Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Last Week - Chapter 8

  • Without Easter we wouldn't know about Jesus.  He would just be another dead Jew killed by the Roman Empire.  EASTER IS UTTERLY CENTRAL!
  • We have "pre understandings" about Easter.  Typically they merge the stories into one.  Often it focuses on the historical factuality of the event.  
  • The Hard Form sees every detail as a historical, literal fact.
  • The Soft Form is OK with the minor differences in the stories but there is an underlying, basic reliability to the story.
  • There is not a problem with how we see the story EXCEPT if the only question we ever ask is, "how did this event happen?"
  • The factuality question actually is a stumbling block for some.  The question needs to change from "Did this happen or not?" to "What does this mean?"
  • Arguing over whether the event could have been filmed, for example, is something that will only divide.  The goal is to set that aside and ask the next question in the line-up… What does this mean?
  • The "What does this mean?" question asks us to consider the stories as parables.  Whether they happened that way or not, there is deep truth in them so let's get to that truth!
  • "Believe whatever you want about whether the stories happened this way - now, let's talk about what the mean."  
  • Mark's Easter story is only 8 verses long!  Mark 16:1-8
  • Mark does not have an appearance story of the risen Jesus.
  • Mark's Easter ends abruptly.
  • The women go to the tomb wondering who will roll the stone away.  They see the stone is already rolled away.  The women enter the tomb, see a young man and are afraid.  He tells them not to be afraid, that Jesus who was crucified has been raised and is not here.  The women are told to go and tell that he is going to Galilee.  They left and told no one!  
  • So, what does it all mean?  Jesus was sealed in a tomb.  The tomb couldn't hold him.  Jesus is not among the dead but among the living.  Jesus has been raised which means the authority's "no" has been turned into God's "YES".  His followers are promised they will see him.  
  • Go back to Galilee could mean go back to the beginning and start the whole mission over again, walking the Jesus WAY and bringing in the Kingdom of God.  
  • Matthew has two appearance stories.  The women see him on their way back to tell the disciples and they all see him in Galilee.  
  • What does Matthew's stuff mean?
    • Jesus is given the authority.  The powers don't have authority!
    • Jesus's followers are to make disciples.  A disciple isn't a "believer" but one who follows the Jesus WAY of living.  
    • They are to teach people to OBEY not BELIEVE.  DOING is key.
    • I am with you always reminds us God is with us.  God is in control.
  • Luke has two appearance stories too.  The Emmaus Road and when the Emmaus guys get back and Jesus appears to the disciples.  Here too there is an emphasis on the "physicality" of Jesus being with us, a commissioning and promise to go to the nations and they go to Bethany where he ascends.  
  • John has four appearances.  Mary Magdalene at the tomb.  The appearance in the locked room.  The appearance with Thomas.  (There is no condemnation of Thomas.  He desires a first hand experience like the rest of the disciples had.  The "rebuke" is really just an affirmation that whether you "see" Jesus or not, those who believe are also blessed.  The last appearance is Jesus on the beach cooking fish and Peter being told to tend the sheep.  
  • Together the message is JESUS LIVES.  In a radically new way but that doesn't matter.  He is a figure of the PRESENT not just the past.  Some still experience Jesus as a living reality.  
  • Easter is God's "yes" to Jesus against the powers who killed him.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Dangerous Opportunity

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 12th Chapter
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

The Greek brothers, Nick, Gus and Nick pulled into town along with everybody else and their mother!  The traffic was terrible.  They, like everyone else, had come to Jerusalem for Passover.  They, UNLIKE everyone else, stood out as very different.  They were Greeks, not Jews, but they weren’t like most Greeks either.  Nick, Gus and Nick were what the Jewish people called “God-fearers.”  They were faithful followers of the Jewish faith but no matter how well they followed the Torah, Nick, Gus and Nick could never be REAL Jews... never be REAL children of God, because they were not BORN as Jews and THAT... was THAT. 

But recently, word had reached the three that there was a man who was teaching with authority, a man who was doing great signs, a man who some thought might be the promised Messiah.  Nick, Gus and Nick wanted to see this man.  Not just to set their eyeballs on him, but really SEE him... to get to know WHO and WHOSE he was... because if this man WAS the Messiah, HE would have the power to change everything.... to make them children of God.

Nick, Gus and Nick arrived in Jerusalem at THE moment.  The Greek word that is translated as “judgement” in this text is “kresis.”  It’s a word that means something different than simply a “yes or no” judgement and in spite of sounding like the English word “crisis” it doesn’t have those same negative connotations.  What was happening in Jerusalem was more like the two Chinese characters that come together and get translated into English as “crisis”... which are the characters for DANGER and OPPORTUNITY.   This moment in which Nick and Gus and Nick came to town, was the moment God had taken the OPPORTUNITY to do the DANGEROUS work of transfiguring, changing and healing all of creation. 

That dangerous opportunity that God was beginning meant that it was dangerous for Nick, Gus and Nick as well.  Not everyone thought Jesus was the Messiah.  Some thought he was a leader of a growing terrorist group and that made Jesus a dangerous person to be around.  But for them it was worth the danger... THIS was their opportunity... maybe their only opportunity... to become Children of God.  So, in spite of the danger, these Greeks wanted to really SEE Jesus.

Of course this was also a dangerous time for Jesus.  This “kresis” was not just some random moment.  In John’s Gospel, everything had been pointing to this moment.  From the wedding in Cana when Jesus told his mother that his hour had not yet come... THIS was the HOUR he had been talking about.  This was THE moment and THIS kind of moment isn’t one that simply begins and ends.  THIS is a particular kind of moment that starts and then ripples out from that point throughout all of time and through all of creation.  The particular Greek grammar here makes it clear...This was to be the moment God turned the world upside down and THEN, the implications of that turning would continue to ripple out and continue to change everything... even for us, even here, even today.  

Changing everything though, isn’t easy.  It’s dangerous.  The world doesn’t generally like change... we don’t like change... even when that change comes from God... even when that change means new life.  Because change means that former ways must die so that the new ways might begin and former ways hardly ever go quietly into that good night.  So even in John’s Gospel where Jesus seems most in control, this is no waltz to a finish line and we see the humanity of Jesus when he says that his soul is troubled.  Even for Jesus... change was hard.   

The thing for us to understand, is that the hour that began then, when the Greek Brothers came to town... that hour, that moment, that kresis, that dangerous opportunity from way back then is actually the VERY SAME hour, moment, kresis, and dangerous opportunity in which we live in today... right here...right now.  What began then is still rippling out into our lives now... right here in this spot!  We too have the same dangerous opportunity the Greek Brothers had then.  We too have the dangerous opportunity to really SEE Jesus! 

But before you get all excited, I have to warn you... SEEING Jesus is not the same as HEARING about Jesus.  You may have HEARD that Jesus is the light of the world, a light that shines into every darkness.  You may have HEARD that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You may have HEARD all of that; you may even have heard it in a clap of mysterious thunder.  BUT to SEE Jesus means that all we have grown comfortable with will be lifted up with him and crucified to make room for a very new and different life which God has in mind for us.  So the question for us is, are we ready for more than simply HEARING about Jesus or intellectually agreeing to a list of doctrines ABOUT Jesus?  Are we ready, here and now, to really SEE Jesus?   Because SEEING Jesus means agreeing to let go of the need to be in control and live in that uncomfortable in-between sort of time while God transforms us from what we were into the Children of God we are called to be... it means living in a world that is under construction... changing from the way it is, into the Kingdom of God.

That was exactly what the Greek Brothers were looking for THAT day and THAT is the opportunity we have been given THIS day; the opportunity to SEE Jesus.  And by God’s grace it is also the opportunity we will have tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next and the next until the day when finally, ALL are drawn to Jesus.  The HOUR came when Nick and Gus and Nick came to Jerusalem.  Paradoxically that same hour is still here today for us.  The moment of our salvation came 2000 years ago.  That moment is paradoxically still here. 

So, what do you say, my Greek brothers and sisters from other mothers... Are we ready to ask to SEE Jesus?  Are we ready to dive into this dangerous opportunity?  Are we ready to choose to live in that awkward spot in between what was and what will be?  Are we ready to REALLY trust God that on the other side of the death of all that we know, there really is a new and abundant life?  So, are you ready to SEE Jesus?  Amen. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Last Week - Notes on Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 6

  • Good Friday carries all of the theological pre understandings of centuries of Christian observance.  
  • The most familiar understanding is that Jesus died for the sins of the world.  This is a "substitutionary sacrificial" understanding.
    • This understanding means we are all sinners.
    • For forgiveness a substitutionary sacrifice must be offered.
    • An ordinary human would be inadequate, therefore a perfect human is required.
    • This understanding is "assumed" to be the "official" or "orthodox" understanding.  
    • This understanding is NOT the only understanding and is found in a book written by St. Anselm in 1097.
  • Sacrificial language is used in the New Testament but not exclusively.  A number of other metaphors are also used to explain what happened.    
  • In Mark's Gospel the substitutionary sacrificial understanding is NOT present.  
  • We often hear the story of Jesus's death as a composite of all the Gospels (as we do with the Christmas story)
  • Because we've heard it one way for a long time it takes significant effort to hear how Mark tells the story without the influence of the rest of the New Testament. 
  • Paul is the earliest author.  His letters are NOT narratives and do not include a story of Good Friday.  Since Paul's accounts are interpretations, there are no "uninterpreted" accounts of Jesus's death.
  • Mark's narrative combines retrospective interpretation with history remembered.  
  • Mark 15:1-21
  • The collaborators (priests, elders, scribes) hand Jesus over to Pilate, the local representative of the empire.  The collaborators remain present.
  • Pilate asks, "Are YOU King of the Jews?"  Jesus replies with equal mocking, "YOU say so."
  • Pilate asks again and Jesus refuses to answer.  This is contempt for the authority.  Jesus does not speak again until "My God, My God…" 
  • The scene with Pilate offering to release Barabbas follows.  "The crowd" stirred up by the collaborators are certainly a "manufactured" crowd provided by the collaborators.  
  • Barabbas provides a counterpoint to Jesus.  Both are revolutionaries but one is violent and the other is not.  In Mark's time, the people had chosen violence.  They had chosen the way of Barabbas.  
  • Jesus is tortured.  The process of crucifixion is a political statement by the empire.  Imperial terrorism to be a deterrent.  He is required to carry the cross bar.  
  • Mark 15:22-32
  • Mark is to the point with the crucifixion.  Mark's audience would be very familiar with the details.  
  • The label "King of the Jews" was meant to mock as well.  Rome has power to execute your king.  
  • Jesus was crucified between two bandits.  "Bandits" are either terrorists or freedom fighters depending on your point of view.  Ordinary criminals were not crucified.  
  • Mark 15:33
  • The darkness was metaphor, not an eclipse.  There were no eclipses then.
  • Mark 15:34-41
  • Jesus's words are "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" which is a quote from Psalm 22. 
  • The curtain being torn is a metaphor as well.  Both darkness and curtain are a sign of judgement on the collaborators.  The curtain being torn is also an affirmation that access to God is now open to all.  
  • The soldier is the first human in all of Mark's gospel to call Jesus "God's Son."  Not even Jesus's followers called him that but NOW a representative of Rome declares that Jesus IS God's Son and by implication, Caesar is NOT. 
  • The women present remind us again that the men were absent.  Jesus and the early church gave women an identity that was not typical of the time in both Jewish and Gentile contexts. 
  • Mark 15:42-47
  • Jesus's body being removed is unusual.  Normally the body would be left as a warning and so there was nothing left to bury.  
  • Understanding Jesus's death as sacrifice… We can understand his death as a sacrifice as in a person who sacrifices his life for his passion… the Kingdom of God.  (Like a firefighter, soldier, MLK or Ghandi)
  • Sacrifice as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin is NOT a part of Mark's Gospel. 
  • In Mark 10:45 there is a reference to Jesus "giving his life as a ransom for many."  "Ransom" is a Greek word which refers to liberation from bondage.  In context, Jesus was advocating a life of service which would lead his followers to liberation. 
  • Mark understands Jesus's death as an execution by the authorities because of his challenge to the domination system.  Mark understands Jesus's death as a judgement on the collaborators.  Judgement is show as darkness and the torn curtain and judgement is further pronounced by the centurion who says that Jesus is God's Son and not the emperor.  
  • Prediction and Fulfillment.  Many of us have heard the link between Old Testament prophecies and what happened with Jesus.  We were told this both was God's "plan" and proved Scripture's authority.  
  • Scholarship shows that this is not the case.  Instead, early Christians used the texts they knew to connect what they saw happening with their tradition.  This is called "historizing" which is using an older passage in a newer story to make a connection.
  • Psalm 22 therefore is a known passage that is used to interpret Jesus's death.  It is a prayer of deliverance and so places Jesus's death into that context of hope for vindication.  Good Friday is not complete without Easter!  
  • Did God make this happen?  Just because we can see the good that came from this event, does not mean that it was God's will.  It is never the will of God that a righteous man be crucified.  It did not "have" to happen, but it was virtually inevitable, not because of divine will, but because that is what domination systems do to people who challenge them.  
  • It happened to John the Baptist, to Jesus, and then will happen to Paul, Peter and James.  
  • Jesus was not simply a victim though.  He was a protagonist with a passion for justice… for God's justice which came with the Kingdom of God. 
  • Jesus's passion for the kingdom of God led to what is called his passion, his suffering and death.  
  • Good Friday did not have to happen as Divine necessity.  As human inevitability it did since his passion collided with "normal" civilization.  "Civilization" had made injustice "normal" and that system killed Jesus.  
  • Mark says Jesus was guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration.  His final week was a sequence of public demonstrations and confrontations with the domination system and THAT is what killed him.  
Chapter 7

  • Mark says nothing about Saturday.  So what was happening on Saturday?
  • Mark was working within a Jewish tradition that vindicated martyrs.  In this tradition the faithful who had died would be either saved from death (like Daniel in the lion's den) or would be vindicated after death.  
  • Of course, since Jesus died, Mark was working with the "after death" version.  
  • In this understanding the "end times" were not the end of the world but the end of the time when the world was ruled by evil, violence and injustice.  It is NOT about the evacuation of the world for heaven but divine transfiguration of the God's world here.  
  • That world would be abundant with enough food for all, contain a vegetarian harmony and warless peace.  
  • The General Resurrection would bring the faithful back to live in that transfigured reality.  
  • Mark believed that the Kingdom of God was already here!  God's Great Cleanup had started already!  
  • The imagery of this new world is seen in Story, Hymns and Images.  Lions lying down with lambs, children and asps together etc. In 1 Peter in hymns and in Images such as icons that show Jesus breaking out of hell and pulling others out with him.  "The harrowing of hell"  
  • For Mark, the Kingdom of God has already begun, the Son of Man has arrived already and the bodily resurrection has already begun.  
  • For Mark, Jesus as Son of Man has been given the anti-imperial kingdom of God to bring to earth for God's people, for all those willing to enter it or take it upon themselves. 
  • Because this has already begun but is not yet complete, it is to be understood as a COLLABORATIVE effort.  It is not an instant divine flash, but a joint project between us and God.  It is not us without God, or God without us.  It is not that we wait for God, but that God waits for us.  That is why, from one end of Mark to the other, Jesus does not travel alone, but always, always with those companions who represent us all, the named ones who fail him and the unnamed ones who do not.  (Mark hopes that those unnamed ones will be US!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Last Week - Notes on Chapter 5

Chapter 5

  • Mark 14: 12-16
  • Holy Thursday is full of drama.  Final meal, praying for deliverance, betrayal by Judas, denied by Peter, abandoned by disciples, arrested, interrogated and condemned to death by the high priest. 
  • REMINDER - Mark's Gospel (and Matthew and Luke who follow Mark) differs from John's.  In Mark the meal is the Passover meal.  In John Passover is on Friday so Jesus is new Passover lamb.  In John foot washing and the commandment to "love one another" is the focus, while in Mark it is Eucharist.  
  • The preparation of the Passover meal reminds us of the preparations for Palm Sunday.  Jesus sends two disciples so Judas can't betray the location of the Last Supper.  Jesus knows what is happening. This doesn't have to be supernatural.  He's been hitting a hornet's nest and expects to be stung.
  • Mark 14: 17-25
  • There are four meanings of the Last Supper outlined in the book.
  • First it's about FOOD.  Eating was Jesus way to be inclusive, but also about about real food and making sure everyone has enough in a world of God's justice.
  • Second, it echoes the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  The verbs, took, blessed, broke, gave appear in both places.  The difference between Jesus and the disciples is clear.  The disciples want to tell the people to feed themselves.  Jesus wants the disciples to feed the people.  THEN Jesus walks the disciples through the process so they participate in Jesus's solution.  The food present is food enough when passed through Jesus's hands of divine justice.  
  • Third, this is a Passover meal which was the Last Supper in Egypt and the first supper of freedom.  NOTE:  This meal was protection from death and food for the journey, NOT something about sin, substitution or atonement.  
  • Fourth, this is about the Body and Blood and the Death of Jesus.  Standing up for Divine justice in a world that is not interested in that will get your blood violently separated from your body.  Again, this is NOT about suffering or substitution but about participation with Jesus in dying to the "normal" way of human domination and rising to the servant life of human transcendence.  
  • "The Last Supper is about bread for the world, God's justice agains human injustice, a New Passover from bonding to liberation, and a participation in the path that leads through death to new life."  
  • Mark 14: 26-52
  • Jesus's prayer in the garden used Abba for God, the familiar Aramaic word that translates better as "papa" suggesting Jesus's intimate connection with God.  
  • He prays (not surprisingly) to not go through what is coming.  His prayer ends NOT as a fatalistic resignation to the will of God but a trusting in God in the miss of the most dire time.  
  • The arresting group in Mark is the Temple police.  More than just police but not quite an army.  John has 600 imperial troops.  
  • One of Jesus's disciples draws a sword.  Is this more failed discipleship?  In other Gospels more details are added, but in all Jesus denounces violence.  
  • Again, contrasting Mark with John is interesting.  In Mark, Jesus is very human while in John Jesus is in charge of everything.  
  • Note how Mark handles the disciples here.  Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies Jesus and the rest flee and are not heard from again until Easter!  
  • The disciples are all restored to relationship and community by Jesus.  If Judas hadn't died, could he have been too?  
  • Mark 14: 53-65
  • Jesus's trial has become a place where historically people have come to blame "the Jews" but we need to remember:  No followers of Jesus were at his trial.  This may have not been a legal trial but an informal hearing of the collaborators AND these authorities did not represent the Jewish people but the collaborators with the Roman government.  
  • The first stage centers on accusations that Jesus would destroy the Temple and build it up again.  These were not answered by Jesus and the witnesses didn't agree.
  • The second stage the high priest went to get a confession from Jesus that he had claimed to be the Son of God.  REMEMBER in Mark, Jesus's mission is about the Kingdom of God and not about himself.  His response is translated as "I am" but in Greek it could also be "Am I?" which is reflected in the other Gospels which record "You say that I am." etc. 
  • Jesus is convicted on a post-Easter idea, that Jesus is the Son of God… the Messiah.  
  • Jesus's further response about "the Son of Man" are quotes from Daniel which talk about restoring the world to God's ways. 
  • Perhaps Mark chose to use "Son of Man" because the title "Messiah" had the violent liberation of Israel associated with it and that was not what Jesus was about.  
  • In Daniel, the empires of humans are symbolized by beasts while the empire of God is ruled by a human.  Empires that oppress people are like beasts while the Kingdom of God is a positive kingdom not ruled by a beast but by the Son of Man.  
  • For Mark, the Kingdom has yet to be revealed in power and glory but is already here in service and humility.  It's presence is known NOW only through faith but one day it will be known by sight too!  Mark thought that would happen "within that generation" but he seems to have been off by just a little.  
  • The third stage of the trial was the verdict and beginning of physical suffering.  Jesus will be given to Pilate in the morning.  
  • Peter's denial takes place as another one of Mark's frames.  Peter follows Jesus to the high priests house is the first story.  Jesus being questioned and confessing his identity as Son of Man is the interrupting story.  Then Peter being questioned and denying Jesus is the end of the frame.  
  • This one is obvious.  Jesus is questioned and confesses while Peter is questioned and denies him.  Important though, is that readers of this will note that for those disciples who do like Jesus there is praise.  BUT for those who do like Peter there is grace in repentance and forgiveness and FINALLY, the WORST sin is not denial or betrayal of Jesus.  "The worst sin is despair - the loss of faith that repentance will always, always obtain forgiveness.  Had Judas broken down, wept and repented, he too would have been forgiven.  But although Peter reappears in Mark, Judas never does." 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Last Week - Notes on Chapters 3 & 4

Tuesday - Mark 11:27 - 13:37

  • This one day covers three chapters
  • The authorities challenge Jesus attempting to entrap him or discredit him with the crowds.  Remember, the crowds are still with Jesus from Palm Sunday.  
  • The first approach was the "direct approach" and they asked "By what authority are you doing these things" meaning Sunday and Monday's events.  
  • Jesus chooses to respond by asking them a question about John the Baptist which traps the authorities and he refuses to answer their question, and as a bonus makes them look foolish.
  • The next confrontation has Jesus telling the parable of the Wicked Tenants, or Greedy Tenants.
  • Often this parable is interpreted with Christ as the son, but the main focus is to get them to realize that THEY are the greedy tenants, taking advantage of people through the domination system.  
  • The tenants aren't Israel (Jesus is not mad at "the Jews") The vineyard is Israel and again the trouble is the greedy want to keep the "fruit" all to themselves.  
  • The next confrontation ends with "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
  • We've grown to assume this is a separation of church and state BUT IT ISN'T.  
  • The players here are Pharisees who are SUPER strict and want much more intense religious practice.  The Herodians were supporters of the royal family and that system.  They ask "should we pay our taxes or not?"
  • Even then, people didn't like taxes.  Here the taxes included a tax tribute that went to Rome.  It was a reminder that they were not in charge of their own lives.  The trap was that if Jesus said, "Pay your taxes" the people would not like it because they don't like taxes.  If Jesus said "Don't pay" then the Romans could arrest him for rebellion.  
  • Jesus responds with a trap of his own.  He asks to see a Roman coin.  They produce one and in THAT moment they are discredited.  The coin has the Emperor's image (a graven image) AND his title of son of god written on it.  Good Jews simply would not touch a coin like this, but they had one!  They are exposed as part of the corrupt system. 
  • The second part of his response is also masterful. By saying "give to Caesar that which is Caesars and to God, that which is God" he avoids the trap on the Roman side, BUT reminds all the Jews of the countless passages that tell us "The earth is the Lord's a lll the fullness thereof" Ps. 24:1
  • Give to God, that which is God's means God gets EVERYTHING!
  • The next confrontation was from the Sadducees.  Wealthy and powerful and part of the lay-nobility. They only accepted the Law (not the prophets) which was convenient since the prophets would indict them for their greed.  Also, they did not believe in the afterlife.  The afterlife was a relatively new idea at this time.  200 years old. 
  • They looked to use this difference to entrap Jesus.  Jesus simply avoids the trap as before.  
  • Second, Jesus reminds us that his mission is NOT primarily about an afterlife for anyone, but is about a transformation of THIS world NOW. 
  • The next encounter is not a conflict.  "Which commandment is the greatest" is a typical question for a rabbi.  Jesus responds with "Love God" from Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and "Love neighbor" from Leviticus 19:18.  To love God means to give God everything (and not give any of it to Caesar) To love neighbor means to refuse to accept the divisions such as respected/marginalized, righteous/sinner, rich/poor, friend/enemy, Jew/Gentile.  
  • This interlude reminds us not ALL scribes were against Jesus.  Life was not black and white then any more than it is now.  
  • This encounter ends with Jesus saying the scribe is "not far from the Kingdom of God" which is to say he gets the idea, but isn't there yet.  To be IN the Kingdom, you have to LIVE it!
  • The next section challenges scribal teaching about the Son of David.  This could be a biological heir OR someone who would rule like David.  Jesus teaches that the Messiah would be "like" David in that the rule would be just and peace filled, but MORE than David… David perfected.  
  • The end of this section concerns the widow's mite. The widow becomes the model of discipleship:  She gave ALL she had.  The alternative interpretation is that it is shameful of the domination system to get widows to give all they have to support the corruption.  Either way, greed comes out as bad.  
  • The next section concerns the Temple building.  His prediction of destruction mirrors Jeremiah's and like Jeremiah's is NOT a judgement about Judaism, but against the corruption in the "den of robbers."  
  • The next section is called "The Little Apocalypse" with the "big" one being Revelation.  
  • This section seeks to explain what was happening in Mark's time.  Rome put down the rebellion and offered a sacrifice to Caesar in the Temple.  
  • The rebellion but Jesus' followers in the middle.  They opposed Rome but were committed to non-violence so they were mistrusted by both groups.  
  • Mark expected (like Paul) Jesus to return ANY MINUTE and all the turmoil was an indication that it was going to be soon.  Mark was writing this to help the people be strong and live out the faith in spite of the hardships. 
Wednesday   Mark 14:1-11

  • Wednesday starts with another Markan frame.  The Chief Priests and scribes were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  Into that story is inserted the story of the woman who anoints Jesus and then the first story concludes with the authorities finding a way to kill Jesus.
  • Important to remember the authorities couldn't get Jesus in public.  He was so popular with the people they couldn't get him openly.  The Jewish population wasn't against Jesus. 
  • The authorities were against Jesus because he was a threat to their authority AND because the Romans might destroy everything if any Jewish person started attracting too much attention.  
  • John the Baptist was killed NOT because of his message but because of the crowds he attracted.  
  • The previous three days they have TRIED to trap Jesus but it didn't work.  Their only option now is to get him apart from the crowd.  They need a traitor.  
  • The time of Lent in Mark's Gospel takes Jesus and the disciples from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem.  On THE WAY there, the idea is for the disciples to become prepared for them to join Jesus in a death and resurrection transformation.  (Perhaps literally but certainly metaphorically for the disciples)  The disciples DON'T get it.  
  • In Mark's Gospel the disciples fail miserably!  
  • To illustrate their failure Mark uses another frame with healing the blind on each end of the journey. The take-home message is that while these blind people now see, the disciples still do not.  
  • When they seem to get it, like Peter confessing Jesus as the Messiah, they only get it partially.  They think it is to be Messiah THEIR way (military might etc. or heaven) They miss that Jesus is about transformation of the world/political system.
  • Jesus proposes death and resurrection for a Lenten journey, not simply giving up chocolate.  Jesus invited the disciples then and us disciples now to join him in his death and resurrection, not just watch.  
  • THE WAY leads to death and resurrection, so not following all of The Way means an incomplete disciple's journey.  REMINDER - based on Sunday and Monday's protests, the invitation is to stand up non-violently to anyone who uses violence and anyone who establishes injustice on an earth that belongs to a God of justice. 
  • Again, the disciples are called to (not necessarily a literal) death and resurrection.  To JOIN Jesus.  NOT for Jesus to do it for them.  
  • Therefore it is about PARTICIPATION WITH JESUS, NOT SUBSTITUTION BY JESUS.  Jesus does not pay the price for us to appease an angry or offended God.  That concept simply isn't in the text.
  • At the end of this day, Mark gives us a POSITIVE example of discipleship to contrast all the negative.  The unnamed woman who anoints Jesus is the first Christian.  She believed before the tomb was empty.  
  • Her actions also make her a model for Christian leadership.  She is the servant, slave, child AND is unnamed!  She is the model because she gives ALL she has.  The ointment would cost about $25,000 in today's money.
  • Judas is the exact opposite of a model disciple, but notice, in Mark, Judas remains part of the twelve.  The difference is that he acts on his displeasure with Jesus's call for a discipleship of death and resurrection to change Jesus course of action.  HOWEVER, none of the other disciples thought Jesus was doing it right either.