Following The Thread
Scripture - Mark 1:21-28
Prepare to be amazed again at God’s teachings, for God’s teachings are amazing still. Prepare to discover wisdom, for God’s word is full of wisdom & truth.
Mark uses the term authority for the first time; the word literally means “out of the original stuff.” It comes from the same root as the word ‘author.’ Mark means that Jesus taught about life with original rather than derived authority. He did not just clarify something that they already knew, or simply
interpret the Scriptures in the way the teachers of the law did. His listeners sensed somehow that he was explaining the story of their lives as the author, & it left them dumbfounded. Mark then takes the theme of authority to the next level.
The exorcism shows that Jesus is concerned with - & king over – both the physical & spiritual worlds. His is not simply a claim of authority (which we have in the calling of the disciples & the authoritative teaching) but is also a clear proof & exercise of Jesus’ authority. He shows he has real power over evil spirits – just a word & the evil spirit is banished. Later in the chapter Mark records that Jesus cured whole crowds of people. A few days later Jesus’ touch cured a man with leprosy. By the middle of chapter 2 everyone is amazed, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” The deaf hear, the blind see, & the lame walk. There are, in fact, 30 healings recorded in the Gospels, all showing us that Jesus has authority over sickness. And over the first few chapters of his Gospel, Mark goes on to stack up layer upon layer of evidence to show that Jesus’ authority extends to every realm of life.
Come, follow me. Jesus is saying, “Follow me because I am the King you have been looking for. Follow me because I have authority over everything, yet I have humbled myself for you. Because I died on the cross for you when you did not have the right beliefs or the right behavior. Because I have brought you news, not advice. Because I am your true love, your true life – follow me.”
Over 150 years ago George MacDonald wrote a children’s book titled The Princess & the Goblin. Irene, the protagonist, is 8 years old. She has found an attic room in her house, & every so often her fairy godmother appears there. When Irene goes to look for her, she is often not there, so one day her godmother gives her a ring with a thread tied to it, leading to a little ball of thread. She explains that she will keep the ball.
“But I can’t see it,” Irene says.
“No, the thread is too fine for you to see it. You can only feel it.” With this reassurance, Irene tests the thread.
“Now listen,” says the godmother, “if you ever find yourself in any danger, you must take off your ring & put it under the pillow of your bed. Then you must lay your forefinger upon the thread & follow the thread wherever it leads you.”
“Oh, how wonderful! It will lead me to you, I know!”
“Yes,” said the fairy godmother, “but, remember, it may seem to you a very roundabout way, & you must not doubt the thread. Of one thing you may be sure, that while you hold it, I hold it too.” A few days later Irene is in bed, & goblins get into the house. She hears them snarling in the hallway, but she has the presence of mind to take off her ring & put it under the pillow. And she beings to feel the thread, knowing it is going to take her to her godmother & to safety. But to her dismay, it takes her outside, & she realizes it is taking her right toward the cave of the goblins.
Inside the cave, the thread leads her right up to a great pile of stones, a dead end. MacDonald writes, “The thought struck her, that at least she could follow the thread backwards, & thus get out. But the instant she tried to feel it backwards, it vanished from her touch.” The godmother’s thread only worked forward, but forward it led to a pile of stones. Irene “burst into a wailing cry,” but after crying she realizes that the only way to follow the thread is to tear down the wall of stones. She beings tearing it down, stone by stone. Though her fingers are soon bleeding, she pulls & pulls.
Suddenly she hears a voice. It is her friend Curdie, who has been trapped in the goblins cave! Curdie is shocked & asks, “However did you come here?”
Irene replies that her fairy godmother sent her, “& I think I have found out why.”
After Irene has followed the thread & removed enough rocks to create an opening, Curdie starts to climb up out of the cave – but Irene keeps going deeper into the cave. Curdie objects: “Where are you going? That’s not the way out. That’s where I couldn’t get out.”
“I know that,” Irene says. “But this is the way my thread goes, & I must follow it.” And indeed, the thread proves trustworthy, because her godmother is trustworthy.
When Jesus told his disciples, “We are on the way, follow me,” they had no idea where he was going. They thought he was going to go from strength to strength to strength. They had no idea.
Imagine sitting down with a 7-year-old & saying to him, “I’d like you to write me an essay on what you think it is like to fall in love & be married.” When you read the essay, you will say it is not really close to reality. A 7-year-old cannot imagine what love & marriage will be like. When you start to follow Jesus, you are at least that far away. You have no idea how far you will have to go.
Jesus says, “Follow me. I am going to take you on a journey, & I do not want you to turn to the left or to the right. I want you to put me first; I want you to keep trusting me; to stick with me, not turn back, not give up, & turn to me in all the disappointments & injustices that will happen to you. I am going to take you places that will make you say, ‘Why in the world are you taking me there?’ Even then, I want you to trust me.”
The path Jesus takes you on may look like it is taking you to one dead end after another. Nevertheless, the thread does not work in reverse. If you just obey Jesus & follow it forward, it will do its work.
George MacDonald said it like this in another story: “The one secret of life & development, is not to devise & plan… but to do every moment’s duty aright… & let come – not what will, for there is no such thing – but what the eternal Thought [God] wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first.” And in his novel Lilith, he wrote: “You will be dead, so long as you refuse to die.” That is, you will be dead so long as you refuse to die to yourself. Instead, follow the thread. You say, “That sounds pretty hard,” & you are right. How can we possibly follow the thread? It is simple but profound. Jesus himself does absolutely everything he is calling us to do. When he called James & John to leave their father in the boat, he had already left his Father’s throne. Charles Wesley wrote: “He left his Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite is his grace.” And later he is going to be ripped from his Father’s presence, on the cross. It is going to look as if your thread is taking you into dead ends, places where you will get bloody, where the only way to follow the thread looks like it could crush you. But do not try to go backward. Do not turn to the left; do not turn to the right. Jesus’ kingship will not crush you. He was crushed for you. He followed his thread to the cross so you can follow yours into his arms. Hallelujah!
Where he leads me I will follow, where he leads me I will follow, where he leads me I will follow; I’ll go with him, with him, all the way. Amen.