This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on November 15, 2015.
Over the years, the thirteenth chapter in Mark’s Gospel has gone by many titles. It has alternatively been called the “Little Apocalypse” because of its hypothesized source material, the “Olivet” discourse for its setting on the Mount of Olives, and the “Eschatological” or “Prophetic” discourse in reference to its presumed genres. One epithet on which scholars can agree for Mark 13 is that of longest discourse in the Gospel of Mark.
Aside from its pride of length, the passage’s pride of place in this gospel clearly signals to Mark’s audience its importance. Its narrative placement as the final teaching material of Jesus’ ministry and as the speech that occurs immediately before the start of his passion shows that it obviously must be a significant discourse. Open a commentary to its discussion of this passage, however, and you will likely be told that, although it is extremely important, it is also one of the most notoriously problematic parts of the NT to interpret.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on November 8, 2015.
In my mind, I see a set of paintings hanging in a gallery. In the foreground of the picture on the left, there appear two distinguished Jewish rabbis with long beards and beautiful white prayer shawls covering their heads. These proud and confident men are engrossed in a conversation that is surely about deep matters of the law. Their absorption is so complete that they have failed to notice an old widow lying prostrate in front of a house begging for help.
The picture to the right is in many ways a counterpoint to the first image. This time the figures are reversed so that we see in the foreground an old widow bathed in a soft white light. She is walking out of a temple with the faintest glimmer of a smile on her wrinkled face. Off to the right in the background and bathed in shadow stand two Jewish rabbis again clothed in finery. This time, however, they appear with hunched shoulders as they slink off in shame through another gate.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on November 1, 2015.
The scribe’s question about which is the greatest commandment occurs at the end of a battle of wits between Jesus and Israel’s religious intelligentsia (Mark 12:13-13:34). Each move and countermove intended to sharpen an argument, entrap an opponent, or slice through logical fallacies. In this contest, the Jewish establishment puts forward contenders from various teams—Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, and legal experts—all attempting to disarm and dishonor this small-town rabbi in front of a big-city crowd.
When we reach the final round of repartee recorded in Mark 12:28-34, what is striking about the exchange between the scribe and Jesus is its positive nature. Their dialogue lacks the rancor characteristic of Jesus’ other encounters with religious leaders throughout the Gospel of Mark. The scribe, a legal expert on the Torah and also on its oral commentary, approaches Jesus not with hostility but with genuine interest evoked after seeing how well Jesus had fared with his previous interlocutors. The civility that characterizes their discussion is an embodiment of the second commandment that Jesus chooses—“You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Would that such civility and graciousness in debate were more often encouraged today as an expression of loving one’s neighbor.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 25, 2015.
This is the final pericope of a section of Mark that began in chapter eight with the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26). In between these two stories of the blind seeing is instruction on discipleship and all three of Jesus’ passion predictions. Also between these two vision stories are the disciples who time and again cannot see who Jesus is and what way they are walking as they journey with him, especially as they turn toward Jerusalem. As evidenced in the previous pericope, even as they draw close to Jerusalem and Jesus talks bluntly about his coming death, the disciples are still fighting about who will have the places of honor next to him.
We learn that the disciples and Jesus came to Jericho. It is speculated that they arrived in Jericho on Friday and spent the Sabbath day in the town. Now, it is Sunday morning, they are leaving Jericho for the approximately thirteen mile journey to Jerusalem. The next chapter opens later that day with the Triumphal Entry. As they leave the town that their ancestors had once surrounded with trumpets and shouts of faith, another voice trumpets out over the many who are following Jesus. “Son of David,” cries out the voice, “have mercy on me!” The voice will not be silenced.