On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Texts for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 32 2018

First Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-16

8The word of the Lord came to [Elijah,] saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Psalm: Psalm 146

Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
24Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

38As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

A Reflection on Mark 12:38-44

Let us invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from him: we are dependent upon him for our very existence. — Paul of Nola, 4/5th c

This is really not about the woman with the little coins. This is about Judas. 
Let me explain slowly. We are at the end of a long day in the temple. It has begun with a prophetic act: Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit, cleaned house at the temple courts, and has withdrawn. He comes back next day and the fig tree is withered. Prophecy has been proven. Temple and tree are judged.
A cryptic saying about telling this mountain to jump into the sea follows. Which is “this” mountain? Zion? By Faith can you imagine life without this mountain and the temple thereon? The saying is followed by a short discourse on praying and forgiving and having faith. 
After that, we argue with the scribes, pharisees and chief priests. At the end of that day, we come to the episode about the widow and her small coins. Jesus has condemned the temple — the fig tree episode — and it leadership — all the arguments in chapter 12 up to this point. Now he watches this woman give “all of her living” to the temple. 
It is not uncommon to see Jesus’ words as marveling at her faith. I am taking the tack that he is lamenting what she has been taught to do and believe. The temple is to bring forth fruit. It is to be a house of prayer. It also is to care for women like her. She ought to have more to show for that charge to the temple to take care of the widow and orphan than two copper coins. They, the temple authorities, ought to be giving to her. But they do not. Instead they invest in long flowing robes and in in the ever increasing splendor of the temple complex. (13:1) 
 Chapter 13 is a dark chapter in which Jesus predicts the downfall of the splendid temple. The destruction will be so great that heaven itself will split (15:38) open and the Son of Man will come in Glory. Another fig tree will be a signal to the faithful. The fig tree comes into leaf signaling summer. When you see it you will know that the Son of Man is on the way. Who is this fig tree and what becomes of the withered one?
By chapter 14 we are at Bethany. Another woman comes forward. She has expensive perfume worth a year’s wages, very well worth “all she had to live on,” and anoints Jesus with it. Complains immediately rise: “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked.  “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” (14:4-5).
But Jesus replies: “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (14:6-9) And it is at that very moment that Judas rises and goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus. 
The question lingers: “Why did he do so and why then,” and that question is asked rightly. An obvious scenario suggests itself. Judas, the revolutionary, had beef with the chief priests. Hearing of the downfall of their source of power was good news to him. Hearing Jesus lament the widow’s gift to the heartless institution was right in line with Judas thinking. However, if you do not see the Son of Man in Jesus and do not notice the greening of the second fig tree, then Jesus is merely accepting the same wasteful rewards that the chief priests accepted in retaining the widow’s coins in the treasury. In that case, he is no better than them and Judas is merely the one who called him on his hypocrisy. How can one who came not to be served but to serve (10:45) accept this extravagant action by this woman?
Both women remain silent about their motives. One gives lavishly  to a corrupt institution that will be destroyed, the other anoints a Messiah whose time on earth is by that time very limited. The first has no idea that the temple is doomed. The latter probably does not grasp that death is the means by which Jesus will accomplish his saving ministry. If there is no temple and no resurrection then both have wasted greatly. 
I am fascinated by Judas, I admit it. It is easy to dismiss him as possessed in a simple reading of Luke’s report. (22:3) But the tempter’s power is the lie so that even in Luke’s scenario the lie has taken hold of Judas. At base that lie is that God cannot be trusted. (Ge 3) How can you trust either temple or Jesus — if you believe Jesus in the first place? Maybe he is just a convenient means to an end you already have in mind. Maybe the temple is that as well.
Somehow, both women are not of that mind. Both are giving excessive and unaffordable amounts. As Mark would say: “Their whole living.” They both seem to long for something worthy to put their Faith in. If that was not true, they would not be giving so immensely. Something would have been held back. 
Judas’ betrayal is not unrewarded. 30 pieces of silver are nothing to sneeze at. They were paid to him out of the temple treasury I would think so the temple was of some use to him after all. But where does he rest his faith now? And, by the way, the two copper coins contributed to his bounty. 

Faith is an all or nothing proposition. Israel has its faith in the temple. The church has her faith in Jesus, Lord, Savior and King. If Faith is indeed utter trust in the one in whom it is placed then that utter trust is acted out with our entire living. To hedge any part is to go the Judas road in the end. The widow gave in Faith to temple. The woman at Bethany gave to Jesus. Neither had any right to think that their gift would somehow pay off. They gave and had to rely on God to be trustworthy and good, something that the Lie tries ever so hard to deny. Judas’ allegiance was conditional. In the face of all that is predicted in Mark 13 can one really hedge ones bets and is it safe to be found with 30 pieces of silver? 

Greek Study for Mark 12:38-44

Greek Study Mark 12:38-44

V 38 βλεπετε (βλεπω) pres. imp. "watch out" – beware- on your guard.
των θελοντων (θελω) pres. part. "[they] like" - the ones desiring. The articular participle is a  warning specific of those scribes who are hypocritical, rather than all scribes in general.
περιπατειν (περιπατεω) pres. inf. "to walk around" - to walk about. The infinitive may simply complementary, completing the verbal aspect of the participle "wanting",
or forming an object clause/statement of perception expressing what the scribes desire.
εν στολαις (η) "in flowing robes" - long robes. Dressing up "in" something is a common expression, but not in Mark. The sense is probably "festive robes".
ασπασμους (ος) "greeted" - greetings. Introducing a second object clause/ statement of perception expressing what the scribes desire namely, "greetings in the market place", greetings in the sense of "deferential salutations".

v39 πρωτοκαθεδριας (α) "the most important seat" – a third object clause/statement of perception following the participle "desiring". And also (kai) "desiring/wanting" the best seat in the house. In a synagogue this is the box in front of the ark within which is stored the scrolls of scripture.
πρωτοκλισιας (α) "the places of honor" - the chief seat at a dinner table. Introducing the fourth object clause/statement of perception.
δειπνοις (ον) "banquets" - Usually an evening meal, so "Dinner parties".

v40 οι κατεσθιοντες (κατεσθιω) pres. part. nom. "they devour" - the ones exploiting. 
This is sometimes translated adjectivally, modifying "the teachers of the law/the scribes", 
τας οικιας (α) "[devour widow's] houses" - The sense is of a religious person abusing the generosity of those who have little to spare. So, "house" may be better expressed as "property/belongings/wealth."
των χηρων (α) gen. "of widow's" - The genitive is possessive; "that belong to widows."
προφασει (ις εως) dat. "for a show" - pretense, pretext. The dative is modal expressing manner.
προσευχομενοι (προσευχομαι) pres. part. nom. "make [lengthy] prayers" This participle presents the same difficulties as "devouring" above; probably "beware the scribes who make lengthy prayers for a show."
λαμψονται (λαμβανω) fut. "will receive 
περισσοτερον adj. "most severely" - greater [judgment]. a comparative sense is also possible, such that those scribes who do such things will receive a more severe sentence. 

v41 Mark's point here is that the robbed widows stand in contrast to the robber scribes, and are those who truly serve God.
καθισας (καθιζω) aor. part. "Jesus sat down" - having sat. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal; "Then he sat down in front of the collection box".
κατεναντι + gen. "opposite [the place where the offerings were put]" - opposite, before [the treasury]. This adverb is used here as a preposition.
χαλκον (ος) "money" copper usually meaning copper coinage, here likely just money.
το γαζοφυλακιου (ον) "[into] the temple treasury" Usually identified as the thirteen trumpet-shaped offering bowls in the Court of Women, although some suggest it is the treasury itself where the gift must be publicly declared and so, easily overheard.
εθεωρει (θεωρεω) imperf. "watched"  The imperfect expressing a repeated observation of those who were putting money in the offering boxes. "He was watching how the crowds of people were putting their money into the treasury.
εβαλλον (βαλλω) imperf. "threw" The imperfect is used at this point to express a supplementary action to the action of the crowd who were ballei  "throwing", their money into the offering box.

v42 ελθουσα (ερχομαι) aor. part. "[a poor widow] came"
λεπτα (ον) "very small copper coins" - the smallest Jewish coin, worth a fraction of a 
κοδραντης  a penny" Mark explains the value of a lepton by comparing it with Roman coinage.

v43 προσκαλεσαμενος (προσκαλεομαι) aor. part. "calling" - participle is adverbial, probably consecutive, expressing result, "so he called his disciples and said to them".
αμην λεγω υμιν "I tell you the truth" - truly I say to you. Always used to underline the saying that follows.
εβαλεν (βαλλω) aor. "has cast" Variant perfect tense is accepted by many translations.
πλειον adv. "more" - much, many. Comparative adverb; "to a greater extent."
των βαλλοντων (βαλλω) gen. pres. part. "than all the others cast" - [into the treasury]. The participle functions as a substantive, while the genitive is ablative, of comparison. The sense is possibly that the value of her gift exceeded the total value of all that was thrown in, although probably Jesus is saying she gave a gift of greater value, in devotional terms, than even the most generous gift given that day.

v44 περισσευοντος (περισσευω) pres. part. "wealth" – from that which abounds.
της υστερησεως (ις εως) "poverty" - want, need, deficiency, lack, poverty..
παντα adj. "everything" - specified by the final appositional phrase, "her whole living." She gave what she had to live on, excluding her home and possessions.

τον βιον (ος) "[all she] had to live on" - [but this widow, from the need of her, everything she had she put in as much - all] the livelihood, living [of her].

Monday, October 22, 2018

Greek for Mark 10:46-52

Greek Study Mark 10:46-52

10:46 ερχονται (ερχομαι) pres. "[then] they came to" – an historic present used to introduce the next step in the narrative (in English, a new paragraph).
ορευομενου (εκπορευομαι) gen. aor. part. "As ... were leaving [the city]" - a genitive absolute meaning they were actually passing through Jericho, pressing toward Jerusalem.
ικανου adj. "large [crowd]" - taking the sense "significant" crowd.
τοφλος προσαιτης "a blind man" - beggar.
Τιμαιου (ος) gen. "[Bartimaeus (that is, the Son] of Timaeus [which means son] of Timaeus)" - genitive is relational.
εκαθητο (καθημαι) imperf. "was sitting down expressing repeated action; idiomatically , "it was his custom to sit in his usual place beside the road”.

v47 υσας (ακουω) aor. part. "when he heard"
κραζειν (κραζω) pres. inf. "[he began] to shout".
υιε Δαυιδ Ισου "Jesus son of David" – a messianic title that demonstrates even the blind man knows who this is. For Mark, however, this amounts to a misunderstanding of Jesus' identity.
ελεησον (ελεεω) aor. imp. "have mercy on [me]" - the cry of the faithful who recognize that the mercy of God is available to those who cry out for it so this is about what Jesus bears, not who Jesus is.

v48 επετιμων (επιτιμαω) imperf. "[many] rebuked" – literally “without honor” – a pun in the Greek, that the son of “Timaus” i.e. the son of the “honorable one” is accused of having no honor!  
σιωπηση (σιωπαω) aor. subj. "be quiet – shut up" - be silent/still reflects earlier admonitions to demons and disciples. 

v49 στας (ιστημι) aor. part. "[Jesus] stopped [and said]
λεγοντες  [they called the blind man] saying
θαρσει (θαρσεω) pres. imp. "cheer up!" - be brave, be courageous, be cheerful. "Its all good now, get up, he's calling you", an idiom.

v50 αποβαλων (απαβαλλω) aor. part. "throwing [his cloak] aside" This, and the following participle, "having jumped up", are modal, expressing the manner of his coming; "he came throwing off his cloak and leaping to his feet…"

v51 ποιησω (ποιεω) aor. subj. "[what do you want me] to do" – and how many times have we heard this question over the past 2 chapters?  
Ραββουνι "Rabbi" - teacher. the title is of early Palestinian Aramaic origin and should be translated "master/lord", rather than merely "teacher.

v52 υπαγε (υπαγω) pres. imp. "go" - A common linguistic feature of Jesus = "you don't have to sit on the edge of the road begging any more; so go".
η πιστις (ις εως) "[your] faithσεσωκεν (σωζω) perf. "has healed [you]" - restored. Of course, "healed" is intended at the practical level, but in the choice of the word, with its instrument "faith", indicates that mark has a double meaning in mind. "Your faith has restored you" heads in the right direction, although Mark would probably like us to use the stronger "saved" = saved from blindness and death.
ακολευθεω imperf. "followed" The imperfect is inceptive, "he began to follow", but a more durative sense is intended, i.e. he willingly followed Christ on the uphill road to the way of discipleship; for Mark, a proper faith-response.

εν τη οδω "along the road" - Mark is possibly just saying that Bartimaeus simply follows Jesus along the road (εν + dat., expressing space), but sometimes the preposition is temporal "while on the way", or as here, modal, expressing manner, "he followed in the way of Christ" as a disciple. It may well be that the blind man's name is remembered because he became a disciple and thus a member of the New Testament church.

Reformation Day 2018 Cycle B Reflection

Our mission is to clothe the hungry and feed the naked. — From “Funny Church Signs” 
The story of one of my favorite bible characters, Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52), is being skipped for Reformation Sunday this year. That is sad indeed. Somehow, for no particular reason, in my minds eye, Bartimaeus sits on some sort of bridge when Jesus and Co. approach. Then the whole situation plays itself out: He calls for Jesus, he is told to shut up, Jesus calls him over, he leaves his coat behind and comes to Jesus, he is asked point blank: “What is it you seek,” he responds: “I want to see, Jesus grants that prayer, saying: “Go; your faith has made you well,” and he follows the throng of disciples and hangers on. 
It is reported that people who have their sight restored by modern medicine after a life of being blind have a rough time at first. Their brains have no idea how to deal with the input that is now flooding it via the optic nerve. They have no concept of distance. They have no way of correlating the visual clues of texture on an object with their tactile experience. They have anxiety attacks similar to agoraphobia when taking in the vastness of the open sky. Distance and space are strange to them. I would suspect they might even wonder why the wind that they have felt all their life has no direct visible manifestation but can only be discerned by the effects of its passing. 
It makes us admire infants who have to likewise program their little heads to do the same thing. We are made to do it by our nature and we all got it done fairly well. But, maybe this phenomenon, learning to see, learning to make sense of all the things your eye send into your brain, is why infants often seem to stare at the world with an expression of utter amazement and fascination. 
What might it be like, I ask myself, to have your eyes opened for the first time and the first signal into your head is the face of Jesus? That is Bartimaeus’ story after all. 
Connected to that, the story of all the disciples and all the authorities and bystanders in both, the 8-10th chapters of Mark and many places in John (cf. ch9) is one of blindness to Jesus’ nature and mission. When and how are their eyes opened? Bartimaeus knows as much about Jesus as does St. Peter. He calls him by the proper title: “Son of David,” just as Peter called him Son of the most high. When Peter does it, he is commended by Jesus, when Bartimaeus does it he is rebuked by the crowd. After Peter is commended he tries to instruct Jesus and he is rebuked, after Bartimaeus is rebuked he is shown mercy and is given eyes to see Jesus. 
Blindness as a symbol to being oblivious to the reality of Jesus Christ and the Gospel are all around. Luther, as he commented on John 8:31-36, our texts for Reformation Sunday, noted that the Gospel is always popular. People hear it and immediately imagine themselves as bishops and popes of it. (He wrote this commentary at the tail end of the peasant revolt) They hear it and imagine themselves as lords, as people owed a fortune. They imagine it as the call to battle and glory. They are as yet blind. Having heard the word they have yet to ask: “Please, let me see.” 
Without that prayer fascination with the work of Jesus ends the moment that following him is actually asked of us. Everyone is happy to impose the Law of God on their neighbor but having ones eyes opened to the truth of Jesus Christ demands that we first of all bow to the law ourselves for the sake of the neighbor. (Freedom of the Christian part 3) 
Having our spiritual eyes opened reveals a landscape that our brains have to slowly make sense of. Luther, again commenting on John 8, would say: “Christ makes everyone a sinner.” What stark words. To be a Lutheran is to walk around with that truth about ourselves. Not an easy sight and not an easy thing to have our spirit get used to. It is equally true, Luther continues, that, having declared and exposed us all as sinners before a mighty God who in olden times has shown that sin goes 
not unpunished, Christ also gives us life by bearing that very punishment on our behalf. We have a place in the kingdom of God in spite of ourselves by invitation of the Son of God and that invitation is written in his blood at Calvary. He, the Son, set us free and we are free indeed and part of the household from now on. (Jn 8:35-36) 
When Luther said: “We are all beggars,” maybe we need to understand that all things belong to the house we live in but not to us, including ourselves. We are rich because God is rich, not because we are. We are priests and bishops and popes because we can dare ask the head of the house, who has made us his and gave us a place there, to have mercy on the world for the sake of the one who set us free is the great high priest who has made the sacrifice that assures that mercy. (Heb 4 & 8) 

I wonder if blind people get scared crossing bridges. They cannot see the hight or the terror below after all. I see Bartimaeus on a bridge for some reason as I meditate on Mark 10. It seems fitting somehow. He meets Jesus at the very moment that Jesus and his disciples cross from the comforts of seeing healing and demons put to flight to the stark reality of what the Gospel requires of Christ. Past Jericho and Bethany there is testing, tribulation, trial, and cross. Who wants that? Sinners whose eyes are opened, that’s who. For without there is only sin and an angry God. With them in sight we are all babes in a state of amazement and fascination. 

Reformation 2018 Cycle B Greek Text Study

Greek Study John 8:31-36

v 31 Ιουδαιουσ - to the Jews (ablative plural) In NT usage the term Ιουδαιοι may refer to the entire Jewish people, to the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory (i.e., “Judeans”) or the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. Here the phrase refers to the Jewish people in Jerusalem who had been listening to Jesus’ teaching in the temple and had believed his claim to be the Messiah, hence, “those Judeans who had believed him.” 
μεινητε εν τω λογω − if you continue in my word a conditional clause

v 32 και η αληθεια ελευθερωσει υμασ- the truth will release you, (aorist future indicative – present condition with future consequence) the translation “set you free” or “release you” (unlike the more traditional “make you free”) conveys more the idea that the hearers were currently in a state of slavery from which they needed to be freed.   The statement the truth will set you free is often taken as referring to truth in the philosophical (or absolute) sense, or in the intellectual sense, or even (as the Jews apparently took it) in the political sense. But in the context of John (particularly in light of the prologue) this must refer to truth about the person and work of Jesus.  αληθεια is a word from 2 Greek words; λεθοσ” (to forget) and α (not) – hence “truth” is “not to forget”.

v 33 σπερμα lit.  - we are the seed (an idiom) 

v 34 πασ ο ποιων τηναμαπτιαν  - who commits sin - could simply be translated, “everyone who sins,” but the Greek is emphatic, using the participle ποιων  with πασ, a typical Johannine construct. Here continuous action is intended. The one whose lifestyle is characterized by continuous sin is a slave to sin (the same idiom used for addiction in the ancient world). A sin junky is not free but enslaved. To break free requires outside intervention. The particular sin of the Ιουδαιουσ, repeatedly emphasized in the Fourth Gospel, is the sin of habitual unbelief. The present tense in this instance looks at the continual refusal of the Jewish leaders to acknowledge who Jesus is in spite of the evidence.

v 35 μενει εν τη οικια  - remain in the household. The Greek work οικια can denote the family (relatives by descent and marriage) as well as slaves and servants living in the same house (think “extended family”).
ο υιοσ μενει εισ τον αιωνα the son remains forever” Jesus’ point is that while a slave may be part of a household, the slave is not guaranteed a permanent place, while a son will have a guaranteed place in the house.

v 36 υιοσ  − son  - the question is whether this is to be understood as a direct reference to Jesus or as an indirect reference to the illustration begun in the previous verse – in which case the ‘son” would be the chosen people.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Some Thoughts on Mark 8:27-38

I will walk in the presence of the LORD in the land of the living. — Psalm 116:8
Today’s assigned Gospel is just a little further down the road from the healing stories we considered last Sunday. Then we read two healings in Gentile territory as well as another story of Jesus’ compassion in feeding, this time a gentile, multitude. It does not happen without being noticed by the Pharisees. They come to ask a sign from heaven, presumably as confirmation that he was the Messiah and therefore authorized to work these miracle by heaven rather than the nether places, though they have already decided in chapter 3 that they need to kill him. The Gentiles have said: “He does all things well.” A subtle hint that the gentiles realize that a messiah force is at work in Jesus.
The interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees is very brief. No sign will be given this generation. And with that he departs from them. The discussion in the boat that follows suggests that he is somehow done with them. One is to beware of their “leaven,” something that the disciples seem to misunderstand badly. His retort to them is somewhat harsh. The disciples, it seems, are to realize that his feeding Jew and Gentile alike, with leftover in quantities of 12 and 7, biblical numbers, was to suggest to them what was afoot. Jew and Gentile are gathering around him with miraculous results. What does one make of this?
One of the stranger episodes in Mark follows. A blind man approaches Jesus and the disciples. He is blind. Jesus
goes through the ritual things of healing him and then asks him what he sees. “I see people, they look like trees walking around,” is the answer. Jesus touches him again and then he sees normally as if to indicate to the disciples around him that it takes more than a flash to be able to “see” but that it takes a process to understand correctly.
After all this we are now on the road to Ceserea Philippi. The question is asked: Who do you say I am. It is now decision time. Who do you say that Jesus is? The disciples do what comes natural and list what they have heard said about him. No, it is not enough to say what they have heard. They must disclose who they think he is.
The answer will have consequences. If he is the Son of the Most High God, then what he commands is the command of the God of Abraham and Moses and there is suddenly no longer any argument or discussion. His word is the word from the almighty and there is no debate. When he says: Leave your life behind and follow me if you are with me, then there is no debate. Once any of us admit to ourselves and say to him you are the Messiah, there is a break in life, there is a change in orientation, there may well be change in life and a separation from old acquaintances, places and even family. The latter would have been a drastic separation in the 1st century as family was all one had to fall back on in tough times or trouble.
The matter will come up again in the 10th chapter when the rich young man approaches Jesus. By that time the disciples have made a transition, they have left everything to follow him. (10:28) Between today’s reading and the rich young
man episode stands an important event: The Transfiguration which is the content of chapter 9. It has been speculated now and again by scholars that the Transfiguration sounds suspiciously like a misplaced post Resurrection event. Speculation is just that. But, the Transfiguration does have its effect on the disciples. They will no longer presume to tell Jesus how his mission will be carried out. Two more predictions of his crucifixion will come. They no longer question it. Instead they begin to make arrangements who they will carry on after his death. However, they do not yet understand Resurrection. Mark is happy to report the Resurrection but leaves the question: “How did the disciples deal with it,” quite open. All Gospel long, Jesus tells people not to tell of their experiences with him and they immediately go and tell everyone. When the women find the empty tomb however and the man dressed in white telling them to tell the disciples, they will run away and tell no one.
I know I am making a large sweep through the entirety of the Gospel of Mark here but it is instructive. In John’s Gospel 2 weeks ago we had many leave Jesus and only a few remained. It was decision time then as well. There, Peter confesses that Jesus has the words of eternal life, here he recognizes the Christ, but he has problems living with his own confession as is seen in his attempt to tell the Messiah how to do his mission.
Called, enlightened, converted, sanctified, glorified. That is the sequence of Christian life posed by 20th century Swedish Lutheran Bishop Bo Giertz whom one might know from his book “The Hammer of God.” Giertz seems to have
realized that there really is no such thing as a flash “conversion.” It is preceded by a sense of fascination that calls one to the place where one learns, where one is enlightened about Christ. A moment comes, when those two elements of Christian life become enough and the point is reached to say: “He is the Christ, my Lord, and I will follow.” It is at that point that old life is left behind and a new one is forged but all the while one is still being led and changed and taught in holiness since one has still a lot to learn. Finally, it is ones privilege to see the the glory of the resurrection of the flesh.
The danger of such schemes is that once proposed, everyone will immediately try to plot their place and progress in it as if on a scale. The life of the disciples suggests that it is a bit more complicated and the chapters that follow our text spell that out.
But today we hear really a conversion story. Peter is converted as are all those who look and see and say: He is the Son of God. Could rejection of the Son and therefor of God also follow? Yes, witness the Pharisees and Judas. Conversion is never complete until it is followed by following him, meaning, obeying and listening to him. (9:7)
We tend to get stuck on denying and picking up a cross when we read Jesus’ reply to Peter, but is not following Jesus the cause of both of those? How much obedience to Christ are we actually rendering? Are we working out our
sanctification in fear and trembling, meaning we seek to know and follow His will?