Tag Archives: scribes

Entering the Circle of Believers

One of the disadvantages of reading the scriptures parceled out as they are in our daily Mass lectionary is that we can lose sight of the larger picture an evangelist like Mark is painting. He starts Jesus’ ministry with the cure of a possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum and then Jesus cures Peter’s mother in law and that brings crowds of local people to Peter’s house.

Mark’s narrative is quick and excited. They go to other towns in Galilee, and by the 3rd chapter of Mark, when Jesus returns home to Peter’s house, he’s followed by “a large number of people from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.”

They’re not the only ones following him now. The scribes have come from Jerusalem, who say he has a demon, and the Pharisees go to plot with the Herodians about putting him to death. And they hear about him in Nazareth; his relatives say, “No, he doesn’t have a demon. He may be out of his mind,” and they come to bring him home. Mark wants us to see the mother of Jesus and his brothers pushing through this noisy, confused crowd as they arrive at the house to bring him home. “Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3,31-35) Just a small circle of believers were seated around him then. VATICANCRUC

Some commentators describe Mark’s gospel as a Passion Narrative with a prelude. In other words, the early stories in Mark’s gospel announce the last story of his Passion and Death and Resurrection. Also, they see Mark’s gospel written to help the Christians of Rome who suffered a brutal, surprising persecution by Nero in the mid 60s. It was an awful persecution, senseless, arbitrary. It left them confused and wondering what did this all mean? So, even in Mark’s account of Jesus’ early ministry there’s an atmosphere of confusion and lack of understanding that was found during his Passion.

Not only do the Jewish leaders and scholars misunderstand him, not only do the crowds not understand, but his own family can’t grasp what’s happening. It’s too much for them. The Passion of our Lord is not something we easily understand, Mark’s gospel reminds us, no matter how long we look at it. It’s not easy to enter the circle of believers. But we have to keep following him. Like Mary and others from his family we have to keep going back until, like them, we finally understand. Only after Jesus dies in Mark’s Passion Narrative do you hear a word of understanding; that’s when the Roman centurion cries our, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

The Great Commandments

Mk 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,”Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, Teacher,” the scribe says to Jesus, who spoke of loving God and loving neighbor.
He was among the representatives sent by the Roman-backed Jewish priestly leaders to discredit Jesus after his symbolic attach on the temple. Mark describes the attempts by the scribes–scholars skilled in religious matters –to trap Jesus in chapters 11 and 12 of his gospel.

But this scribe is different. The familiar words he’s heard so often seem to touch his heart as Jesus speaks them.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s more important than the temple sacrifice and worship you’re working to maintain.

There’s no evidence that the scribe left everything to follow Jesus, but he’s told he’s ‘not far from the kingdom of God.” What became of him, we wonder?

We may not be far from the scribes, though. We lose sight of what’s important too.  We get used to even the holiest things and defend ourselves with questions as they did.

Jesus engaged them, however. Will he not engage us this Lent, stirring our hearts, our souls, our minds, and renewing our strength with his truth?

Lord,
Let me hear your voice, your unfamiliar voice– I don’t listen to you enough.
Though unseen, you are always with me,
Though unrecognized, you care for me and all the world.
Feed me with the best of wheat and honey from the rock,
As once you led your people out of Egypt,
Lead us to your truth.