and stay awake, be alert and pay attention for “the kingdom” is among us!