Archive for June 2007

Mark 10

June 18, 2007

Leaving Capernaum, Jesus crosses the Jordan into Judea. The Pharisees test Him with a question in which it is hard to see the trap: is divorce permitted?

But Jesus points out that the scripture says that husband and wife are united by marriage into one flesh. So, only a person hard of heart would separate what God had joined. In private, Jesus is even tougher. He tells His disciples that it is adultery to divorce and re-marry.

Jesus then teaches that one must become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He is irate that the disciples would stop children from being brought to Him.

Jesus then is presented with a difficult challenge. A rich man comes before him, prostrates himself, and asks Jesus, who he calls “good teacher,” what is required to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the man why he calls Jesus good, since only God is good, and reminds the man of some of the Commandments of Mosaic Law.  When the man says that he has obeyed the commandments, we are told that Jesus loved him and told him to sell his property, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. The man was saddened because he was attached to his wealth. In commenting to His disciples, Jesus gives an enigmatic reply that “all things are possible with God:” a camel can even pass through the eye of a needle.

The unfairness of this strikes the disciples. Where in the scriptures is it written that wealth alone would bar a righteous man from heaven? Even worse, they have left behind only meager estates to follow Jesus, yet Jesus commands the man who is otherwise perfect to leave his considerable wealth. How can the disciples’s sacrifice possibly be adequate?

Jesus predicts his death and how it will occur. Two brothers, James and John bar Zebedee ask to be placed at Jesus’s right and left hands in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus extracts from them the promise that they will drink from His cup and receive His baptism, but denies their request to be seated where they wish, saying in effect that God the Father provides the seating arrangements. When the other disciples get into an uproar over James’s and John’s line jumping, Jesus tells them again that the Kingdom of God will upend status as determined on Earth, such that those who wish to be great must take the lowest position on Earth.

Finally, Bartimaeus has his sight restored. He calls out to Jesus “Son of David.” Jesus says, “Call him.” In response to Jesus’s question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “I want to see.” Jesus sends him away, saying that “your faith has healed you.” So, Bartimaeus follows Jesus.

Notes
1.  With regard to the Pharisees’s question about divorce, the translation of the word used, exesti, as “lawful” seems inapt. In Acts, it is used to mean “permissible”. Also, is the “law” Mosaic law or Judean common law?  In either case, the answer would seem to be yes, though the implications are different.
2.  Notably, the commandments of which Jesus reminds the rich man are commandments of the second Tablet. Missing are the commandments of the first tablet: to worship God and not idols, to avoid using the Lord’s namely sacreligiously, to keep the Sabbath holy, and to honor one’s parents. Could this be a clue that the young man had substituted money as an idol?
3. The image Jesus presents, of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is an important insight into His mind. In His mind, size is not a fixed property, but something that is subject to divine will. A camel can become microscopic. If, with the help of God, we can will our size, how much easier should it be to let go of attachment to wealth. It is here that the mind of the child is so relevant. A small child cannot tell the difference between a penny and a dollar. Asked to choose one, he might choose the penny because he likes the sound it makes when he drops it, or he might choose the dollar because his father gave it to him. And he might drop either or both to look at a butterfly. 
4.  Jesus says that people who have left  “home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields” to follow Jesus and the gospel will  a manyfold return of “homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.”  As noted by others, He conspicuously leaves out fathers, but includes persecutions in their place. 
5.  The phrasing of James’s and John’s request is interesting. They ask Jesus to grant them whatever they want. They could be asking for eternal life or the power to bring rain to a thirsty land, but they ask instead for status. Jesus is shrewd enough to avoid the mistake Herod made, of granting a request before knowing what it is.
5. Notice that Jesus’s statement that he who wishes to be great must serve everyone is a restatement of his comment that many who are first on Earth will be last in the Kingdom of Heaven.
6.  Notice that Jesus does nothing overt to restore Bartimaeus’s sight. He tells Bartimaeus that he has healed himself though faith. This differs from other miracles and seems to signal that all human illness may be the result of lack of faith. This latter point has been a source for many of the sufferings of theodicy, the sense that God is able to relieve the suffering of the world and does not. 

Mark 10

June 18, 2007

Leaving Capernaum, Jesus crosses the Jordan into Judea. The Pharisees test Him with a question in which it is hard to see the trap: is divorce permitted?

But Jesus points out that the scripture says that husband and wife are united by marriage into one flesh. So, only a person hard of heart would separate what God had joined. In private, Jesus is even tougher. He tells His disciples that it is adultery to divorce and re-marry.

Jesus then teaches that one must become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He is irate that the disciples would stop children from being brought to Him.

Jesus then is presented with a difficult challenge. A rich man comes before him, prostrates himself, and asks Jesus, who he calls “good teacher,” what is required to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the man why he calls Jesus good, since only God is good, and reminds the man of some of the Commandments of Mosaic Law.  When the man says that he has obeyed the commandments, we are told that Jesus loved him and told him to sell his property, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. The man was saddened because he was attached to his wealth. In commenting to His disciples, Jesus gives an enigmatic reply that “all things are possible with God:” a camel can even pass through the eye of a needle.

The unfairness of this strikes the disciples. Where in the scriptures is it written that wealth alone would bar a righteous man from heaven? Even worse, they have left behind only meager estates to follow Jesus, yet Jesus commands the man who is otherwise perfect to leave his considerable wealth. How can the disciples’s sacrifice possibly be adequate?

Jesus predicts his death and how it will occur. Two brothers, James and John bar Zebedee ask to be placed at Jesus’s right and left hands in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus extracts from them the promise that they will drink from His cup and receive His baptism, but denies their request to be seated where they wish, saying in effect that God the Father provides the seating arrangements. When the other disciples get into an uproar over James’s and John’s line jumping, Jesus tells them again that the Kingdom of God will upend status as determined on Earth, such that those who wish to be great must take the lowest position on Earth.

Finally, Bartimaeus has his sight restored. He calls out to Jesus “Son of David.” Jesus says, “Call him.” In response to Jesus’s question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “I want to see.” Jesus sends him away, saying that “your faith has healed you.” So, Bartimaeus follows Jesus.
1.  With regard to the Pharisees’s question about divorce, the translation of the word used, exesti, as “lawful” seems inapt. In Acts, it is used to mean “permissible”. Also, is the “law” Mosaic law or Judean common law?  In either case, the answer would seem to be yes, though the implications are differ.
2.  Notably, the commandments of which Jesus reminds the rich man are commandments of the second Tablet. Missing are the commandments of the first tablet: to worship God and not idols, to avoid using the Lord’s namely sacreligiously, to keep the Sabbath holy, and to honor one’s parents. Could this be a clue that the young man had substituted money as an idol?
3. The image Jesus presents, of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is an important insight into His mind. In His mind, size is not a fixed property, but something that is subject to divine will. A camel can become microscopic. If, with the help of God, we can will our size, how much easier should it be to let go of attachment to wealth. It is here that the mind of the child is so relevant. A small child cannot tell the difference between a penny and a dollar. Asked to choose one, he might choose the penny because he likes the sound it makes when he drops it, or he might choose the dollar because his father gave it to him. And he might drop either or both to look at a butterfly. 
4.  Jesus says that people who have left  “home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields” to follow Jesus and the gospel will  a manyfold return of “homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.”  As noted by others, He conspicuously leaves out fathers, but includes persecutions in their place. 
5.  The phrasing of James’s and John’s request is interesting. They ask Jesus to grant them whatever they want. They could be asking for eternal life or the power to bring rain to a thirsty land, but they ask instead for status. Jesus is shrewd enough to avoid the mistake Herod made, of granting a request before knowing what it is.
5. Notice that Jesus’s statement that he who wishes to be great must serve everyone is a restatement of his comment that many who are first on Earth will be last in the Kingdom of Heaven.
6.  Notice that Jesus does nothing overt to restore Bartimaeus’s sight. He tells Bartimaeus that he has healed himself though faith. This differs from other miracles and seems to signal that all human illness may be the result of lack of faith. This latter point has been a source for many of the sufferings of theodicy, the sense that God is able to relieve the suffering of the world and does not.