Monday, January 25, 2010


Mark 10-12

In chapter 10, Jesus is teaching when the Pharisees ask him about divorce.  He asks them what Moses had said, to which they replied that a man could divorce his wife.  Jesus quotes Genesis (1:27) that "in the beginning, God made them male and female" and that they "will become one flesh (Gen 2:24)."  For this reason, "what God has joined together, let man not separate."

His disciples try to keep children away from him, but he rebuked them, saying that "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  A rich young man asked what he could do to enter the kingdom of heaven and Jesus told him to sell all his goods and give away his wealth, and follow Jesus.  When the young man was saddened, Jesus lamented to his disciples how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.  When the disciples wondered "who then can be saved?" Jesus responded that "with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." 

James and John asked to set at Jesus' right and left hand "in your glory."  Jesus told them that those places belonged "to those for whom they have been prepared."  The other apostles were indignant with James and John, but Jesus told them that "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant...for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  He healed a blind man, Bartimeus, and told him that his faith had healed him.

Chapter 11 tells of Palm Sunday and Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem.  He told his disciples that there was a house with a colt tied there, and tells them to bring it.  They brought it to him and threw their cloaks over it and he sat on it.  Some people spread their cloaks on the road while others spread branches.  The crowd around him shouted "Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  He entered the city and went to the temple, but it was empty, so he went to Bethany with the apostles.  In the morning, on the way back to the city, he cursed a fig tree, then went to the temple, where he cleared out the money-lenders and merchants who were profiting from the rituals of God's house.  Mark suggests that this was the last straw for the chief priests and they "began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."  On their way back to Bethany, they saw that the fig tree he had cursed had already withered on the spot.  The next day, the chief priests challenged him on whose authority he was acting.  He asked them, on whose authority did John act?  Fearing either answer, they said that they did not know, and Jesus said "neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

In chapter 12 he tells his disciples the parable of the tenants.  The landowner kept sending representatives to the tenants to collect the rent, but they abused and killed the messengers.  Finally, he sent his son, but "they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard."  The chief priests and elders "knew he had spoken the parable against them."  Some of the Pharisees asked about paying taxes, and he pointed out Caesar's image on the coins and said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."  He explained to his disciples that in heaven, there is no marriage and that all "will be like the angels."  And he told them that the most important commandment was "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and the second was to "Love your neighbor as yourself."

While teaching, Jesus asked why the "teachers of the law" say that the Christ is the son of David.  Jesus said that "David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"  And he criticized the "teachers of the law" for their affection for the trappings of their office.  He then talked about the generosity of a poor widow who "gave out of her poverty," while others "gave out of their wealth."  Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others."

Thoughts, questions, issues
  • Chapter 10 continues with the Markan parallel to the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5-7.
  • There's a line in the story of the rich young man that I've never noticed before.  He tells Jesus that all of his life he has followed the commandments and then "Jesus looked at him and loved him."  It was at that point that, loving him, he tells him how to "inherit eternal life." 
  • It seems to me that chapter 10 is striking in its summary of the Gospel message.  The children, the rich man, the request of James and John and Jesus' response to them - all of these stories are focused on one of the key messages of the Gospel - there is no way for a man to earn his way in to heaven.  The grace and mercy of God are bestowed upon us as a gift, like our lives themselves, if we are only willing to humble ourselves to God's will and accept them.  We must accept them as little children, and not be so attached to the riches of this world, either in material wealth or status.  And we cannot do it by ourselves.  "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
  • One of the arguments made by people who actively speak or preach or talk against historical Christianity is that the belief in Jesus as the son of God is a late corruption of what he said.  That Paul changed the movement and distorted it, that Jesus had never claimed to be anything other than a man.  But here in chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel, which was certainly written within the first or second generation after the crucifixion and resurrection, we have Jesus saying that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  That is the essential message, the one that Paul spread around the Mediterranean basin.
  • "Hosanna" is apparently a Hebrew word meaning "Save."  Obviously, since then it has been a word of praise.
  • The story of the fig tree is one of those hard stories - what do we do with it?  Yes, the tree had no figs, but Mark explicitly says that it isn't the season for figs.  Yet Jesus curses the tree anyway.  Daniel Harrell preached on this chapter last April (audio), for anyone that wants more about it than I'm going to give you.  Basically, Daniel's take is that the fig tree is another parable.  It represents the forthcoming destruction of the temple, and echoes back to Jeremiah.  Note that the story of the fig tree surrounds the story of the cleansing of the temple.  So that seems to make some sense as an object lesson.  There must be some motive, else it makes no sense and is destruction for the sake of destruction.  That's not the way we think about Jesus' mission here.
  • I don't remember ever before noticing verses 12:35-36, either.  Nor do I really understand them.  Obviously, the teaching was that the Christ would be a son of David, and Jesus seems to be mocking, or at least refuting, that claim.  Yet we still consider that Jesus was of "the house and lineage of David."  The "stem of Jesse's rod."  True, Jesus' is God, not David, not Joseph.  But if Jesus taught this in Mark's gospel, why do we still think about the prophecies in those terms?

Proverbs 15:1-17

There are several verses in this set which focus on the contrast between human pleasures which result from good vs. bad, moral vs. immoral behaviors.  And in all them, there is the implication that God is observing, and that makes a difference.
3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
       keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

 6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
       but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.

 8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
       but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

 15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
       but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

 16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD
       than great wealth with turmoil.

 17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
       than a fattened calf with hatred.

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