Blogging Towards Sunday, October 16, 2011
Mark 2:13-2:17 | purity
I've been offline with some computer problems for the past few weeks, but am not back online. In the silence I've started a new series, working my way through Mark's version of the Jesus story. I'll post the back posts next week. Come and participate in the sermon on this passage this coming Sunday at 10:30 at College Ave Presbyterian Church.
Today’s selection from Mark includes the second and third confrontation of Jesus with the Pharisees. We often overlook or are unaware of the diversity that existed in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day. Occupied by the Roman Empire, faced with the pagan influences of Greek culture and Gentile religions the Jews were forced to either withdraw from society, reinforce their faith through fundamentalistic approaches, conform and change to the expanding global environment or reinterpret their tradition for a new day. All of these approaches were taken. The Essenes: those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls withdrew to the desert to remain pure. The Scribes were those that reinterpreted. The Sadducees were those that conformed or collaborated. The Pharisees were those that we might call “fundamentalists” who lived out the letter of the law in all aspects.
The sought to live out their faith by zealous and strict adherence to the Torah, in particular to the purity laws. It’s a different way of living faith than we practice. They felt they were created to be a holy people, a righteous people. Righteous and pure in Hebrew mean “set apart.” They saw their call to righteousness as best lived out in being set apart, staying pure by not comingling with pagans, being influenced or seduced by Gentile culture and religion, by not being in contact, or even touching, non-Jews. It’s part of what we saw last week when we talked about touch, and Jesus does a radical thing by touching the leper (who is unclean, or unrighteous because of his illness) to make him whole.
Jesus returns to his home-turf, near the sea of Galilee. In fact the text may indicate that he even took Levi to his own house – that Jesus had a house – verse 15. In this story there is a contrast between pure and unclean, Jewish and Pagan, sick and whole. Levi is called as a disciple. He’s probably from the Levites, the Israelite tribe set apart by God under Moses to serve and staff the Temple. Yet he’s now working as a tax collector, one who collaborates with the foreign Roman power with the liberty to charge and collect as much as he wished. He’s not only forsaken his calling, he’s forsaken his people. Ironically Jesus not only calls him to follow him, to come up after him, but the eats with him and other sinners – the ritually impure.
It’s not surprising that the Pharisees are upset. Jesus isn’t operating according to the Pharisees faith handbook. If he’s really pure, righteous and with the spiritual authority that so many are praising, how can he be doing what he’s doing?
· What strikes you in these stories? How does it interact with your life today?
· How is Jesus not operating according to established culture and worldviews?
· When you hear the word “purity” what do you imagine? How is it similar and/or different than in our text today?
· How do we operate today in relationship to purity & those on the outside ?
· Is purity the Greatest Commandment? How does it relate to the Love that Jesus teaches as the greatest commandment in Mark 12:28-34?
· A theologian writes that the resurrection of Jesus is “a costly demonstration of unexpected love.” How did Jesus live this costly love? How are we called to?
· How is God calling you – us as a church – to follow him? To be church today in our context?