Thursday, August 16, 2012

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday, August 19th    
Mark 14:32-72

"The killing of Jesus, however incidental to the tasks of governance for the Roman and Jewish authorities, masks the worst in human brutality. Regimes do this to people in the name of all kinds of claims to common good and, not least, to the furtherance of peace. People do this to people, when anger and fear conspire to suppress love and goodness. We all do it. Mark's is an 'in your face'  account of the killing of love."

Theological Themes:
This week’s passage in our ongoing reading of Mark, is commonly read on Good Friday, as the passion narrative.  Other texts habitually read with it are Isaiah 50:1-9 and Philippians 2:5-10.  We reflect and celebrate the paradoxical horror of Good Friday because, as the world continues to turn upside down, Jesus is still at work transforming lives, transforming governments, and transforming societies.  That’s the theological affirmation underneath this story of suffering, desertion and ultimately death and finally new life.

Textual Curiosities:
v.33 – distressed | agitated | : indicates a profound disarray, expressed physically before a terrifying event. A shuddering horror.

This language of suffering points back to Psalms 6 & 42 in which David [or is it Jesus seen prophetically?] is on the point of collapse, complaining in prayer to God.

If the disciples weren’t physically with Jesus, how did they know what he prayed?  Did he tell them after his resurrection?  Did they overhear him?

What does the word “hour” mean?  It is a term for predestined eschatological crisis like in Esther 10:3, Daniel 11:40, 45; Mark 13:32 and Romans 13:11?  What are the links between “hour” in this chapter and “hour” in the apocalyptic vision of Mark 13?

Praying to God as father has deep roots within the First Testament, though the context is usually as a community to God the Father of Israel as the Creator, Lord and Savior (see Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:13 & Jeremiah 3:19).  But the term father is never used in a personal way.  Jesus’ use of the word “abba” which might translate more as “Daddy God” is unthinkable in the prayer practice of Judaism in Jesus’ day.

Cup: is a metaphor for one’s portion in life, can be a positive one (Psalm 116:13) but usually negative (Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15-29, Ezekiel 23:31-34).  What links do you see between Mark 10:38 and 14:23, 36?

Jesus is betrayed by a friend to his enemies, by one who is close to him to those who are distant.  It’s foretold in Mark 9:30-32  This passage is filled with vocabulary about physical weakness and strength, as well as physical proximity and distance, between daylight and nighttime.  It also contains a reference to a specific hour and repeated fallings asleep. There is a stark contrast between Jesus and everyone else.  Why did Judas have to identify Jesus, didn’t they recognize him themselves?

People frequently greeted each other with a kiss, but here the usual sign of friendship becomes that of the ultimate betrayal. With his arrest Jesus seems to change, he moves from an active role to playing a more passive part.  It’s curious that in Christian circles the “kiss of peace” became the established greeting among believers.  Scripture is fulfilled (v 49) not just in the arrest of Jesus, but also in the desertion of his friends.

Who is this naked man?  Is it historical, an actual man whose clothes were ripped by the soldiers, like an animal of prey attacks its victim?  Or is it metaphorical: the negative example of discipleship – one who runs away in shame, deserting and fleeing the master?  Is it connected to Amos 2:16?

The Sanhedrin was a legislative and judicial body in Judaism which met ad hoc to address problems and find solutions.   They’re portrayed as on the offensive, dishonest, mischievous, and instigators.  In the light of this accusation Jesus remains passive and silent, an action which echoes passages about the patient suffering of the just person (Psalm 38:12-15;Lamentations 3:28-30, and Isaiah 53:7).  In the end the one response of Jesus is the testimony used to condemn him.  He affirms the statement of the high priest.  Some scholars see in that Jesus claiming to be God by answer “I am” which in Hebrew is “Yahweh” the most sacred name of God.  How do you understand this scene?

The passage ends with Peter’s triple denial of Jesus (v 66-72).  During the scene Peter physically moves away from where Jesus is held.  In the end he is distressed and weeping, as Jesus was in 14:33-34.  It seems as if what happens to the Master happens in turn to the student.  Jesus, who spent his life building community with others, is left alone in his hour of most need.

Questions for wondering and exploring
• What is Jesus saying to you and our church community today through this text?

•I find myself thinking about the paradox of this story: power in weakness, community and desertion, death and life, truth and lies.  The God of the cross doesn’t fit into my vision of what God should be like.  How about you?

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