Jesus’ ministry after the wilderness experience invokes conflict. Our lives are full of conflict. Todays gospel reading is one example of many that illustrate the conflict that he endures.
Marks gospel is like a manifesto. It is about good news, a good news that is subversive to the powers that be, whether religious or political.
Jesus gets the good news from God
Mark gets the good news from Jesus
Readers get the good news from Mark
The life of discipleship entails conflict.
Mark’s gospel is about repentance and resistance, repentance from all that which prevents us from living as God wants us to live and resistance to the powers and principalities the ideologies that set out to thwart ours and Gods task, namely to build Gods kingdom on earth. It is a call to justice to compassion and liberation. For the religious aristocracy or the sign seekers he has nothing.
Marks gospel is a call to discipleship
Jesus and his disciples were hungry as many people in first century Palestine were at the time. Constantly hungry.
They eat the grain from the corns in a field and were criticised by the Pharisees. Pharisees were the legalists, the nit pickers who decided what you could and couldn’t do as a Jew. Jesus basically tells them not to be so silly, if you are hungry of course you must eat and pick grain, even on Gods holy day, Saturday for the Jews, Friday for Muslims and Sundays for Christians. Jesus was also concerned with feeding people. So this passage and the next is about Sabbath observance and the holiness code.
We may think this passage is just first century nonsense but we face such nonsense today too. In the last few weeks I heard of a Christian leader who said that he believed that in theory women could be church leaders, but he had never encountered a woman who is good enough. This church belongs to a group of churches called New Frontiers, who actually subscribe to the view women that should not be church leaders. So it’s a law in these churches that they adhere to.
This brings us to a fundamental principle. Jesus taught us that the only laws we should obey are to love God, love our neighbour and love ourselves. The Holy Trinity of the greatest commandments. That does not mean as some teach that we only love Christians or only give foreign aid to Christians as some Christian NGOs believe or we only help migrants or asylum seekers who are Christians.
So we are given a principle to apply to all the situations we encounter. Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself.
The next story has him healing a man’s hand on the sabbath, again interpreted as a violation of Jewish holiness code. Jesus says in response to the nit pickers is it better to save life or to kill on the Sabbath? The word used for his anger here means he was incandescent with anger! They had lost the plot, but they then set out to kill him. This religious group who held power at the time caused Jesus death.
Pharisees taught the Law of Moses, with an emphasis on minutia or what scholars have called insect law/nit picking. The Jewish Halakah.
Could the same be said of us? Are we hypocrites? Do we nit pick and ignore Jesus two commandments to love one another and love God?
The Pharisees were puffed up with their own importance. They did things so they looked good. They were insincere. Hypocrites. Whitewashed sepulches! Empty graves! They loved to be greeted with respect.
Managing conflict is a sign of maturity. It can also be an increasing sign of separation. As a Christian on our journey without a shadow of a doubt we will not grow until we learn to accept conflict and trouble as part of life’s journey. There is nothing worse than seeing how we consistently avoid conflict through wheeling and dealing and compromising ourselves. We mature as we face it and those we look to for advice are surely those who in the face of adversity have matured and wisened. Unless you can face conflict people can buy you!!!
So in our lives, what do we need to front? If your going to be a Christian there's going to be conflict.Our mandate is to give life and not to kill.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me …to proclaim release to the captives”