Mark 14:1-11

Another Markian frame, this time in opposite and contrast.

  • The need for a traitor: Mark 14:1-2

  • The unnamed woman: Mark 14:3-9

  • The advent of traitor: Mark 14:10-11

  • "The literary contrast between the framed unit and the framing ones is between believer and traitor, but the depth of the Markian juxtaposition requires an understanding of what each person achieved within the sequence of Mark's story about Jesus." (page 71)

    • It is easy to see why betraying Jesus represents the worst action possible, but why does anointing Jesus imply the best?

The Need For A Traitor

  • "Why, if the Jewish crowd was so against Jesus, was it necessary to arrest him in the darkness of night with the help of a traitor from among Jesus's followers?" (page 72)

  • "The only reason given by Josephus for Antipas' execution of John the Baptizer in his Jewish Antiquities is not the content of John's message, but the size of John's crowd." (page 73)

  • Borg & Crossan point out that Mark emphasized that the "ordinary" Jewish citizens, or the crowds, were not against Jesus, in fact they believed it to be the opposite, but that the Jewish leaders feared their support of Jesus. In Mark 14:1-2 it appears that the authorities have given up, there is no way to arrest Jesus unless they use stealth.

  • "Do the other evangelists follow Mark's emphasis? Less and less." (page 74)

  • "as we move sequentially from Mark through Matthew and Luke to John, that is, from the early 70s to the mid 90s CE, that original emphasis on Jewish supporting crowd versus Jewish high-priestly authority diminishes significantly." (page 75)

The Twelve As Failed Disciples

  • "as we shall see, Peter, James, and John, then the Twelve as a group, and finally Judas all fail tragically but not irrevocably (except for Judas) to accept their destiny alongside Jesus." (page 75)

  • "to be the Twelve (apostles or disciples) in Mark's story is to fail Jesus badly." (page 76)

  • Mark makes this clear with his framing of the journey to Jerusalem with healings of blindness at the beginning and end of the journey.

  • "Between those frames of blindness, Mark focuses the failed discipleship of the Twelve around three prophetic warnings of his death and resurrection given to them by Jesus." (page 77)

First Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • "Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but far from applauding him Jesus 'sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him' (8:29-30). Such injunctions to silence in Mark usually do not mean, "You have it right, but keep it secret," but rather, "You have it wrong, so keep it quiet." In other words, "Please, shut up!" (page 77)

  • "Right after that wrong and silenced misunderstanding about Jesus as Messiah comes that correct and open announcement of Jesus as Son of Man." The title of Son of Man will be discussed in more detail in chapter 5.

  • "All three connected prophecies of death and resurrection beget at least incomprehension if not downright opposition from the Twelve."

  • "It is extremely important to underline Mark's theology at this point. For him, Jesus knows in precise detail what is going to happen, but he does not speak of suffering vicariously to atone for the sins of the world." (page 78)

  • "To follow Jesus means to accept the cross, to walk with him against imperial violence and religious collaboration, and to pass through death to resurrection."

Second Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • "Even as Jesus is announcing his death buy execution, they are debating precedence among themselves. Here Mark is not only criticizing the disciples; he is almost lampooning them." (page 79)

Third Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • "Continues what we have called the Lenten journey theme as Jesus tries in vain not just to foretell but to explain his destiny to the disciples, so that they will be enabled to follow him on the way through death to resurrected life." (Page 79)

  • The third prophecy is the most detailed of the three. (page 80)

  • the "three prophecies emphasize also that Jesus is calling all his followers -- and not just the twelve disciples -- to accept that communal destiny of death and resurrection." (page 81)

  • "that confrontation is with oppressive foreign empire (against violence) and its collaborative local religion (against injustice), that is to say, with any religio-political combination that establishes injustice on earth that belongs to a God of justice." (page 81)

  • "notice that in the first prophecy's reaction and response Jesus was challenging them to die or at least be ready to die with him in Jerusalem. In the second and third ones, however, the emphasis is on how to behave -- and behave as leaders -- both now and hereafter." (page 82)

  • "The function of the three responses is to spell out in some detail what Jesus's destiny of execution and resurrection means for himself, for the Twelve, and for all his followers." (page 82)

Atonement: Substitution Or Participation?

  • "It is probably fair to say that substitutionary atonement is the only way that many or even most contemporary Christians understand faith in the sacrificial and salvific death of Jesus." (page 83)

  • "The basic and controlling metaphor for that understanding of God's design is our own experience of a responsible human judge who, no matter how loving, cannot legitimately or validly walk into her courtroom and clear the docket of all offenders by anticipatory forgiveness." (page 83)

  • "Notice, above all, how repeatedly Mark has Jesus insist that Peter, James, and John, the Twelve, and all his followers on the way from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem must pass with him through death to a resurrected life." (page 83)

  • "For Mark, it is about participation with Jesus and not substitution by Jesus."

  • "And every year, our Lent asks us to repent, change, and participate in that transition with Jesus." (page 84)

  • "What about that climactic conclusion in Mark 10:45, which states that "the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many"?

  • "The Greek word translated 'ransom' is lutron, which means the payment to an owner for a slave's freedom or a captive's ransom. It is not used in the Greek of the Hebrew Bible for anything like vicarious satisfaction or vicarious atonement to God for sin."

  • "How does Mark think Jesus's death is a 'ransom' (lutron) for many? The Markan Jesus has been insisting on the 'how' ever since Caesarea Phillippi -- to the Twelve in particular but also to all others as well. It is not by Jesus substituting for them, but by their participating in Jesus." (page 84)

In Remembrance Of Her

  • "Why does she deserve or her action receive this absolutely unique and stunningly extraordinary accolade from Jesus: 'Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her'" (14:9) (page 85)

  • "She alone, of all those who heard Jesus's three prophecies of his death and resurrection, believe him and drew the obvious conclusion. Since (not if) you are going to die and rise, I must anoint you now beforehand, because I will never have a chance to do it afterward. She is, for Mark, the first believer. And she believed from the word of Jesus before any discovery of an empty tomb." (page 85)

  • "The unnamed woman is not only the first believer; she is also the model leader. Jesus has been telling the Twelve what leadership entails from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem and has gotten nowhere with them." (page 85)

  • "The unnamed woman represents the perfect disciple-leader and is contrasted with Judas, who represents the worst one possible." (page 86)

The Motive Of Judas

  • Mark gives absolutely no hint of Judas's motive in betraying Jesus. Mark, by the way, does not say that Judas did it for money, simply that they promised him some.

  • "Mark's emphasis is not on Judas's motive, whatever it was, but on Judas's membership in the Twelve." (page 87)

"The traitor has entered into an agreement with those who collaborate with imperial rule. And so Wednesday ends and the plot has been set in motion." (page 87)

03/29/14; 04:45:27 PM

Mark 11:20-25

Tuesday is the longest day in Mark's story of Jesus's final week.

  • About two-thirds of Tuesday consists of conflict with temple authorities

  • The remaining third warns of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, all in the near future.

Jesus's Authority Is Challenged

  • Mark 11:27-33

  • "They ask Jesus, 'By what authority are you doing these things?' The question refers to Jesus's prophetic act in the temple on Monday, and Mark's use of the plural 'things' suggests that Sunday's provocative entry into the city may also be included." (page 51)

Jesus Indicts The Authorities With A Parable

  • Mark 12:1-12

  • Jesus takes the initiative. Commonly called the parable of the wicked tenants, this story might better be called the parable of the greedy tenants.

  • "The motivation for their murderous behavior is greed: they want to possess the produce of the vineyard for themselves." (page 52)

  • "Christian interpretation of this parable has most often emphasized a christological meaning." but...

  • "The primary meaning of the parable is not christological. Rather as Mark tells us at the very end of the story, it is an indictment of the authorities." (page 52)

  • "The tenants are not 'Israel' not 'the Jews.' Rather, the vineyard is Israel -- both the land and its people. And the vineyard belongs to God, not to the greedy tenants -- the powerful and wealthy at the top of the local domination system -- who want its produce for themselves." (page 53)

Taxes To Caesar?

  • Mark 12:13-17

  • "It has been most commonly understood to mean that there are two separate realms of human life, one religious and one political." (page 54)

  • "The heavy weight given to this verse as a solemn pronouncement about the relationship between religion and politics obscures what it means in Mark." (page 54)

  • "To imagine that their purpose is to provide a set of eternal truths about how human life should be ordered is to ignore the larger narrative of which they are a part." (page 55)

  • "Should we pay them (taxes to Caesar) or not?"

  • It's a volatile question.

  • "The spokesmen of the authorities set the trap skillfully. Either answer would get Jesus in trouble." (page 55) Either he

    • Could be charged with sedition or,

    • He risked discrediting himself with the crowd. "Most likely, this was the primary purpose of the question: to separate Jesus from the crowd by leading him into an unpopular response." (page 55)

  • As he did with the question about authority, he turns the situation back on his opponents.

  • "Jesus's strategy has led his questioners to disclose to the crowd that they have a coin with Caesar's image on it. In this moment, they are discredited." (page 56)

  • "Thus, even before the famous words about rendering to Caesar, Jesus has won the encounter." (page 56)

  • "The second half of Jesus's response is both evocative and provocative: "Give to God the things that are God's. It raises the question, 'What belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God?" (page 56)

  • "What belongs to Caesar? The implication is, nothing." (page 57)

God Of The Dead Or Of The Living?

  • Mark 12:18-27

  • The Sadducees differed from the "chief priests, elders, and scribes" in two ways:

    • They accepted only the "law," the five books of Moses called the Torah as sacred scripture.

    • They did not believe in an afterlife. (They did not believe there would be a resurrection of the dead."

  • The purpose of the resurrection of the dead was to redress human injustice: Jews who were faithful to God were being executed, and Jews who were willing to collaborate with Antiochus were being spared.

  • "If you're rich and powerful, who needs an afterlife?" (page 58)

  • Levirate marriage: if a man dies before his wife has a child, then the man's brother shall marry the widow and conceive an heir for the brother who died. (page 58)

  • Does personal identity continue in a life after death, and do our relationships continue?

  • Jesus's response is threefold

    • He charges the Sadducees with a deficient understanding of scripture and God

    • He addresses the specific question: "When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (12:25)

    • Borg & Crossan say it is unclear to them what to make of this response.

    • They suggest trying to discern a informative meaning may be a mistake

    • Jesus refers to a passage from the book of Exodus, one of the books the Sadducess did regard as sacred scripture.

    • Exodus 3:6

    • "God is God not of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong." (12:27)

  • "For Jesus, the kingdom of God is not primarily about the dead, but about the living, not primarily about life after death, but about life in this world." (page 60)

The Great Commandment

  • Mark 12:28-34

  • For the first and only time in this section of Mark, the theme of conflict disappears, and we have a story in which a connection is made between Jesus and an interrogator.

  • "A request to provide a concise summary of what loyalty to God means was not unusual within Judaism, though teachers were not always ready to be brief." (page 60)

  • The two-fold great commandment -- to love God and love our neighbor -- is so familiar to us that it has become a Christian cliche. Miss the radical meaning of what Jesus is saying:

    • "To love God above all else means giving to God what belongs to God: our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These belong to God, not Caesar." (page 61)

    • "To love one's neighbor as one's self means to refuse to accept the divisions rendered by the normalcy of civilization."

  • The scribe repeats what he heard and adds, "This is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

    • Thus the scribe brings up the contrast that dominates this section of Mark
  • "He is not far from it because he knows its heart, but he is not in it. To be in it means more than knowing this. It means living it." (page 62)

Jesus Challenges Scribal Teaching And Practice

  • Mark 12:35-44

  • Now (again) Jesus takes the initiative.

  • "How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?" (page 63)

  • The question challenges the teaching of the scribes that the Messiah is the son of David. But what does this mean?

  • It might be about biological ancestry. It implies that Jesus is not of Davidic descent. This seems unlikely. The tradition that Jesus is a descendant of David is early, such as in Romans 1:3.

  • "Some of Jesus's contemporaries expected that the Messiah would be 'son of David' in the sense of being a king like David -- a warrior who presided over Israel in the time of its greatest power and glory." (page 63)

  • "The message here then is that the Messiah will not be a king like David, not 'son of David' in this sense."

  • "The term 'son David' is not so much wrong as inadequate. The point, rather, is that the Messiah is David's Lord -- that is, greater than David, more than David, different from David." (page 64)

  • Next, Jesus indicts the self-important practice of the scribes. "... and yet, 'They devour widows' houses' (12:40)

    • How do they devour widows' houses? Most likely this is in reference to the scribes' activity as working for the wealthy, they would have administered loan agreements and then foreclosed on widows' property when the loan could not be re-payed.
  • Then we have the passage about the poor widow who puts in the temple treasury "all that she had."

    • This passage is commonly understood as contrasting the deep devotion of the poor widow with the public display of generosity of the wealthy.

    • "An alternative interpretation hears the passage as a condemnation of the way the poor are manipulated to give all that they have to support the temple." (page 64)

The Temple's Destruction And Jesus's Return

  • Mark 13:1-4

  • Jesus and the disciples are leaving the temple. One of them exclaims, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Jesus responds by telling them, "Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

  • Like the prophet Jeremiah six centuries earlier, Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple, and of Jerusalem.

  • "In an important sense, this passage is the climax of the series of conflicts between Jesus and the system of domination and collaboration centered in the temple. The judgement against what it had become pronounced by Jesus's prophetic act in the temple on Monday is here explicitly articulated." (page 65)

  • The disciples then ask, "When will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" (page 65)

The Little Apocalypse

  • Mark 13:5-37

  • An apocalypse -- the word means "revelation" or "unveiling" -- is a kind of Jewish and Christian literature that reveals or unveils the future in language loaded with images and symbols.

  • This is the longest single speech in Mark's gospel.

  • "At the center of the little apocalypse is an event described as 'the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be,' followed by an aside to the reader, the only such remark in Mark, 'Let the reader understand.'" (13:14)

  • "Chapter 13 uses this language to speak of an event in Mark's own time, namely, the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Rome in the year 70." (page 68)

  • The war began in the year 66 when the greatest of the Jewish revolts against Roman rule broke out.

  • The desolating sacrilege -- the destruction of the temple -- is not the last word in this chapter. Jesus also speaks of "the coming of the Son of Man." It also indicates a time, "But in those days, after that suffering," (page 69)

  • "It refers to a humanlike figure who comes to God and to whom God gives an everlasting kingdom." (page 69)

  • "To use later Christian language, this seems to be a 'second coming' of Jesus text. Mark expected this soon."

  • "In our judgement, Mark's gospel expresses an intensification of apocalyptic expectation triggered by the great war." (page 70)

  • "But beneath Mark's timetable, one may perceive a deeper meaning in his apocalyptic conviction. Namely, what has begun in Jesus will triumph, despite the tumult and resistance of this world." (page 70)

"Tuesday has been a long day. By now, it is evening on the Mount of Olives. Darkness is coming on, a darkness that will deepen as the week continues to unfold. And as the darkness falls, Mark commends us, 'Be alert! Stay awake! Watch!" (page 70)

03/17/14; 09:22:47 PM

Mark 11:12-19

Markan Frames

  • Mark's gospel often contains pairs of incidents that are intended to be interpreted in light of one another.

  • How exactly do the framing of Incident A and the framed Incident B shed light on one another?

  • An example: Mark 3:20-35

    • Incident A: Mark 3:20-21. Jesus's birth-family members are rejecting him as insane

    • Incident B starts at Mark 3:22. The Scribes say he casts out demons in the name of Satan.

    • Jesus's rebuttal in Mark 3:24-25. The rebuttal points toward the framed "kingdom" or domain of Satan and toward the framing "house" or family of Jesus

    • Incident A then picks back up at Mark 3:31-35

    • Mark's framing technique pushes hearers or readers to meditate deeply on the intercalation of those two dismissals by Jesus. "Think, it says, and keep on thinking." (page 34)

From The Fig Tree Hear Its Lesson

  • Incident A: Jesus sees a fig tree, doesn't find figs on it, and pronounces a curse that it would never produce figs again, a curse the disciples hear. 11:12-14

  • Incident B: The temple incident. 11:15-19

  • Incident A conclusion: Jesus's disciples see that the fig tree has withered away to its roots. 11:20-21

  • Jesus cursing the fig tree is contradictory, and Mark points this out.

    • It was March or April and there could never have been figs on that tree. Mark explicitly says this.

    • On the other hand, Jesus is hungry, expects to find figs, and failing to do so curses the fig tree

  • "The obvious contradiction between these two aspects of the incident is Mark's way of warning us to take the event symbolically rather than historically." (page 35)

  • "The framing fig tree warns us that the framed temple is not being cleansed, but symbolically destroyed and that, in both cases, the problem is a lack of the 'fruit' that Jesus expected to be present." (page 35)

  • What exactly is wrong with the temple?

The Meaning Of Blood Sacrifice

  • "Most people in the ancient world took blood sacrifice for granted as a normal or even supreme form of religious piety." (page 36)

  • Why?

    • In order to eat meat or to have a feast you had to first kill and animal.

    • Long before animal sacrifice was invented, human beings knew two basic ways of creating, maintaining, or restoring good relations with one another -- the gift and the meal.

  • Sacrifice as a gift to God, the animal was burned on the altar, totally destroying it.

  • In sacrifice as meal, the animal was transferred to God by having its blood poured over the altar as then returned to the offerer as divine food for a feast with God.

    • "In other words, the offerer did not so much invite God to a meal as God invited the offerer to a meal." (page 36)
  • Sacrifice: sacrum facere (Latin), "to make" (facere) "sacred" (sacrum)

  • "In a sacrifice the animal is made sacred and is given to God as a sacred gift or returned to the offerer as a sacred meal. That sense of sacrifice should never be confused with either suffering or substitution." (page 37)

  • "Most Jews accepted blood sacrifice as a normal and normative component of divine worship at the time of Jesus. There is no reason to think that Jesus's action in the temple was caused by any rejection of blood sacrifice, or indeed, had anything to do with sacrifice as such." (page 38)

The Ambiguity Of The High-Priesthood

  • "Today some Christian denominations have priests and some do not, but post-Reformation tensions over the clergy either as function or caste should not be retrojected into Jesus's temple action." (page 38)

  • The Ambiguous status of the high-priesthood at the time of Jesus

    • Jewish Hasmonean or Maccabean leaders, through successful wards against Syrian imperialism, had elevated their status to that of high priests and kings to become priest-kings. Normally there was a hereditary requirement for candidates for high-priests.

    • Recall how the Romans divided territories of Israel amongst Herod's children to rule in their place, but they appointed a governor, Pilot, to rule Judea, which contains Jerusalem.

    • There was no longer a single hereditary dynasty that established the next high priest for life; instead there were those four major families competing with one another for appointment to that office.

    • The governor hired and fired the high priest and will.

  • How could a high priest negotiate with a governor who could fire him? It was a recipe for misrule. Hence the collaboration between the high-priest and the Roman governor.

  • "It was possible to be against a particular high priest and the manner in which he was fulfilling his role without being against the office of high priest itself. There was a terrible ambiguity in that the priest who represented the Jews before God on the Day of Atonement also represented them before Rome the rest of the year." (page 40)

The Ambiguity Of The Temple

  • "That ambiguity of Judaism's high priest as Rome's primary local collaborator spilled over to the temple as well. That building was both the house of God on earth and the institutional seat of submission to Rome." (page 40)

  • After Herod rebuilt the platform of the temple and added the giant Court of the Gentiles, he placed a large golden eagle, symbol of Rome and its supreme divinity, Jupitor Optimus Maximus, at the top of one of its gates.

  • Two Jewish teachers told their students to hack it off the wall since it was contrary to their sacred laws. They were executed, some burnt alive. These martyrs didn't act against the temple, but against the ambiguity of the Roman eagle on the Jewish temple.

  • This ambiguity went back over half a millenium before Jesus.

Jeremiah And The Temple

  • "In Jeremiah 7 God tells Jeremiah to stand in front of the temple and confront those who enter to worship (7:1). About what? About their false sense of security." (page 41)

  • "Do you think, charges God through Jeremiah, that divine worship excuses you from divine justice, that all God wants is regular attendance at God's temple rather than equitable distribution of God's land?" (page 42)

  • Jeremiah 7:5-7, 11

  • "Den of robbers": The people's everyday injustice makes them robbers, and they think the temple is their safe house, den, hideaway, or place of security." (page 42)

  • "There was an ancient prophetic tradition in which God insisted not just on justice and worship, but justice over worship." (page 42)

  • "What will happen if worship in the house of God continues as a substitute for justice in the land of God?" (page 43)

  • Shiloh, which was destroyed by the Philistines, was the place were the ark of the covenant was enshrined in the tent of God before it was removed to the temple of God built by Solomon.

Jesus And The Den Of Robbers

  • "The Temple incident involved both an action by Jesus and a teaching that accompanied and presumably explained it." (page 44)

  • The action, Jesus:

    • began to drive out the buyers and sellers

    • overturned the tables of the money changers

    • overturned the seats of the dove sellers

    • would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple

    • "It means that Jesus has shut down the temple. But it is a symbolic rather than a literal 'shutdown.'" (page 45)

    • Recall the Markan frame of the fig tree and the temple set up earlier. (page 45)

    • The tree was "shut down" for lack of the fruit Jesus demanded, and so was the temple.

    • In the case of the temple, it is not a cleansing, but a symbolic destruction, and the fig tree's fate emphasizes that meaning.

  • The teaching:

    • "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." Mark 11:17

    • Gospel footnotes usually indicate the sources as Isaiah 56:7, for the "house of prayer" part and Jeremiah 7:11 for the "den of robbers" part, but the former is given in quotation marks and the latter is not. In other words "den of robbers" is not indicated clearly as a quotation, and that has caused misunderstanding of Jesus's action. "Den" is ignored and "robbery" is taken to refer to what is going on in the outer Court of the Gentiles

    • "But clearly from the quotation's context in Jeremiah 7 and 26, a "den" is a hideaway, a safe house, a refuge. It is not where the robbers rob, but where they flee to for safety after having done their robbing elsewhere." (page 46)

    • "But God is a God of justice and righteousness and when worship substitutes for justice, God rejects God's temple -- or, for us today, God's church." (page 46)

For All the Nations

  • Distinction between what Jesus said and what Mark adds. Borg and Crossan say it's difficult to imagine the historical Jesus using the Isaiah 56:7 quotation because he was standing in the Court of the Gentiles.

  • "In the year 30 CE, therefore, neither Jesus nor anyone else could stand where the money changers sat and the pure animals were sold and say that the temple was not open to all people, that it was not "a house of prayer for all the nations." (page 47)

  • Mark is thinking not so much of Jesus around 30 CE as his own people forty years later.

  • Mark is writing sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE, and explaining to Christian Jews why God allowed it to happen.

  • "Between 67 and 70 the temple was certainly no longer open to 'all the nations,' but had become a stronghold for Zealot insurgents, a stronghold initially against their own Jewish aristocracy and eventually against the besieging Roman legions.

Twin Symbolic Actions

  • Sunday's demonstration occurs at the entrance to Jerusalem, and Monday's at the entrance of the temple. For market these are not so much two separate incidents as a single double one.

  • The structure of Sunday and Monday's events are similar. (page 48)

  • Mark 11:11 connects the two events, and it serves to emphasize that it also was a preplanned action.

  • "Taken together, and they must be taken together, those action-word combinations proclaim the already present kingdom of God against both the already present Roman imperial power and the already present Jewish high-priestly collaboration. Jerusalem had to be retaken by a nonviolent messiah rather than by a violent revolution, and the temple ritual had to empower justice rather than excuse one from it. What is involved for Jesus is an absolute criticism not only of violent domination, but of any religious collaboration with it." (page 49)

03/09/14; 08:50:55 PM

"But as the world around us becomes increasingly post-Christian, and theological rhetoric no longer holds sway for people who don’t speak Christianese, it has become increasingly more difficult, if not altogether impossible, to simply talk someone into becoming a Christian.

And I think that’s really good thing.

Because if Christianity is just a list of doctrines to believe in or a magic prayer to say, then it’s worthless and irrelevant in a world of injustice, suffering, and evil."- See more at:

03/06/14; 01:55:13 PM


  • This book is about the last week of Jesus's life.

  • "Passion" is from the Latin noun passio, meaning "suffering."

  • In everyday English we also use "passion" for any consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment.

  • "In this book we focus on 'what Jesus was passionate about' as a way of understanding why his life ended in the passion of Good Friday." (page 5)

  • "We do not in this book intend to attempt a historical reconstruction of Jesus's last week on earth." (page 5)

  • "tell and explain, against the back-ground of Jewish high-priestly collaboration with Roman imperial control, the last week of Jesus's life on earth as given in the Gospel According to Mark." (page 5)

  • "Mark alone went out of his way to chronicle Jesus's last week on a day-by-day basis, while the others kept some but not all of those indications of time." (page 6)

  • "Christian liturgy has started to collapse Holy Week into its last three days and renamed Palm Sunday as Passion Sunday." (page 7)

  • "the loss of Palm Sunday's enthusiastic crowds and all those days and events in between may weaken or even negate the meaning of the death and therefore of that resurrection (page 7)

Chapter 1: Palm Sunday

  • Mark 11:1-11

  • Two processions. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus's crucifixion. (page 9)

  • Standard practice of Romain governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals to be in the city in case there was trouble.

  • "Pilate's procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. According to this theology, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome but the Son of God." (page 10)

  • As Mark tells the story in March 11:1-11, it is a prearranged 'counterprocession.' Jesus planned it in advance.

  • "The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet Zechariah (9:9) in the Jewish Bible." (page 11)

  • "This contrast -- between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Ceasar -- is central not only to the gospel of Mark, but to the story of Jesus and early Christianity." (page 11)

  • Jerusalem

    • By the first century, Jerusalem had been the center of the sacred geography of the Jewish people for a millennium.

    • "It is the city of God and the faithless city, the city of hope and the city of oppression, the city of joy and the city of pain." (page 12)

    • "Jersualem became the capital of ancient Israel in the time of King David, around 1000 BCE. Under David and his son Solomon, Israel experienced the greatest period in its history." (page 12)

    • "So revered did David become that the hoped-for future deliverer, the messiah, was expected to be a 'son of David,' a new David, indeed greater than David. (page 12)

    • "Within the theology that developed around it (the temple), it was the 'navel of the earth' connecting this world to its source in God, and here (and only here) was God's dwelling place on earth." (page 12)

    • "The temple mediated not only God's presence, but also God's forgiveness. It was the only place of sacrifice, and sacrifices was the means of forgiveness." (page 12)

    • Beginning in the half century after King David, Jerusalem became the center of a 'domination system.'" (page 13)

    • Domination system (page 13):

      1. Political oppression
      1. Economic exploitation
      1. Religious legitimation
    • "In this sense 'domination systems' are normal, not abnormal, and thus can also be called the 'normalcy of civilization.'" (page 14)

    • "As the home of the monarchy and aristocracy, of wealth and power, Jerusalem became the center of injustice and betrayal of God's covenant." (page 14)

    • Micah 3:1-2, 9-10

    • Isaiah 1:21, 23

    • Jeremiah 5:1; 7:11; 6:6

    • "Yet even among the prophets who indicted it so sharply, Jerusalem also retained positive associations as the city of God and the city of hope. Moreover, Jerusalem's future was not just about itself; rather, it was a hope for the world, God's dream for the world.

    • Isaiah 2:2-3; 2:4

    • "These are images of justice, prosperity, and security. And the creation of this world of justice and peace, in which fear will be no more, will come from the God whose dwelling place is Jerusalem." (page 16)

  • Jerusalem In The Centuries Before Jesus

    • After a dreadful siege of over a year, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. (page 16)

    • After about fifty years in exile, the Jewish people were permitted to return to their homeland. In the late 500s, within a few decades of their return, they rebuilt the temple.

    • For several centuries Judea with its capital in Jerusalem was ruled by foreign empires. (page 17)

    • It fell under the control of Rome in 63 BCE.

    • Rome appointed as king of the Jews a man named Herod, an Idumean whose family had only recently converted to Judiasm. Herod had a long reign, until 4 BCE, and eventually became known to history as Herod the Great.

    • Herod ruled from Jerusalem, and the city became magnificent during his reign. He rebuilt the temple. Beginning in the 20s of the first century BCE, Herold "remodeled" the modest postexilic temple, but in effect built a new temple surrounded by spacious courts and elegant colonnades, with sumptuous use of marble and gold.

    • Though history knows him as "Herod the Great," he was not popular among many Jews. (page 19)

    • When Herod died in 4 BCE, revolts erupted. They were so serious that Roman legions had to be brought south from Syria to quell them.

  • Jerusalem In The First Century

    • The events of 6 CE significantly changed political circumstances for Jerusalem and the temple (page 19)

    • The temple replaced Herodian rule as the center of the local domination system. The temple was now the enter of local collaboration with Rome.

    • At the top of the system were temple authorities, headed by the high priest, and included members of aristocratic families. Mark called these "the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes." (For example Mark 14:53)

    • Temple authorities came from wealthy families.

    • "The issue is not their individual virtue or wickedness, but the role they played in the domination system. They shaped it, enforced it, and benefited from it." (page 22)

    • "Their role was to be the intermediaries between a local domination system and an imperial domination system." (page 22)

    • "The temple's role as the center of a domination system was legitimated by theology: its place in the system was said to have been given by God." (page 23)

    • Jesus was not the only Jewish anti-temple voice in the first century. Among other voices were the Essenes, identified with the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    • The Jewish revolt in 66 CE was directed as much against the Jewish collaborators in Jerusalem as it was against Rome itself.

    • Forgiveness was a function that temple theology claimed for itself, mediated by sacrifice in the temple. (page 23)

    • Mark 2:7, "Their point is not that Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, their point is that God has provided a way to forgive sins -- namely through temple sacrifice. And here is Jesus, like John, proclaiming forgiveness apart from the temple." (page 24)

    • In 70 CE Roman legions shattered the great revolt by reconquering the city and destroying the temple, leaving only the part of the western wall of the temple platform.

    • "The destruction of the temple changed Judaism forever. Sacrifice ceased, the role of the priesthood was eclipsed, and the central institutions of Judaism became scripture and synagogue." (page 25)

  • Jerusalem In The Gospel of Mark

    • Six of Mark's sixteen chapters are set in Jerusalem; almost 40 percent of the whole

    • "In Mark, Jesus's message is not about himself -- not about his identity as the Messiah, the Son of god, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World, or any of the other exalted terms familiar to Christians." (page 25)

    • "In Mark only voices from the Spirit world speak of Jesus's special identity."

    • "In response to Jesus's question to his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?' Peter says, 'You are the Messiah.' This is the only time in Mark's gospel that a follower of Jesus says anything like this. Jesus's response confirms that this has not been part of Jesus's own message: "And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.'" Mark 8:27-30

    • Second occasion, on the night before his execution, during interrogation by the high priest, who asks him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" The response of Jesus is commonly translated "I am." (Mark 14:61-62).

    • "In Greek, the language in which Mark writes, the phrase is ambiguous. Green does not reverse word order to indicate a question rather than a statement. Thus Jesus's response, ego eimi, can mean either "I am" or "Am I?" (page 26)

    • The way that Matthew and Luke revise this scene suggests they understood the later mean. Matthew 26:64; Luke 22:70

    • "If Jesus's message in Mark was not about himself, what was it about? For Mark, it is about the kingdom of God and the way." (page 26)

    • The Greek word for "way" is hodos and Mark uses it frequently throughout his gospel. Hodos is translated with a number of words: "way," "road," "path"

    • "Repent, and believe in the good news." Mark 1:15

    • Repent has two meanings here:

    • From the Hebrew Bible, it has the meaning of "to return," especially "to return from exile"

    • The roots of the Greek word for "repent" mean "to go beyond the mind that you have"

    • The word "believe" has a meaning quite different from the common Christian understanding. For Christians, "to believe" often means thinking that a set of statements, a set of doctrines is true. But the ancient meaning of the word "believe" has much more to do with trust and commitment. (page 27)

    • To whom did Jesus direct his message about the kingdom of God and the "way"? Primarily to peasants

    • Why? The most compelling answer is that Jesus saw his message as to and for peasants. (page 28)

    • The two chapters of Mark following Peter's affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, leading up to Jesus's entry in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday are about what it means to follow Jesus, to be a genuine disciple. (page 28)

    • After Peter's affirmation Jesus for the first time speaks of his destiny. Commonly called "the first prediction of the passion," it is followed by two more solemn announcements anticipating Jesus's execution.

    • Each of these anticipations of Jesus's execution is followed by teaching about what it means to follow Jesus.

    • In first-century Christianity, the cross had a twofold meaning:

    • Execution by the empire

    • By the time of Mark's gospel it had also become a symbol for the "way" or the "path" of death and resurrection, of entering new life by dying to an old life.

    • To underline the centrality of the chapters that speak to what it means to follow Jesus, Mark frames them with two stories of seeing

    • Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52

    • "The framing is deliberate, the meaning clear: to see means to see that the way involves following Jesus to Jerusalem." (page 30)

    • "Thus we have the twofold theme that leads to Palm Sunday. Genuine discipleship, following Jesus, means following him to Jerusalem, the place of (1) confrontation with the domination system and (2) death and resurrection. These are the two themes of the week that follows, Holy Week. Indeed, these are the two themes of Lent and of the Christian life." (page 31)

    • "Which procession are we in? Which procession do we want to be in? This is the question of Palm Sunday and of the week that is about to unfold." (page 31)

03/01/14; 06:07:01 PM

Last built: Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 3:18 PM

By Frank McPherson, Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM.