by Piotr Krakowczyk
Sent to make difference – reflection on Mark 6:7-13
Let me retell the story titled “Is your Jar Full?” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz.
An expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students. It was nothing unusual till he took out a one-gallon mason jar and began to fill it with stones. When the jar was filled, he asked: “Is this jar full?”
Everybody answered: “Yes.”
The expert replied, “Really?” He reached out for a bucket filled with gravel and loaded the jar with it. Then he asked, again: “Is this jar full?” By this time, the students got the point: “Probably not,” they said.
“Good,” he said. He picked up the plastic filled with sand and threw it into the jar. It filled the space between the rocks and the gravel. Then he asked again: “Is this jar full?” All the students answered: “No.”
“Good,” he said. Then he took a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then, he asked: “What is the point of this illustration?”
“No matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit some more things in it,” one student responded.
“No,” the expert answered. “That’s not the point.”
Words and actions have an impact on us. Jesus used them to touch and transform people’s broken lives. The disciples of Jesus were given a share in Jesus’ authority and were sent to make difference in the world. They performed well: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13
). Two thousand years have gone by and we are left with the same mission: to make difference in the lives of others through our words and actions.
Someone said that our words are never neutral. They can work either for good or bad. They can either encourage or put us down; they can either subjugate or set us free. Take these commonly use phrases in many of our conversations: “You are good for nothing;” “I am so stupid;” “S/he is awful.” You never find such words on the lips of Jesus. To the prostitute, he said: “I don’t condemn you. Go now and live your life without sin” (John 8:11
); to the tax collector, he said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5
). We have associated the preaching of repentance with strong rebuke and judgment. It can be a part of the process towards change in life. The preaching of repentance, however, is about helping people to realize that they look at life from wrong perspective. Jesus effected change in Samaritan woman by conversing with her about her situation. He began it with a simple request: “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7
). And he ended it up with the revelation of his identity: “I who speak to you am he (Messiah)” (John 4:26
). There are many other Jesus’ life-changing words recorded in the Bible, for example: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12
); “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36
); “You shall do even greater things than these” (John 14:12
); “If anyone has faith like a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20
); “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you” (Matthew 7:7
). All of them have just but one purpose: to effect change in one’s life.
Jim is the youngest in his family. He is a political science graduate from one among the top universities in the world. Happily married, and successful in his career, he is not aware that twenty eight years ago his life was being decided in one of those unnoticed conversations by a cup of coffee between his mother and her friend.
– I don’t know what to do. We are so financially stretched. This pregnancy is the last thing we need right now. How can we afford another child?
– Look! You have only two wonderful children and you are doing great. It will stay that way. Nothing will change.
– Everything will change! Where shall we find the means to support such a big family? John is already complaining that we need a new car.
– What if this child is destined for something? What if he or she will bring you blessing and perhaps fame and financial support in your old age? Did you think about it?
– No. I worry about now.
– Don’t you think that God can provide for you? Why not put faith in God and see this child as a blessing for you?
– Maybe. I still need to tell John about it. He might get mad.
– I don’t think so. I am sure, he will be happy.
Our words are never neutral. They effect change in life either for good or bad. In the case of Christians, however, the words we use should build up, encourage, strengthen, give direction and meaning. Do you know that one word or sentence can make you famous for generations to come? I am sure you are familiar with this phrase: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8
)? It was said by a Roman centurion, stationed in Capernaum during Jesus’ time. These words will always exemplify the faith we should have in Jesus. Never underestimate the power of your words.
If our words have such great impact on us and others, our actions are even more powerful. They can either harm or heal; they can either destroy or create. Jesus’ actions were always for good, recreating the broken lives of people. Yet, the striking factor of his actions was simplicity. Aside from preaching and praying, the actions that affected people the most were simple acts of care and concern: listening to people’s problems and stories of life; embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. “The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33
); “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16
); “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (Mark 1:41
); “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinner’ were eating with him and his disciples” (Mark 2:15
); “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above” (John 3:3
). These are simple actions, and yet they meant a lot for those who experienced them.
She came to the Philippines for study. The program was interesting and her classmates were friendly. One day after the class, she felt dizzy. Reaching the boarding house, she laid down on the bed, trying to rest. By evening the fever ran up to 39°C. Her roommate called for help. Many people came, deliberating whether to bring her to the hospital or not. The question was: who was going to pay the expenses? Then her classmate, a Filipina, sat by her, took out a small container and began massaging her body with oil. Another classmate of her, a Chinese, brought a small capsule of herbal medicine, and still another one, from Tonga, prepared an orange juice. In two hours, the fever was down to 38°C, and in three days, she was back in the classroom.
Our actions effect change. Jesus does not expect us to do things that are beyond our abilities. Yet, He loves to see us listening to people’s problems and stories of life, embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. Are you aware that one action can make you unforgettable for generations? The Gospel of Mark relates a story of Jesus being anointed in Bethany by an unknown woman. Many were scandalized by her action and the waste of the expensive perfume, made of pure nard. Jesus, however, gave her a promise: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9
). Don’t underestimate the influence of your actions.
“No,” the expert answered. “It is not the point. The truth that this illustration teaches us is: if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the “big rocks” in your life – time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these “big rocks” in first or you’ll never get them in at all.”
Preaching repentance, expelling demons, and healing the sick are all about making difference in the world. Our words are never neutral; our actions impact others. They outlive us in those who were influenced by what we said and did. Let us leave behind the traces of goodness, care and compassion that will affect others for life.