Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Mitch Reads... Mark 10
Jesus continues into Judea beyond the Jordan River. Crowds continue to gather and, as is his custom, Jesus teaches them. It's what he does. It's his thing. He teaches. And he eats.
Yet again, Pharisees come to stir up trouble. They ask Jesus tricky questions to try to entrap him or make him stumble. This time they ask if divorce is okay. Jesus replies that Moses allowed for divorce because people were going to do it anyway. But originally God intended marriage to be lifelong. He then adds that remarriage after a divorce constitutes adultery.
Now, this obviously causes problems if we take it at face value. Do you know any Christians that are divorced? Any that are remarried? Should we call them out for being terrible, terrible, sinners? Only if you're a big jerk, you jerky jerk-face, you. I'm going to fall back yet again on the idea that Jesus is employing exaggeration and hyperbole. Sure, the ideal is that marriage is wonderful and lasts forever. But surely even Jesus was aware of the nuanced complications that can arise in any relationship. Should a woman in an abusive relationship be required to say with her husband even though it's detrimental to her physical and mental well-being? Should a man in a Gone Girl scenario not escape the manipulative, psychotic woman he's married to? And if they should separate in order to seek safety, should they also refrain from ever seeking romantic happiness and fulfillment again?
Is this what Jesus is saying, or is he bombastically spouting the ideal? Perhaps he is assigning a trajectory for us to strive for instead of a non-negotiable line that shall never be crossed. Maybe I have fallen off the boat and washed ashore on Heretic Island. That's...not a real place?
Also, where do concubines fit into this idea of Biblical marriage?
Next, the disciples are preventing little kids from bugging Jesus. Good move, disciples. However, Jesus sees it otherwise and says to let the children come to them, for the kingdom of God belongs to them. It's doubtful that Jesus was idealizing the innocent purity of children, though, like we might think today. No, in his day children were seen as less than people. They were among the lowest of all civilization. The kingdom doesn't belong to the pure and innocent, but to the scum of the world: the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the children.
The Rock probably just wanted those dang kids to get off his lawn.
A man comes to Jesus, calls him "good," and asks how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus' response is interesting, for he asks why the man called him "good." No one is good except God. Is Jesus insinuating that he, himself, is not good? Or is he saying that, since he is God incarnate, that yes, he is good. Maybe with the Messianic Secret, Jesus is wondering how this man knows that he is good, and therefore God? Well, Jesus, you're not exactly good at keeping that whole Messianic Secret thing a, you know, secret.
Moving on, Jesus repeats several commandments, to which the man says he has obeyed them all. So Jesus tells him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man leaves saddened and disheartened, for he had many possessions. Yeah, I would be sad too if Jesus told me to sell all my comic books. Please don't tell me to do that. They, uh, they count as theological research.
After the man leaves, Jesus exclaims to his disciples that it is terribly difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It would be easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle! Some have argued that there was a narrow gate into Jerusalem called the Needle, or the Eye of the Needle, that would have been rather difficult for a camel to squeeze through. But that seems way to practical. Have we not yet established Jesus likes his hyperbole, exaggeration, and metaphor? The idea of even attempting to fit a camel through an eye of a needle is absurd! And that sounds like exactly something Jesus would say.
The disciples ask who can be saved then? Jesus says salvation is impossible for mortals. It is only possible with God. The Rock objects that he and his fellow disciples have left everything to follow him. To this, Jesus says they will be rewarded with many things, including persecutions. He then goes on to reiterate that he will suffer and die and rise again in three days.
The Boanerges, the Thunder Twins, petition Jesus to let them sit at his right and left hand in his glory. But Jesus scoffs! They don't know what they are asking. They are thinking of holding royal positions of greatness, but to join Jesus in his glory will be to join him in his suffering. There is a comic somewhere, that I will one day find again, that juxtaposes these verses with an image of the crucifixion, and the two criminals hanging on the crosses on Jesus' right and on his left. It is a very poignant image.
Heading on to Jericho, Jesus encounters another blind man asking to be healed. Jesus simply tells the man that he is healed, and he immediately regains his sight. What the crap, Jesus? Back in chapter 8 Jesus laid hands and spit and the whole works on a blind man and his healing didn't take on the first try. But now Jesus just says that this man is healed, apparently without even touching him, and it works? Why now and not then? Are there variables or particulars involved in these cases that we are not privy to? Or do Jesus' healing powers act up sometimes like in Spider-Man 2?
Or are these questions that one is just not supposed to ask? If you need me I'll be on Heretic Island. We have shrimp. And bacon.
Thus ends the Tenth Chapter of Mark.