Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Tuesday, April 19th
The Tuesday of Holy Week | Mark 11:20-13:37
This busy, full day also begins with the nonproductive fig tree, now withered. It’s a living metaphor for Jesus’ judgment of the big business that Temple establishment had become. He returns to the temple courts and teaches, with an authority never seen before. As Mark tells the story, the teachings of Jesus become more and more critical and challenging of the religious authorities. The crowds go wild with excitement, witnessing his naming of the injustice perpetrated in the name of Yahweh.
But what is this injustice? It is mistaken hopes, backwards worship, or a spiritual malaise? The supposed authorities remain mute. They seem to be content with how things have been, wanting to maintain tradition for facility, or for fear of being the weak link in the chain, or for spiritual far-sightedness. Jesus is taking on spiritual compartmentalization: when we simplify God’s creative and redemptive presence in the world saying “this, here, is God; that, there, isn’t.” We see the example in the saying about emperor and the need to recognize who is sovereign and what that means in our daily life.
As a preacher, it’s much easier to talk about hypothetical situations and history, than to address the nitty gritty of today, of the implications for our personal lives, and how they’re interconnected. It’s often easier to talk about faith, than speak to faith. What does it really mean to pledge obedience to the God of the Living? What does it really imply to love your neighbor as God first loves us? What does a life of humility – not self-deprecation – resemble in our paparazzi TMZ flavored culture looking for the next big news cycle? What does it really look like to walk in the way of Jesus?
For his day it meant a calling for the question. Mark 13:5-37, often called the “little apocalypse” is the revelation of impending doom for Jerusalem. The city whose name literally means “City of Peace” will be destroyed. It’s both a spiritual oracle, and a religious fact, for we know that the Romans viciously conquered Jerusalem in the Jewish revolt begun in 66. Some say that the Romans dismantled the Temple, taking the time to melt the gold out of the crevices in order to carry it back to the capital. Physics tells us that every action has a reaction. Jesus seems to be telling his audience that the same thing applies to how we live our lives and how our nations operate. What we do is connected to how we are and what the world is becoming. The text concludes with the exhortation to “stay awake,” to not lose perspective, to be sure of our center. Where and how do you struggle to keep Christ as your spiritual center? How do you need to wake up?