June 10th, 2018
St. James’ Episcopal Church Jocelyn McWhirter
3 Pentecost, Year B
June 10, 2018
One of the joys of my profession has been learning the perspective of each gospel.
- there are four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
- and each gospel story is different
- it’s as if four people saw a play, each from a different part of the theater
- then each viewer went and told one other person about the play
- Would each person hear the same story?
- yes, because it’s the same play
- but not, because each viewer saw it from a different perspective
- and the viewers have different interests = relate to different bits
- the people they’re telling also have different interests
- so the viewers will address those interests
That’s how it is with the four stories about Jesus.
- we don’t usually pick that up, because in church we hear them a little at a time
- Year A = Matthew; Year B = Mark; Year C = Luke
- with the Fourth Gospel John sprinkled in now and then
- but if we read them as stories, from beginning to end, we notice the differences
You might want to try this with Mark.
- 16 chapters
- and you don’t have to be a professional Bible reader like me in order to read it
- it’s just a story, with characters and a plot; a conflict that gets resolved in the end
There’s a lot of conflict in the selection we just read.
- it starts with a conflict about Jesus casting out demons
- so far in the story, Mark has mentioned Jesus casting out demons 4X
- the first act of his public ministry = Capernaum synagogue
- then three more times Mark says Jesus is casting out demons
- in Capernaum; throughout Galilee; at the seaside
- and we’re still only in Chapter 3
- casting out demons is a conflict, because Jesus enters into conflict with demons
- but it’s also a conflict because people can’t figure out what he’s up to
Some are saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”
- his family is trying to restrain him
- they’ve brought out the straight-jacket
- his own family can’t figure out what he’s up to
Neither can the scribes, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day
- they say, Jesus himself is possessed by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons
- that’s why the demons are obedient to him
The scribes don’t understand; his own family doesn’t understand; so Jesus explains.
- first, he shows that the scribe’s explanation doesn’t make sense <vv. 23-27>
- if he’s possessed by Beelzebub, why would he want to cast out demons?
- he’d be shooting himself in the foot
- you’d think that he’d rather be putting demons in than casting them out
- once he puts this theory to rest, Jesus then explains what he’s up to <v. 28>
This is very short parable, and a tricky one to interpret. <v. 28>
- our instinct is to say that Jesus is comparing himself with the strong man
- because a thief is a bad guy, and Jesus wouldn’t compare himself to a thief
- Jesus is strong, so he must be comparing himself to a strong man
- but the comparison doesn’t really work if you imagine the strong man as Jesus
- Jesus casting out demons is not like a strong man defending his property
- when Jesus casts out demons, he is not defending something
- he is attacking something, which is more like the thief
So if Jesus is comparing himself to the thief, the strong man must be the demons
- when he’s casting out demons, he is tying up Satan and reclaiming his own
- he’s engaged in a cosmic conflict, with human lives at stake
This is Mark’s perspective on Jesus. Nobody can say to Mark, “Your Jesus is too small.”
- Mark’s Jesus is not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”
- he’s not “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly”
- he’s the thief who breaks into our world, disables Satan, and takes over
What does this look like, in Mark’s story? What does it look like in our world?
- it looks like the paralytic in Mark 2, lowered through a roof = corpse into a grave
- when he lands in the crowded house, Jesus is there
- “Your sins are forgiven; stand up, take your mat and go home.” He does.
- it looks like the demoniac in Mark 5 who lives among the tombs
- he strips off his clothes; he harms himself; he can’t be restrained
- “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
- the legion of demons enters a herd of swine; they drown in the sea
- and the man regains his right mind
- it looks like the woman in Mark 5 who’s been losing her life’s blood for 12 years
- “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Her hemorrhage stops.
- it looks like the girl in Mark 5 who has just breathed her last
- Jesus takes her by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up!” And she does.
- it looks like the boy in Mark 9 with a spirit that causes seizures
- it casts him into fire and water, to destroy him
- “You spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!”
- the boy stiffens like a corpse, but Jesus takes his hand and lifts him up
- it looks like Jesus in Mark 15, the Son of God executed on a Roman cross
- the sky darkens and the curtain of the temple is torn in two
- and then, in Mark 16, his tomb is empty
- it looks like the end of death and the beginning of life
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