Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Mark 5:22-43, 10:46-52; John 5:1-9; Psalm 139:1-13; Mark 2:1-12; Acts 9:36-42
A 1911 newspaper article features newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane speaking about journalism and publicity. Brisbane is credited in this article as coining the phrase “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”1
Some pictures, however, leave you speechless. “Every so often, a photo stops the world in its tracks,” writes reporter Kelly Grovier. “The image of nine-year old Phan Kim Phúc, running naked down a street in Vietnam in June 1972 as her skin burned from a napalm attack was one such photo. South African journalist Kevin Carter’s photograph of a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a hooded vulture in March 1993 was another.” On Wednesday evening, August 17, 2016, we were once again jolted by the sight of a child in appalling distress when an image from Aleppo, Syria went viral on social media. Sitting motionless in an incongruously vibrant orange chair, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, his face caked in dirt and blood, stares glassy-eyed into dead space like a battered and abandoned rag doll.
The alarming photo, captured by Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Raslan, was taken after the boy and his ten-year-old brother Ali were rescued from a building ravaged by Russian airstrikes. Tragically, Ali died later. The photo quickly became a symbol for the traumatized people trapped by the Syrian civil war.
Commenting on these photos and the work of artists such as Francisco Goya and Paula Rego, Grovier concludes that, “Though life is not a painting and oughtn’t be confused with one, the greatest works of art intensify our response to life’s tragedies rather than distract us from them.”2
Grovier’s point is well taken—that seeing suffering ought to spur humanity to action. Jesus confronted human suffering as He mingled among real people living real human lives. He desired their good and showed sympathy, and as our lesson this week explores, this spurred Him to action: He actively ministered to real human needs.
While travelling through the area of Capernaum, on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, Jesus was intercepted by another man’s daughter. The woman who’d suffered a bleeding disorder for 12 years caught His attention by touching the hem of His garment. By taking the time to help this woman, Jesus’ original mission changed from a ministry of healing to a ministry of resurrection from the dead.
In both cases, Jesus asked, “What do you need? What can I do to help you?” Even though their needs were obvious, Jesus didn’t just wave a magic wand over the people and walk away. He took time to get to know the people. Interaction with suffering humanity compelled Jesus to get deeply, personally involved by actively relieving our anguish.
As Christ’s followers get involved in the lives of others, seeing their needs will spur us into action as well.
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