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Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mark: Tentative conclusions

Mark: Summary and Tentative Conclusions
I call this a tentative conclusions because with the Gospel and the Spirit there are always new insights, perspectives and leadings. One can never say the definitive word about the life of Jesus or the message he preached.

This Gospel has a noticeable lack of higher Christology and profound theological implications about the identity of Jesus that takes a major hold of the other Gospels. It seems a simple story, on of conflict but also of peace.

Jesus came preaching a message: repent, the kingdom of God is near. I take this to mean turn away from the direction you are walking which was trespassing on others and walk with Jesus towards the Kingdom of God. Although the Kingdom of God is not defined, the manner of walking is. The “walk” means to serve other in word and action. Jesus main teaching and life example was one of service: healing, exorcism, parables and teachings. It all spoke of how God desires us to serve others. This teaching was in conflict with the religion of the day and the power structure within that religion. The Jewish Law dictated all aspects of life leaving little room for compassion or even service to others. And the religious leaders controlled how the Law was interpreted and instituted in daily life. They controlled the people through their religion. The people were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Religion squeezed them on one side and the Romans on the other side. They cried out for a Messiah who would set the religion right and run the Romans out of town. This Messiah would establish peace where the people would be free from oppression. But the Messiah who came did not come to overthrow but rather to preach peace. True peace can only come from the heart, a heart set free through transformation.

The people turned to Jesus in faith. His message and his actions demonstrated God’s compassion on the people and a possible reform of the religion. But held as a king, he might also mean the end of Roman control. Many flocked to Jesus in expectation. But this Gospel account does not address those expectations in any terms of fulfillment. Jesus’ message is on of humble servant-hood. Even his disciples, the closest of his followers, do not fully understand that message. A truly free heart is one that is bent on service towards others through compassion.

Power structures cannot stand those who do not play by the rules. Jesus should have turned his crowds and followers into a rebel army, that would have made sense to the leaders, both religious and secular. But he did not. And that confounded them. Jesus’ teaching took the wind out of their sails and was incomprehensible to the power structure. But it rang with truth to the crowds. Religion will not save you; it will only oppress you. The state will not save you; it will only oppress you. Salvation, that is freedom to live, can only come through service to others. If everyone lived by this code, this way of life, there would be no need for religion or for secular government. And that would strip them of all their power. In light of this, the religious leaders knew that Jesus had to die. So they framed him and forced the secular government to murder Jesus, an innocent man, to maintain their power. But Jesus knew the outcome of his teachings. Death was not to be feared.

Although the Gospel ends with Jesus’ death and a surprise ending, an empty tomb, the story continues in Galilee where Jesus had instructed the Disciples to meet him. What happens next? This Gospel does not say. We are left wondering with questions. The implication is if we all follow the teachings of Jesus then we might all go to the cross for fear of the power structure losing its power. But that would be the Kingdom of God. A message still very relevant today because it is still much needed today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mark 16

Mark 16
Mark seems to have two endings. The most ancient texts end with the women fleeing the empty tomb with a message at verse eight. But more has been added with later texts, which makes sense because the story continues beyond the empty tomb.
- Short Version
Mary saw where Jesus was laid and went with other women to properly anoint the body. But the body was no longer present. In his place stood an angel directing the women to the fulfillment of Jesus teachings. Jesus had instructed them he would rise and wet them in Galilee. And now the women are to be the messenger to the Disciples that the Lord has risen and the next stage is set. Jesus is waiting in Galilee. Jesus, the son, has the inheritance readied. He is waiting upon those who will inherit the fertile fields prepared for harvest with truth. But this Gospel ends and we are left wondering what happens next.
- Long Version.
The Disciples do not meet Jesus in Galilee but continue in their unbelief. Even after a number of witness attest to Jesus resurrection. Finally Jesus appears to the Eleven and chastises them for their lack of faith. Jesus empowers them to continue his ministry of healing and to the spreading of the good news to all of creation.

This addition explains the state of affairs in the community of the gospel’s author. The power they share and their commission to do the work they are undertaking. It helps to bridge the gap from the failure to appear in Galilee and vibrant community that is still maintaining the teachings of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mark 15

Mark 15
Jesus stands silent as day breaks and a new dawn is about to start for humanity. Pilate and the Jewish leadership attempt to use Jesus as a pawn in their political maneuverings, but Jesus, innocent, remains free of the politics for this is the path God has set for truth to be revealed. Jesus is convicted not of a crime but of a mob mentality. Jesus, son of man and beloved of God, is held captive but Barabbas (Son of God), a convicted murderer is released.

Jesus kingship is tested. The Jews deny it and the Romans mock it, but Jesus accepts it in the form it comes: death. Outsiders are gathered around this king while his subjects mock him and misunderstand his true nature as servant to others. And his Disciples abandon him. Simon of Cyrene, a centurion, some women and Joseph of Arimathea are the witnesses to the brief earthly reign of Jesus on the Cross, all outsiders and foreigners.

And the Temple curtain is cut in two. God is released; the old religion is done. Christ the king has come to collect his due from the unfaithful tenants and found them wanting. Now something new is happening and the Jewish leaders, even the Disciples, are absent. This new thing is for the outsider. It is for the ones with eyes to see and ears to hear. This new thing is grace and mercy, not wrath. Instead of the landowner driving out the evil tenants, he allows the son to die. But the inheritance does not go to the tenants. That has been prepared for someone else. Change never comes without sacrifice and pain.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mark 14:53-72

Mark 14:53-72
This is a religious problem, a problem the religious leaders try to deal with in a backhanded way but cannot find a trusted testimony against Jesus. So they cut to the chase: “Are you the Christ?” That is a huge question, the heart of the problem. Jesus’ answer condemns himself and undermines all the authority of the religious leaders. The response is dramatic rage. There is no time to reflect upon the answer or the meaning of the question. Do they not want and expect the Messiah? Are they responding out of fear of what it may mean or fear at the possible loss of their power base? Why do they react with violence to Jesus peacefulness as the Christ?
And then we get the first contrite heart, Peter. He saw Jesus in ministry. He knew Jesus personally. He heard the parables, the teachings and the explanations. Peter was an insider who proclaimed Jesus as Christ. And he promised to die with Jesus, to stand next to him through it all. But he could not. And he broke down and wept. It is not until one is broken that one can be remade as God would have you. No amount of training, praying or promising amounts to one moment of brokenness and weeping, ready to be remade.

Change never comes without sacrifice or pain.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mark 14:1-52

Mark 14:1-52
The Passover lamb is readied for sacrifice. The woman anoints Jesus head. The disciples do not understand this meaning and Judas agrees to betray Jesus. The Lamb is ready for sacrifice and his body and blood are given freely for the covenant which it symbolized. Even now the Disciples still continue to miss the point. Death is coming and all will fall away for death is not coming for them, only Jesus. The Disciples must live on. The Disciples who insisted they would walk to death with Jesus could not even walk in prayer with him. But Judas and the religious leaders could walk with death and gather against Jesus, for night has come. All scatter before the crowd at the arrest of Jesus. Possibly they were expecting a rebellion and Jesus to rise up against Rome, but that was never Jesus teaching, nor his purpose.

In the night with a kiss, Jesus is betrayed. This darkness Jesus saw coming and was prepared for it. But dawn cannot come except after night and darkness as passed away. The dark night still looms ahead for Jesus. He is alone. His friends have deserted him. The bitter cup of tears has been presented. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mark 13

Mark 13
Cryptic remarks about “End Times” always leaves one asking more questions. But it comes down to the two questions which the disciples started it all with: When? And how will we know? And neither question is answered in a manner that we would find satisfactory. What we are left with is three things.
1. It will happen when God chooses it to happen. And the lead up to it will be obvious for those who are watching.
2. God will provide for his own people as it happens so be prepared for instant action but not worried about the outcome.
3. Watch for it as one guarding the door to the house. Diligence, perseverance, and expectation are the watch words.
But ultimately what does it all mean?
It means that the Kingdom of God is a real thing, that God’s concern is for this place and these people and at some point true peace will descend upon the earth. But when it does there will be great calamity and existing powers will fight the change and imbalance as heaven and earth meet. Watchfulness is a state of being which keeps one focused on the kingdom that will come and attention off the things of the earth.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mark 12

Parables can be profound and also a little slippery. The religious leaders knew Jesus was talking about them in light of the evil tenant. But does that mean God is absent, the absentee landlord? And only sends others to collect his dues? One has to be careful to not read too far into a parable. But one should still explore the story for meaning. I think we will find that we are left to our own with things that we know. God does not need to micromanage our lives. But we have to respect Him and pay dues when he comes to collect or what was ours (religion, theology, culture) will be taken away. The religious leaders ultimately lost out and Jesus teachings come to replace them. It did not have to go down that way if they were to respond to God with openness, not with evil desires.

And yet they still tried to catch Jesus in another trap. Taxes are a “this world” thing that have no bearing on God or things of God. Keep them separate and pay to the world what you must but keep your eyes on the things of God which this world cannot understand. God is the God of the living and death has no place there. So theological maneuvering which does not understand the true nature of God and the Kingdom of Heaven cannot stand as truth only as tricks of the mind to be misunderstood.

Again Jesus calls out the religious leaders for their failure to understand. For a true understanding of God can only come from love, a love that extends to our neighbors. You cannot say you love God and then treat others as the religious leaders do. Love of God is love towards your neighbor. Love gives to God and to others; it does not take like the religious leaders have been known to do. Love is to give, even the last cent if it comes from the heart. Giving from love knows no bounds in action. Falling back on the law or tradition as a scapegoat in false behavior undermines God’s true religion which is based in love and an open heart towards others. And this truth is the heart of Jesus’ teachings and life. A truth for which he must die, a truth the disciples are still trying to grasp. Even today.