Passing Away: promise

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2Promise Amidst Tribulation. 24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather (his) elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

As noted in most outlines, we are jumping into the middle of Mark’s “Oliver Discourse.” Pheme Perkins [691] nicely locates it for us: “Both of the previous sections end with a note of warning to the elect: Persecution requires endurance (v. 13); the presence of false messiahs requires careful attention to the prophecies in the discourse (v. 23). Both sections also assure the faithful that they will be among the elect (vv. 13b, 20b). Thus each unit of prophetic discourse directs the reader’s attention from the present or impending historical experiences of persecution to the culmination of all things at the end time. The faithful testimony of Jesus’ disciples before human courts will assure them that the Son of Man will testify on their behalf in the heavenly court (13:9–13 echoes 8:34–38). A prophecy concerning the coming of the Son of Man to gather the elect now makes explicit the expectations built up in the previous sections.” Continue reading

Passing Away: context

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch224 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather (his) elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. 28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”  (Mark 13:24-37) Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: context

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’ 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’ (Mark 12:38–44) Continue reading

Widow’s mite: exit

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaThe Poor Widow and Jesus. 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’

We are conditioned to consider that Jesus is continuing his castigation of the scribes (religious leaders who use their position for their own gain) and their social counterparts, many rich people. By juxtaposition we then infer that the poor widow is praised for her giving of her whole livelihood and placing here full dependence upon God. We infer that, and perhaps rightly so, but there are many Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: devouring

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaInjustice via God’s Name. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.

Perkins [682] notes that the charge that the scribes “devour the houses of widows” (v. 40) also seems more characteristic of prophetic charges against the rich than of a particular role played by scribes. Some interpreters have hypothesized that scribes might have acted as guardians for widows who lacked male relatives. Others suggest that they may have accepted hospitality from widows under the pretense of piety in order to support their tastes for wealth and power. When he sent them out to preach, Jesus prohibited his own disciples from accumulating wealth or moving from the first household to take them in (6:8–10). Jesus also constantly warned his own disciples against seeking honor rather than serving others (9:33–35; 10:42–45). Mark’s Roman/Gentile readers were not likely to have had dealings with scribes, but they could recognize the same characteristics among others. The wandering Cynic philosophers who frequented Greco-Roman cities often castigated other philosophers whose wealthy patrons provided luxurious clothes, sumptuous food, and social honor. Continue reading

Widow’s mite: scribes

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’

There is always a pause when I read this passage. Being a Franciscan Friar, I go around in long robes, inevitably accept greetings as I move out and about, whether I want it or not, I end up in the places of honor at banquets, and in the church, and I occupy the ‘big chair’ reserved for the presider at Mass. During Mass, some parishioners might accuse me of reciting lengthy homilies  (hopefully not as a pretext). The only part for which I am hopefully safe is devouring the houses of widows. Perhaps it is cautionary pause. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: poverty

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Widows. Lurking in the background of our reading is the first-century Jewish system of levirate marriages (Gen 38 and Deut 25:5-10). In short if a man dies without leaving a son, his widow is forbidden to marry outside his family. One of her deceased husband’s brothers must assume the duty of the levir, taking her as his wife. The first male of this second union is considered the son of the deceased brother. Continue reading

Faith that saves: asking

Jesus-healingThe Petition. 51 Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” 52 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” One might note that either I miscopied v.51, but the astute student will know that I am citing v.36 when James and John ask for the places of honor. In both verses the verb is thelō. Again Mark is drawing our attention to the differences, this time between Bartimaeus and the disciples. Where they ask for glory, power, and prestige, the blind ask for mercy and healing. The blind man’s faith was recognized by the Lord as an affirmation of confident trust in the gracious mercy of God and his power to heal (cf Mark 5:34). The healing was immediate. Continue reading

Faith that saves: mercy

Jesus-healingA Cry for Mercy. In other healing scenes, the one healed is told to “go” and not say anything about the miracle. This phenomenon is described as the Mark’s “messianic secret.” There are many speculations as to why Jesus does not want word of his mighty deeds know far and wide. The one in which I hold to be more likely is the one in which Jesus does not want people’s perception of his Glory to be seen in the miracles and mighty deeds, but wants them to see the Glory fully revealed on the cross when they can see that God’s love for them has no limits. Now that they are close to the time of the cross, Jesus will not tell Bartimaeus to remain silent. Any attempt to silence the blind man falls to the crowd. Continue reading

Faith that saves: on the way

Jesus-healingThe passage is the last healing and miracle in the Gospel of Mark. It is easily passed over as another miracle among many, but the story of Bartimaeus (bar-Timeaeus; lit. Son of Timeaus) is in some ways the most significant since it is the one miracle not recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. There are general promises in Isaiah that promise healing and deliverance (Isaiah 29:1; 32:1-3; 35:1-10) along with specific promises that in the day of the Messiah the blind will have their sight restored (Is 42:18; 61:1-4). Continue reading