As Jesus progresses through His final week the conflict with the religious leaders intensifies. Jesus’ responses to the religious leaders questions that are meant to trap Him become more and more direct and reveal the reality that not all who witness lives of sacrifice for the glory of God will rejoice and celebrate. Yet, Mark also drives home the truth that God will remember and empower those who live sacrificially for Him.
Jesus’ teaching on purity and impurity were a shock and an outrage to the religious leaders and a source of confusion for the crowds and the disciples. After years of emphasis on the external traditions of ritual washings meant to guide God’s people in how to live out the holiness, the traditions had taken the place of Scripture and at some points, actually contradicting the commands of God. Jesus therefore brings the people back to the heart of the issue, that purity and impurity are determined by what is going on in the heart rather than by anything external.
The wonders of modern medicine never cease to amaze, neither does the depth of human vanity. The combination of the two has turned into a booming business in which anything we want nipped, tucked, tweaked, or enhanced is medically possible. It is literally possible with the right amount of money or the right insurance to transform oneself into someone else. Gone are the days of merely dressing like a favorite celebrity, now one can actually have someone else’s nose or cheeks or even their whole face. Nothing is sacred in the universe of plastic surgery, whatever identity we desire to portray on the outside can come true.
Few of us would argue there have been many good things that have resulted from cosmetic surgery. Every now and then stories emerge of individuals whose lives have been riddled with ridicule and abuse because of physical appearance who are set free from their prison by the masterful hand of a surgeon. And yet moderation does not appear to be the soup du jour when it comes to cosmetics.
The world of cosmetic surgery is really kind of like a parable for the rest of our lives. We live among a people who have mastered the art of portraying one thing on the outside while being something entirely different on the inside. Walk into any retail establishment and pass by an acquaintance and the likely dialogue that ensues will reflect something of the following. “Hi so and so, how are things going?” “Just fine, and you.” “Oh, just fine.” All the while we slap on a smile and a happy voice to finish off the masquerade. ‘Good’ and ‘fine’ are words that are vanilla enough that we can get away with saying them regardless of how things are really going.
I’m not advocating that every person we pass in the grocery store who says ‘hello’ should receive a dump truck load of our troubles or that we even need to provide full disclosure of our life and times to every person we call ‘friend.’ But is that really the issue at hand? There are those who struggle more with knowing when to hold their tongue and not verbally vomit all over those around them but I would dare say that is not the diagnosis for most of us. Most of us are master cosmetic surgeons who have skillfully crafted an external shell that reveals to the outside world exactly what we want them to see in order to subtly manipulate their perception of who we want them to think we are. Is that a mouthful or what? The bottom line is we want everyone to think we have got it all together when in reality there is not one of us on the planet who can concede that claim to fame. It’s almost humorous when you think about the fact that deep down inside we know that no one really has it all together and yet we still find ourselves regularly stepping into our super suit in hopes that our secret identity will be protected and our façade will hold up for just one more day, for everyone including ourselves.
The moral is that in the end we end up, in the words of the musical artists Casting Crowns “Happy plastic people…with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain,” and the cruel joke is on us because everyone will see right through our veneer in the end. Maybe we’re not as good at cosmetic surgery as we originally believed. Even if we do happen to be masters of disguise and end up fooling everyone around us we still end up the most pitied of all, stuck in a prison of our own making whose walls get thicker and thicker with each passing day of successful deception to the point that even we can no longer discern fantasy from reality. Maybe it’s time we start concerning ourselves more with the real us and the nipping, tucking, tweaking and enhancing of the heart and quit expending such massive amounts of effort on a false front that will sag with age and leave us nothing more than a plastic replica of someone or something else who is nothing more than a plastic replica of someone or something else, who is nothing more than a plastic replica of someone or something else, who is…I think you get the point.