What Does it Mean that Jesus “Apprenticed” with John the Baptist?

Christ

Re-posting this Lectionary reflection from 3 years ago on radicaldiscipleship.net written by Ched Myers.

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:4-5


Continue reading “What Does it Mean that Jesus “Apprenticed” with John the Baptist?”

The End of the World

Arch of TitusBy Ched Myers, for the 25th Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 13:1-8)

Note: This is the last of a series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. Ched will be an occasional commentator on Lukan lections in the coming Year C.

The final two Sundays in Ordinary Time and the first two Sundays in Advent comprise what I call the “apocalyptic season of turning” in our church calendar. Traditionally the gospel readings speak of the end of the “old order” and the coming of a new world anticipated in Christ. This is appropriate not only as a transition into a new liturgical year and lectionary cycle, but also as a reminder that “in Christ there is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” (II Cor 5:17).
Continue reading “The End of the World”

The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?

WidowBy Ched Myers, for the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 12:28-13:2)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

Special Note From Ched: I apologize for conflating my comments posted last week, in which I treated BOTH Mk 12:28-34 (this last Sunday’s gospel) AND 12:38-44 (this coming Sunday’s gospel), with a heavy emphasis on the latter. Hopefully most of you focused on All Saints themes last Sunday and weren’t disoriented or disappointed. I was traveling and dispatched the blog with too much haste! RD.net is reposting last week’s blog to be of use to those preaching or teaching on this coming Sunday’s reading, which is indeed the story of the “Widow’s Mite.” Sorry for any confusion, and for giving short shrift to last Sunday’s gospel. Thanks for following this series, which now heads into its last few weeks.
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The lectionary leaps ahead this Sunday (which is also All Saints Day), moving to the concluding episode of Mark’s Jerusalem conflict narrative (chapters 11 and 12), in which Jesus clashes with every authority group in the capital city. In this week’s reading it is the scribes, the arch opponents of Jesus. The sequence begins with their challenge to interpret the great commandment, which was a central debating point among the rabbis (12:28). Jesus knows that the “orthodox” answer is the Shema (12:29f; see Dt 6:4), but pointedly attaches to it a citation from the Levitical code of justice, implying that to love God is to refuse to exploit one’s neighbor (12:31; see Lev 19:9-17).
Continue reading “The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?”

On the “Blind” Following the “Blind”

BartimaeusBy Ched Myers, for the 22nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 10:46-52)

Right: A relief sculpture of the healing of Bartimaeus by artist/minister Charles McCollough, done in honor of our ministry at BCM (at right is the rich man and one of Jesus’ disciples).
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Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This is a longer post because Sunday represents the feast day of “St. Bartimaeus,” whose story has accompanied Ched through his entire ministry (see second half of the post).

In this culminating episode of Mark’s “discipleship catechism,” there is one more polemical role reversal to shock our propriety, and one more blind man healed to give us hope (compare Mk 8:22-26). On the outskirts of Jericho, the final stop before arriving in Jerusalem, we encounter a beggar sitting “beside the Way” (10:46). Bartimaeus will provide a dramatic contrast to the previous two stories of “non-discipleship”—the rich man’s refusal and the disciples’ ambitions—and will symbolize for Mark the “true follower.” Continue reading “On the “Blind” Following the “Blind””

The Subversion of Hierarchical Power

zebedeeBy Ched Myers, for the 21st Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:32-45)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

The last cycle of the discipleship catechism begins, as did the previous story of the rich man, “on the Way.” Here the journey is finally revealed as headed to Jerusalem, the place of final confrontation with the Powers (10:32a). Jesus “goes before” the discipleship community, who are amazed and afraid (10:32b). This snapshot will be important to remember at the end of the story, where at the empty tomb we are told that Jesus “goes before” disciples who are both afraid and “ecstatic” (16:7f).
Continue reading “The Subversion of Hierarchical Power”

The Call of the Rich Man as a Text of Terror

JesusBy Ched Myers, for the 20th Sunday in Pentecost (Mark 10:17-31)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This post is 2-3 times longer than previous ones because of the importance of this text to our struggle to be disciples within a capitalist culture.
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The story of Jesus and the rich man lies at the crossroads of Mark’s narrative. From here Jesus will turn toward Jerusalem, a destination of confrontation with the Powers that evoked dread and denial among his disciples then (10:32) as now. But the encounter between Jesus and this affluent gentleman represents a theological crossroad as well.
Continue reading “The Call of the Rich Man as a Text of Terror”

“Defect-ive” Discipleship: Recovering from Domination Culture

JesusBy Ched Myers, for the 18th Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 9:38-50)

This week continues our journey through the second cycle of Mark’s discipleship catechism. Here John boasts that the disciples shut down the work of an exorcist who was not “following us” (9:38). Under these narrative circumstances, never was the “royal we” more inappropriate! Jesus’ attempt to deconstruct hierarchical power is met with the crudest of assertion of “franchise entitlement.” But is not this a poignant (if sardonic) portrait of how we Christians so often look at our faith traditions as membership clubs? Continue reading ““Defect-ive” Discipleship: Recovering from Domination Culture”

The Cross in Everyday Life: Embracing the “Least”

crucifixionBy Ched Myers, for the 17th Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 9:30-37)

In the wake of the “confessional crisis” (last week’s reading), Mark’s narrative now turns to a triple cycle of object lessons and teaching I call the “discipleship catechism.” This Sunday’s gospel text comes from the second and longest cycle, with its focus of instruction on the less heroic, yet perhaps more difficult, practice of the Way in daily life.

The cross represents more than nonviolent resistance to the Powers; it includes the struggle against patterns of domination in interpersonal and social relationships as well. Thus Mark here addresses several expressions of social power imbalance: greatest and least (9:36f); outsiders and insiders (9:38-41); offenders and victims (9:42-50); male and female (10:2-12); children and adults (10:13-16); and rich and poor (10:17-31). This sequence exhibits certain similarities to catechetical traditions found elsewhere in the New Testament relating to family and community life such as the so-called “House-tables” (e.g. Col 3:12-4:6). Continue reading “The Cross in Everyday Life: Embracing the “Least””

The “Confessional Crisis”

PeterBy Ched Myers, for the 16th Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 8:27-9:1)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

Roughly midway through the season of Ordinary Time, and a week before the Fall Equinox, our lectionary series in Mark’s gospel arrives at the midpoint of the story.

The first half of the narrative began by heralding a “Way” (1:2), and closed with a question addressed to the disciples and the reader: “Do you not yet understand?” (8:21) The second half opens “on the Way” (8:27), with yet another query: “Who do you say that I am?” (8:29a). Do we really know who Jesus is, and what he is about?

It is a shock to discover in this Sunday’s reading that Peter’s “correct” answer (8:29b) is silenced (8:30). This issues in what I call a “confessional crisis” (8:30-33), followed by Jesus’ second call to discipleship (8:34ff). This sequence represent the fulcrum upon which the entire gospel balances. Mark’s thesis is most clearly revealed here: discipleship is not about theological orthodoxy, but about the Way of the cross.

This Way will be explained by three object lessons, both positive and negative. The architecture of the ensuing narrative section consists of three “portents” about Jesus’ impending arrest, which the disciples fail to comprehend, and three teaching cycles. This structure has a catechetical character, representing a “school of the road,” as Jesus and his disciples journey from the far north of Palestine to the outskirts of Jerusalem:

         Geography                   Portent      Incomprehension       Teaching

1) Caesarea-Philippi      8:31                     8:32f                    8:34ff

2) Galilee to Judea        9:31                     9:32-34                9:35ff

3) to Jerusalem             10:32-34              10:35-37              10:39ff

This catechism is neatly framed by two stories in which the blind receive sight: in Bethsaida (8:22-26) and in Jericho (10:45-52). Here we see master story telling indeed.

Since Mark’s first storm episode (4:41), the issue of Jesus’ identity has been lingering in the background; now Mark turns to address it directly (8:27). The public’s perception of Jesus parallels the three misinterpretations reported earlier concerning John (8:28; see 6:14-16). But when the disciples are asked for their opinion, Peter hails Jesus as “Messiah” (8:29).

We meet this politically-loaded term for the first time since the story’s title (1:1). Messiah was understood by many Jews in first century Palestine to be a royal figure who would someday restore the political fortunes of Israel. Based upon Mark’s title and the centrality of this confession in the church, we are likely to approve of Peter’s identification. But to our chagrin, Peter is immediately silenced by Jesus (8:30), as if he were just another demon trying to “name” Jesus (see 1:25; 3:12)!

Since this lection has already come up this year (on the Second Sunday in Lent), I refer to my comments there concerning the crisis of expectation that punctuates Jesus’ exchange with Peter, and the meaning of his teaching on denial and the “Coming of the Human One.”

Learning from the Other

lentzBy Ched Myers, for the 15th Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 7:24-37)

Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

In a doublet I called a “tale of two women” (5:21-43; see my blog on the gospel for 5 Pentecost) Mark presented two linked healings in “Jewish” symbolic territory. He now narrates a corresponding doublet in clearly marked “Gentile” space (7:24). Tyre and Sidon were coastal cities not only well outside Palestinian Jewish society, but historic centers of the Phoenician naval empire, a legendary adversary of Israel (see e.g. Ezekiel 26-28), though now part of the Roman province of Syria. These healings of a woman and man are thus surprising, and serve as object lessons in the inclusivity just advocated in the previous Markan episode. Continue reading “Learning from the Other”