Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Walking Through Mark #2

Today we are looking at the second section of Mark (4:35-6:30). The key to understanding this section of Mark's gospel is that it presents Jesus as a prophet. As we said in our previous post, Mark is allowing us to discover the key identities of Jesus through the eyes of his disciples and the crowds, and then using these identities to challenge us (again, through the disciples) to respond accordingly (i.e. repent).

When most people think about a prophet, they think about someone who “sees the future” or announces what God is going to do. And while announcing God’s actions is one thing that prophets did/do, it was not the most important or only role that prophets took. In general, the most important thing that a prophet did was to reveal God’s perspective about an issue (political, personal, worship related, etc.). Generally, these revelations were critical of standard practices, but not always.

That being said, the prophets that were most famous were not famous for what they “predicted” or even wrote, but for the deeds of power and miracles they were associated with. Moses, Elijah and Elisha (the latter two who did not spend much time “making prophecies”) were the most well-known prophets, and they were remembered for their miracles, or we might say, for their power.

 Jesus’ Power
All of the stories in this section of Mark focus on the extraordinary power of Jesus. And if we take a moment and parse out some details, we can see just how extraordinary they are…

Important details
Stilling the storm
The most significant OT miracles are about God’s power over water: creation, the Flood, the Exodus, and crossing the Jordan. Water is a symbol for chaos in the OT…Only God has power over water!
Jesus has been given power over the natural order and the chaos that naturally exists in the world.
Casting Out Legion
A Roman legion (6000 soldiers) was the most effective fighting unit (and the most feared) in the ancient world; Jesus is in Gentile territory, at night, by a man who has proven “invincible” to all prior restraints.
Jesus has complete dominion over the forces of evil in any location and at any time
Healing the Woman and Raising Jairus’s daughter
Jesus not even trying to heal the woman; No doctor could heal the woman; Resuscitation miracles extremely rare… Elijah and Elisha are directly evoked in raising a dead child.
Jesus has healing powers unmatched by any human doctor, and raising the dead is the rarest of miracles.
Granting the Twelve authority over unclean spirits (power to heal included in that)
The granting of power to a disciple reminds of Elijah and Elisha, but they never gave power to twelve at once!
Jesus has the ability to empower his disciples to participate in his work.

Faith and Fear
The proper response to the power of Jesus is “faith” (4:40; 5:34; 5:36; 6:6). This “faith” is not intellectual belief, but trust in Jesus’ power to overcome whatever is arrayed against the follower of Jesus. Whether it is a storm at sea, a disease, death or being sent out in the face of political opposition (the disciples being sent out in Herod’s territory) Jesus’ followers are facing conflict, and are invited to trust in him rather than flee and surrender.

Fear then is presented as the opposite of trust. The disciples are afraid in the storm; the villagers are afraid after Jesus heals the man possessed; the people of Jesus’ hometown are suspicious of his abilities and popularity (6:3). Note that the disciples actually take a step forward in not allowing fear to prevent their mission. Knowing that Herod had killed John, and being sent without provision would have been good reasons to fear, but instead the disciples choose to have faith and trust that Jesus will empower them to complete the task that he gives them.

Our Question

Of course, Mark is not writing his gospel in this manner (with fear and faith juxtaposed) simply to entertain careful readers. Rather, he is challenging his readers to observe their own lives and discipleship in light of this story. If we do understand the call of the Kingdom (part one, remember), are we living into it in trust? Are we looking to Jesus’ power as we face conflicts? Are we accepting the work (local mission!) that he is calling us to in belief that he has empowered us to do it?

To the extent that we can answer yes to any of the above questions we are accepting Jesus’ identity as an extraordinary prophet… but of course we can’t stop there! Stay tuned for part three. . .

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