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.

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted

Beatitudes, Christian history, Justice, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth

The moment Jesus announced the Beatitudes in “the Sermon on the Mount” and began to live by them in a public manner, he was launched on a course that would inevitably lead him to Good Friday.

The Beatitudes themselves are found at Calvary. All eight of them are on full display. Here’s a famous painting of the crucifixion that Andrea Mantegna painted in 1459. It hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Just look at it for a moment.

mantegna,_andrea_-_crucifixion_-_louvre_from_predella_san_zeno_altarpiece_verona

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In this scene, where do we find the poor in spirit receiving the kingdom of heaven? The thief on the cross – who at first joins in the taunts of those who are mocking Jesus, but later thinks better of it, repents, and scolds his compatriot who is being crucified with him and says, “We are receiving what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Beatitudes, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth, Suffering

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

As modern Western Christians when we read the word “peace” in the Bible we build a fence around it. We shrink it down to size. We define it as “inner peace.” “Emotional peace.” “Spiritual peace.” “Peace of mind.” “Peace in my heart.”

Undoubtedly, Jesus gives us all of those things. But if that’s all we think of, we are limiting the biblical concept of peace in a way that is not warranted in Scripture and is not endorsed by Jesus.

In a world that is drunk on hatred and hostility, it is the kingdom of Jesus Christ that brings peace. Shalom. The prophets talked about it incessantly as a recurrent theme. Here’s just one familiar example.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Peace among hostile groups. Peace among the nations. World peace.

It’s the wish of dippy beauty queens. But it’s also the dream of the prophets.