Bible reading plan Bible reading plan

Open up!

25 February 2024

Many office block windows. Only one window is open.

There is an urgency to the gospel of Mark.  It’s not hard to spot when you know what you’re looking for.  Here’s an example: the writer uses the Greek word for ‘immediately’ (euthus) 41 times in the gospel of Mark!  Compare that to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, whose combined total is 11.  There’s that sense of urgency right through this week’s readings.  Mark wants to convey the clear purpose of Jesus, and the importance of receiving the gospel, to his readers.

 

But the word that really gripped me in this week’s readings is only used once in this gospel.  It’s the word ‘ephphatha’ [Mark 7:34].  It means ‘Be opened!’ and is apparently pronounced ‘ef-far-tha’, if you’re curious.  Throughout this week’s readings, I could see this cry from Jesus reflected in so many encounters; that clear and urgent desire of Jesus to find people who can ‘be opened’ to healing, salvation, discipleship and relational faith.

 

The disciples see two miraculous feedings of crowds (Mark 6 and Mark 8) but were clearly not cut out for the hospitality team.  The return journey sees them realise they have only one loaf.  Jesus’ rebuke to them demonstrates a deep desire for open eyes and minds.  He says to them “Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in?  You have eyes – can’t you see?  You have ears – can’t you hear?”  We can’t fail to find the heart cry of ‘Be opened!’ right through these questions.  In my mind’s eye, I see lots of sandal staring as they reply – with timid mumbling, in my imagination – to Jesus’ questions about how many baskets were left over!  Open up your eyes and ears!  Open up your faith!

 

And it isn’t just the disciples who are exhorted to ‘open up’ to what God is doing.  Pharisees, the religious experts of the law, are told that they are people who ‘honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.’ [Mark 7:6-7]  Some open-heart surgery is required here, it seems.

 

All this got me thinking: how open am I to God in all the areas of my life?  Are there still areas that I have closed off to God?  Ideas, attitudes, relationships and even health can all be strongholds where we can – against all that we have seen and heard – shut God out.  We can close the door, but I am in no doubt that Jesus is there, saying ‘Open up and let me in!’  Sometimes, I need to open my eyes and see what God is doing.  Have I closed off my ears to what he is saying?

 

If disciples can see miracle after miracle and basket after basket of leftovers and still worry about only having one loaf for their commute, it is wise to make sure that we do all we can to be open and stay open to what God wants to do in and through us.  We can open our Bible and open our homes - and these are great things to do - but it is when we open our body, soul and spirit to our God that we are fully prepared to bring the urgency of the gospel to the people He loves.  As Smith Wigglesworth wrote: ‘God will do great things for us if we are prepared to receive them from Him.  We are dull of comprehension because we let the cares of this world blind our eyes, but if we keep open to God, He has a greater plan for us in the future than we have seen or ever dreamed about in the past.’


Photo of Mark Melhado

Mark Melhado

Youth Pastor
GoChurch Manchester