Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Mitch Reads... Mark 2
After a few days, Jesus goes back home to Capernaum. And by "home" I assume Mark means back to Simon's home, because that's the only home in Capernaum he's mentioned. Plus, you know, Simon's house has his mother-in-law that makes all those amazing sandwiches. So, of course Jesus would go back there.
Word quickly spreads that Jesus is back in town and a large crowd gathers at Simon's house. The crowd is so large that people can't get inside the house to see Jesus. So a group of people, disregarding any sense of personal property and privacy, climb on the roof, dismantle said roof, and lower a paralyzed man down to the room below like so much Tom Cruise. While Simon is probably freaking out at this sight (this is probably not going to improve relations with his missing wife), Jesus is moved by this act and tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven.
First of all, what are you doing, Jesus? How can you forgive this man's sins? You haven't died on a cross yet! Second, how is forgiving this man's sins going to help his physical disabilities? Well, the scribes that are there watching this are asking the first questions in their minds, and Jesus knows what their internal monologues are asking. No one seems concerned with my second question because the assumption at the time is that physical afflictions stemmed from a person's sins. Or the sins of that person's father or grandfather. Because that's fair.
Anyhow, Jesus explains that it is much easier to tell a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven than telling him to get up and walk. In a sense, Jesus is saying he's taking the easy way out. That lazy Jesus. But, to appease their complaints, and show that he's not lazy (and, you know, that he can both forgive sins and heal the sick), he does tell the man to get up and walk. And the man does just that. He stands up, grabs the mat that he had been carried in on, and leaves. The crowd is amazed!
What about the hole in Simon's roof?! This is not the deal that Simon signed up for. Jesus just tells Simon to pray that he doesn't alter the deal further.
"This deal is getting worse all the time," says Simon.
Here we see that Jesus also starts referring to himself as the Son of Man. Now, you can interpret this in several ways. Maybe it means that Jesus was a human, which is a kind of big deal when you want to maintain that the incarnated God was both fully divine and fully human. It could also be synonymous with the title Son of God, which can additionally be interpreted in several ways. It could mean that Jesus is literally the Son of God, or it could be more of a fairly common title of royalty, as if Jesus was claiming some davidic kingship. But since we have this supposed Messianic Secret in Mark, where Jesus performs miracles and then tells people not to tell anyone about it,that seems incompatible with the idea that he's simultaneously calling himself the literal Son of God whenever he gets the chance.
Maybe Jesus just talked in the third person a lot like a Seinfeld character and Mark was trying to smooth it over. That is unlikely, but I think it's humorous to think about.
Jesus walks down by the sea and meets Levi the tax collector. So Jesus and his fisherman entourage go to Levi's house for dinner, probably because Simon's house is now missing part of its roof. Did anyone warn Levi about the inherent risks to the structural integrity of his house if Jesus visits? People object to Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, and Jesus deftly replies that these are the people he has come to minister to. They then object that Jesus and his disciples don't fast, and Jesus replies by sticking another sandwich in his mouth. Well, not exactly. I mean, the text doesn't say that he didn't do that. But Jesus says that he is like a bridegroom and having a party with all his wedding guests. The guests can fast after the bridegroom is gone. It's Jesus time, and that means it's sandwich time!
Then Jesus starts talking about patching up clothes and about wine. I don't think anybody asked him about wine. The idea seems to be that mixing the new with the old doesn't always work. Instead it will only cause a bigger problem. A new patch will make a bigger tear on the old clothes when it shrinks. And the new wine in the old wineskin will make it explode. Why? I don't know. My Greek professor explained that it has something to do with the fermentation process or something. I do not know much about wine. Jesus, though, apparently knew quite a bit about wine. At least more than me. This is one of those verses that indicates that when they are talking about wine in the New Testament, they are talking about alcoholic wine and not just grape juice. Has anybody else ever been told it was just grape juice? I may not fully understand the wine thing, but new grape juice bursting old grape juice skins makes even less sense. Suffice to say, Jesus knew his wine. And his sandwiches.
On the Sabbath, Jesus gets into some trouble again when his entourage starts picking grain from a field and eating it. The Pharisees declare that they can't do such work on the Sabbath (and what, are the Pharisees just following these guys through grainfields?). Jesus responds with a story that, well, doesn't really have anything to do with doing work on the Sabbath. Instead he recounts the story of how David and his crew were hungry and ate the bread of Presence, which only priests were allowed to eat. Not exactly related to the Sabbath, but Jesus seems to be saying that finding food to eat when you're hungry is more important than strictly adhering to the Law.
And then he says that the Sabbath was made for humankind, not the other way around, which may be the greatest verse in the Bible. And when we think about it, how much of our Sabbath keeping has become a chore instead of a sense of rest? Maybe sleeping in and watching a football game is a more faithful way to remember and celebrate the Sabbath than forcing yourself to go to a stuffy church and listen to a boring sermon while being uncomfortably surrounded by a bunch of people you really don't like. I'm not saying don't go to church, but maybe we need to re-frame and refocus how we think of the Sabbath. I mean, Christians already observe it on the wrong day, anyway, so let's keep thinking outside of the box. This day was made for us, let's have some fun with it!
And eat some sandwiches! Because for Jesus, apparently, the Sabbath involves eating.
Thus ends the Second Chapter of Mark.