Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 11

Jesus continues on his mission to Jerusalem.  Stopping at Bethphage and Bethany, he sends two of the disciples ahead of him into a village to steal a colt.  If anyone questions them, they are to explain that the Lord needs it, but they will bring it back.  Sounds legit, Jesus!

So the disciples do just that, and they are asked just that, and they reply just that, and the villagers are completely fine with it.  That is one weird village.  I don't know about you, but I would lock my car if I was stopping there for a burger and a Fresca.

Then the whole crew engage in some activities that echo triumphant ceremonies of old, or reference passages from the prophets.  Jesus rides the donkey as the gathered folks throw their cloaks down for the donkey to walk on.  That sounds like a good way to ruin a perfectly good cloak and/or cape.  Would a donkey-trod cape last for six seasons and a movie?

Then there's the whole palm branches and the shouting of "Hosanna" and Jesus makes his grand, triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  So he enters Jerusalem, goes into the temple, looks around, and decides it's getting rather late.  So he leaves and heads back to Bethany for the night.  Yup, after his grand, triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus does nothing but turn around and leave the city.  Right.

But he returns the next day!  Why he couldn't have just waited until today to make his grand entrance, I do not know.  Maybe his timing for showmanship is off?  Anyway, Jesus is hungry, because of course he is, and he sees a fig tree.  With hopes of a snack, Jesus approaches the tree, only to find that there are no figs on it.  Why is this?  Well, because it is out of season, so of course there would be no figs.  Jesus finds such an excuse lacking, for the man is hungry.  So he curses the tree, declaring that it will never bear fruit again.

What the crap, Jesus?

They continue from the cursed tree on toward Jerusalem where Jesus returns to the temple.  This time he actually does something.  He stirs up a big commotion, forcibly driving out the merchants and overthrowing the tables and chairs of the money changers.

I suppose you could look at this scene several ways.  Perhaps the temple, the house of God, shouldn't be a marketplace to sell goods, such as, you know, books, dvd series, or premium coffee.  But the economy of the temple merchants was also necessary, for not everyone could bring their own sacrificial animals to the temple.  So, it was useful to all that they could acquire them at the temple.  And, with pilgrims from all over arriving, money changers would be needed to exchange foreign currencies into the right denomination.  But even necessary institutions can become corrupt and bloated, which, like the tax collectors working for the Romans, these roles had become.  The impetus for Jesus' actions were likely all of the above, as well as other nuanced reasons and prophetic symbolism that I don't fully comprehend.

And it is perfectly okay to admit that.

So, then the chief priests and scribes see this outburst and quickly conclude that, yeah, they need to do something about this guy before he gets completely out of hand and causes more trouble.  But the present crowd is enamored with Jesus' teaching, so the priests don't dare act on their concerns.  Not yet, anyway.

In the evening, Jesus and crew leave the city once again.  They return the next morning, and The Rock sees that the fig tree Jesus cursed yesterday is now all withered.  Jesus says that if you have faith in God, you can tell a mountain to move and it will move.  Did he mean this literally?  Metaphorically?  What say you, avid reader?  He then says that when you pray, make sure you forgive anyone you might hold something against, so that God may also forgive you.  Yikes, that seems pretty demanding, especially for someone like me who struggles immensely with forgiving others.  But it gets worse!  Verse 26 is not always included, but the manuscripts that do include it say that if you do not forgive others, then God will not forgive you.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm rather screwed.  Maybe I'll just choose a version that doesn't include verse 26.  Problem solved?

But, again, what the crap, Jesus?  What did that tree ever do to you?  Figs aren't even in season, of course it won't have fruit!

When he enters Jerusalem, the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, left-handed, and Albanians ask Jesus by what authority he is doing all these things.  Jesus takes out his cane shaped like a question mark and responds in a riddle, of sorts.  Riddler Jesus says he will answer them if they can answer his question first.  He asks if John's baptism was of heavenly or human origin.  The leaders confer, and finally admit that they cannot answer the question.  If they say "from heaven," then they will open themselves up to condemnation for not believing John.  If they say "human origin," then the crowd, that adored John, might turn into an unruly mob and attack them.  Since they cannot answer Jesus, Jesus says that he will not answer them.

Yeah, Jesus was definitely The Riddler.

Thus ends the Eleventh Chapter of Mark.

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