Friday, June 19, 2015
Mitch Reads... Mark 12
Then Jesus tells a parable about a very stupid man. The man plants a vineyard and constructs all the buildings around that are necessary. Then he leases it to tenants and moves away, as rich men tend to do. When the time comes, he sends a slave back to the vineyard to to collect his rent and portion of the profits. But the tenants say, "screw this!" and beat the slave and send him back empty handed. The man sends another slave, and the same thing happens. For some reason, the man thinks the third time is a charm, but the tenants kill that slave.
Curiously, this pattern still continues, until the only messenger the man has left alive his is own son. The man does the unthinkably stupid and sends his son, thinking that this time the tenants will be respectful. No sir, mister stupid man. The tenants kill the son, because of course they would. So what will the man do? Jesus says he will come to the vineyard himself, presumably with an army or something, and destroy all the tenants and give the vineyard to someone else.
The chief priests realize that Jesus is telling this parable against them. They are the tenants, and God is the stupid man. Maybe I shouldn't have been referring to him as the stupid man this whole time, then. Anyway, the priests and elders are understandably mad, but they also fear the crowd that is loving everything Jesus teaches.
They then send some Pharisees to test him, asking if people should pay taxes to Rome. Jesus is no fool and realizes this is a test. He asks for a coin and asks whose image is on it. Caesar is on the coin, and Jesus replies that one should give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but, tripping everybody up, he also adds one should give to God what is God's. In the grand scheme of things, what truly belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Plus, this is a brilliant answer that doesn't exactly answer the initial question.
Jesus the Riddler, I tell you.
Then the Sadducees come up (what, are all these different groups just waiting in line?) and ask Jesus a question about resurrection. Sadducees don't believe in a resurrection, so they ask Jesus a question that points out the absurdity of belief in a resurrection. If a man marries a woman but then dies, the woman then marries his brother. Now, suppose this happened with 7 brothers, where they all died in sequence and the woman ended up marrying every brother at one point.
First of all, I believe we would call that woman a black widow. I would think the third brother would have been very wary about marrying her. Certainly the seventh brother had noticed the pattern by the time it was his turn to wed! Clearly the woman was systematically killing all these brothers! Why this is not addressed should be the question. Instead, the Sadducees ask, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?
Jesus doesn't got bogged down in the details of this story. He simply replies they just don't understand. Marriage is something for here on earth, it won't be an issue in the resurrection. And then he goes on a little tangent about Moses and the burning bush and how God is a god of the living and not the dead.
Next in line at Prime Minister's Question Time is a scribe who asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answers that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Then, even though nobody asked him, Jesus says that the second commandment is the golden rule of loving your neighbor as yourself. None are greater than these two and the second is so intertwined in the first that you really can't fulfill the first commandment without also fulfilling the second. We display our love for God by our love for people. And, as Rabbi Hillel would say, "that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn it."
I love that line. Good one, Hillel.
The scribe agrees with Jesus and adds that loving God and loving your neighbor is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices. That probably didn't improve the mood of the chief priests since, you know, the whole temple economy was pretty much based on burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Jesus then objects to the idea that the Messiah is a son of David, for David also called him Lord. Why would Jesus seemingly pronounce his separation from the Davidic kingship? Maybe to point out that he is not here to rule an earthly kingdom. He's not here to embark on a military conquest. He won't kick out the Romans and become the new king of a self-governing Judah. Nope, his task is a lot more subtle and subversive.
He also tells the crowd to beware of flashy scribes that like to be greeted with respect and honor. Also beware of rich pastors and televangelists that like to show off their expensive cars, custom tailored suits, and insist on being called "Pastor" or "Reverend." Yeah, screw those guys.
Then he sits down and watches people drop off their offerings. Many rich people give sizable sums of money, but Jesus is unimpressed by this. But a poor widow drops in two measly coins, contributing very little. Jesus is very impressed by this, for while the rich gave out of their wealth, this woman gave out of her poverty. Her two little coins constituted a great sacrifice for her, so truly she gave more than all those rich folks.
Does anyone else get the feeling Jesus and the wealthy don't really get along too well?
Thus ends the Twelfth Chapter of Mark.