Jesus and Opposition

Cross, Gospel of Mark, Jesus, Kingdom of God

(This post is part of a blog series on the Gospel of Mark. I am sharing a few little tidbits from my own personal study of Mark over the last few months. Here is the post regarding chapter 1).

A Few Notes From Mark 2

And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 

Take note of the phrase, “When Jesus saw their faith…” Faith is always demonstrated beyond the level of thought or intent. It involves a specific action or series of actions that are often visible and observable.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 

At the end of verse 8, the NRSV translates Jesus’ question as “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?…” But I really like the way N.T. Wright translates it in his KNT (Kingdom New Testament) version: “Why do your hearts tell you to think that?” The origin of their question was not from their intellect. The question originated in their hearts and then began to take shape in their minds. Jesus accurately diagnoses that their issues with him were way beyond the cognitive level. The actual issue was resistance within their hearts.

In Mark 1 we see Jesus’ fame begin to grow.

In Mark 2 we see his opposition beginning to develop.

Notice the progression we see throughout the chapter:

  • verse 6: “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts…”
  • verse 7: “they were discussing these questions among themselves
  • verse 16: “When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples…”
  • verse 24: “The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

So the opposition began on the heart level. Then it became a matter of discussion amongst themselves. Then their first approach was not to Jesus, but to question his disciples. And then finally they gathered the nerve to challenge Jesus directly.

Any true apprentice of Christ will at some point encounter opposition. Sometimes opposition is the result of a sincere misunderstanding. In these cases, a humble conversation can often make peace between opposing parties.

But often (as we see in Mark 2) the opposition is formed more fundamentally at the heart level. Typically in that scenario, no amount of conversation will bridge that divide. In the worst cases, even some of the most astounding works of God (like Jesus healing a paralytic, for example) will not be able to penetrate hardened hearts. In Mark’s gospel, the more Jesus heals people, the greater the intensity of his opposition, because the opposition was lodged deep within the hearts of his enemies. Therefore the brighter he shined, the more they hated him.

It takes wisdom and discernment to know when/how to engage and when to release an opposing party to God. But there is no way of following Jesus (actually following his teaching & example) that does not lead one through opposition, being misunderstood and misrepresented and conspired against in some form or fashion.

For the true follower of Jesus, one can only absorb the power of his love which empowers him/her to forgive, move forward, and take satisfaction in the opportunity to imitate Christ.

My Trip to Russia

Jesus, Kingdom of God, Missions

Several months ago my friend, Scott Holmes, invited me to join him for two weeks on a trip to Russia. Scott and his wife Kara (along with their two children) were missionaries in Siberia for several years beginning in 1993 (not long after the “Iron Curtain” had fallen). Since then, he returns for a short-term trip on an annual basis, usually bringing someone with him. On this particular trip we were preparing to speak at a pastor’s conference (among other things).

Prior to this trip, my knowledge about Russia was (and probably still is) embarrassingly lacking.

I knew the names of two cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. I was familiar with the names of several of their communist leaders from the 20th Century (Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, & Gorbachev). I had heard stories about the KGB. I also knew a bit about the historical prominence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A New Era Emerges

Gospel of Mark, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Salvation

(Note: A few months ago I began an in-depth study of the Gospel of Mark. For the next several blog posts, I plan to share some of my ongoing reflections on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Nothing fancy. But I hope you can gain something in each entry. For space reasons, I will only include a small portion of my actual notes & reflections. Unless otherwise noted, I will be using the New Revised Standard Version. For theo-nerds like me, my primary commentary sources are Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright).