This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on November 22, 2015.
Today’s passage offers a glimpse into Pilate’s private investigation of Jesus as described in the Gospel of John. Most of the conversation is comprised of material unique to this Gospel except for the central question from which this Sunday’s festival of “Christ the King” takes its name. Each one of the Gospels records that “Are you the King of the Jews?” was Pilate’s first question during his tête–à–tête with Jesus (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). The fact that all four preserve this same question and place it first speaks to the significance of the charge at Jesus’ trial and to the strength of this memory among the early Church.
Up to this point in the Gospel of John, “King” and “kingdom” language has been noticeably sparse (occurring only in 1:49; 3:5; and 12:13), especially in comparison with the emphasis on the “kingdom of God” in Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptics. In John’s passion narrative, however, Jesus’ kingship takes on a more prominent role (cf. 18:33, 36, 37; 19:19, 21) because of the trial charge.
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.